Posts tagged ‘e-books’
In the past ten days I feel like I’ve been suffering from e-book overload. I attended the day-long virtual E-Book Summit on October 12 and then gave two presentations on e-books/e-readers to different school librarian groups on October 18 & 19. Last night I capped off my immersion with the monthly Library E-reader User Group meeting. Today, I took a break from this technology and concentrated on producing bookmarks using MS Publisher just to get my mind cleared, so I can do a presentation for Michigan Library Association’s Annual Conference next week. Guess what my topic will be … yep, e-books and e-readers!
One of the great things about giving talks to various groups is that I get out of the “public library world” and learn how others are using e-book technology in their professions. My interaction with school media specialists online at the E-Book Summit as well as in person at the two talks made me realize how far apart our worlds are at this moment. K-12 schools see a vastly different use for e-readers in their classrooms, promoting them as learning aids for special needs students and those who may be reading on a lower level than their classmates. I had never realized how the very nature of an e-reader gives the student a level of privacy so that others don’t have to see that he or she might be reading a 3rd grade level book while in the 5th grade. Media specialists also shared with me how color displays (on the Nook Color) made reading easier for dyslexic students in their classes. I came away from my presentations feeling that I was the one who had really gone to learn about e-books rather than me being the one imparting the information.
Although I can see a lower level of e-book/e-reader usage in the educational institutions than in the public sector, everyone I met either virtually or in person knows that this technology will have a profound influence on teaching techniques and information delivery in the upcoming years. Already e-reader vendors (Barnes & Noble in particular) are reaching out to educators in large school districts touting their various products. Based on the popularity of the Nook Color in the schools around here, I’m not at all surprised at Amazon Kindle’s new release of the Kindle Fire. This is a huge potential market!
As I slowly digest all of the notes I took at the virtual Summit, and think about the exchanges I had with my fellow librarians over these past weeks, I know I’ll be more aware of the expanding role of e-books not only in my public library world, but also in the various schools around my state.
I’ve always loved to open packages when they arrive in the mail, especially when I didn’t have to pay for them. Opening my Barnes and Noble box was no exception! My first reaction was surprise, since the new Nook was not supposed to be released until June 10th. I didn’t know how or why I got it early, but decided that I simply special. (Silly me, the salesclerk at Barnes and Noble said the entire supply had been made available a week ahead of schedule.)
My first impression was how small and lightweight the device appeared. When I removed it from its packaging, I loved the feel of the case and its clean, simple design. With only one large power button on the back, it looked pretty darn foolproof. The 6″ reading screen is the same size as the Kindle, but looks smaller because the Kindle has a keyboard below the screen, making it longer. The Nook is pretty much square in shape. For those folks who don’t like touching the screen to turn the pages, there are very subtle clicker bars on either side for advancing pages. E-Ink technology is employed to give the look of real pages without the glare, so additional lighting is needed at night. I still have that personal problem with the “flashing” as pages turn but this is present with all e-readers using e-ink.
Once again, I had to make the trip to my local Barnes and Noble store to register it via wifi, but this is due to our Library’s wifi security and not an issue with the device itself. I was able to successfully download a book from Project Gutenberg through our library catalog and onto the Nook using the Adobe Digital Editions software on my computer. It works just the same as the other Nooks in this respect.
My only problem so far is trying to connect to Facebook or other social networking sites using the built-in wifi. I suspect it has something to do with our wifi at the Library, but I don’t remember it being an issue with the other Nooks once we had them registered.
If I were in the market for a device to be used only as an e-reader, I think this might be my new favorite. I love the touch-screen and the lightweight (8 oz) size. It has an awesome battery life between chargings, so I could probably take it on a trip and never have to plug it in. It easily fits in my purse and most of my coat pockets. I personally find it easier to use a touch screen keyboard than I do the tiny keys on the Kindle, and the Nook keyboard doesn’t appear until you need to type in something. Otherwise, the entire surface is for reading.
While I continue to use and love my Nook Color and iPad, the new Nook Simple Touch definitely has my attention!
When I first looked at the original Nook last November, I wasn’t a big fan. I thought the device sent mixed signals – navigation at the bottom was touch screen, but the reading surface was not. It was part color, but mostly black and white. It was heavier than the Kindle, Kobo and Sony E-reader.
Well, now I see that the new Nook is coming on the market with a full touch screen, a mere 8 ounces in weight and a vastly improved battery life. (See B and N for more details – http://www.barnesandnoble.com/nook/index.asp?PID=34323&cds2Pid=35700#logo) Price is very competitive at $139 for the wifi version. It should be available for shipping just before Father’s Day – great marketing, Barnes and Noble! I am anxious to see if this will give Amazon’s Kindle a run for the money. Each time a new device is released, it makes the other manufacturers take note and improve their own product. I can see e-readers just getting better and better while pricing makes them within reach of most users.
I read an article on CNN several days ago – http://www.cnn.com/2011/TECH/gaming.gadgets/05/19/kindle.outsells.books/index.html?hpt=Sbin – announcing that Amazon was selling more e-books for their Kindle reader than books in print format. Since then, I’ve been trying to decide if this is the tipping point for books in digital format or just a statistic for one online company. I’m not sure it really matters what I call it… the numbers speak for themselves. The author of the article was quick to point out that e-books are still just a small minority of all titles purchased when you factor in traditional bookstores, big-box chains like Walmart and Costco, and other online retailers, but the trend is rapidly advancing. What impact will this have on libraries today and in the future?
First and foremost, I think we need to acknowledge the magnitude of the shift toward digital materials. This isn’t a fad, but a dramatic change in the way information will be presented and preserved in the future. We’ve already made the switch to electronic databases for our serials and many of our reference materials. Separate funds are set aside in our materials budgets for these essential resources. The time has come for libraries to do the same thing for e-books and e-audiobooks!
As prices continue to fall for e-reader devices, more people will take advantage of a new, mobile way of reading. Let’s face it, e-books are cheaper to “purchase” than print, for the most part and you can download them instantly, 24/7. For those recently retired baby-boomers, why carry a bag of books with you as you travel when you can take one small device. If you live in a rural area, why drive to a county library for reading materials when you can get them in the comfort of your home.
So where do libraries fit into this scheme? Well, we already offer our patrons print books free of charge – why not e-books as well. It sounds SO easy, yet it isn’t. I can purchase a new James Patterson bestseller for my Kindle from Amazon, yet this author doesn’t make his books available in e-book format through OverDrive for libraries. It’s all about DMR – digital rights management. Until libraries have a voice at the table with publishers, e-book vendors and authors, I don’t see this changing. In the meantime, we can offer our patrons the best selection of e-books available while doing what we do best – informing and educating our customers about how select e-readers and how to use them. This can be done in formal or informal programs as well as user groups. We can’t compete with Amazon as far as selection or quantity of titles available electronically, but we’re right out there in person serving the public and that might be the best we can do for now!
According to a wide variety of sources, Amazon will soon have a Kindle Lending Library integrated into existing OverDrive Library Subscriptions to allow Kindle users to borrow ebooks from OverDrive just as Nook, Sony and other e-reader owners have been able to do for some time now. OverDrive’s own blog just confirmed this in a release to libraries this afternoon. This is great news for libraries and e-reader users alike, especially since it appears that our current e-book collection will be compatible with Kindles. Thankfully, that means that users won’t have to deal with yet another format – and better yet – libraries won’t have to purchase digital editions in another format! On a larger scale, I see this announcement by Amazon as a vote of confidence for the value of libraries making downloadable e-books a vital part of their collections. In my mind, the Kindle holds the same sort of spot in the e-reader world that iPods have held in the MP3 market. They have the name recognition that comes from widespread television exposure and are a solid product. By joining forces with OverDrive to make Kindle-compatible ebooks available to library patrons, I anticipate having a sizable group of Library patrons who will be eager to take advantage of this service. In their press release, Amazon stated that this service would be available “later this year.” In the meantime, those of us who purchase e-books for OverDrive collections in our libraries will have to plan how best to prepare for this latest development in the ever-changing world of digital content!
Libraryland has been a-twitter today with the news that publisher HarperCollins has put new restrictions on e-books available to libraries through OverDrive and other e-book subscriptions. In a nutshell, a book in print format normally circulates “X” number of times before the binding cracks, pages fall out, or it just gets dirty and ends up being taken out of a library’s collection. This is not the case with books in electronic format since there is nothing to tear, stain or smear with food. Thus, HarperCollins has decided that in order to make sure they get their money’s return on a title, after a certain number of electronic checkouts, the license will run out and it can no longer be downloaded and read. Okay, in a convoluted sort of way, I can understand this line of reasoning – sort of. Unfortunately, they have made this magic number twenty-six. Wow, I have no idea how they came to this conclusion! They say it’s the average number of times a book is checked out in a given year. Certainly they didn’t ask anyone at our Library. We have books on our shelves that have been taken out more than a hundred times and are still in decent shape. I don’t know of any library, public or otherwise, that only keeps books for a year. Unfortunately, we don’t own our electronic books, we just license them. We can’t stop our subscriptions and take our books and go home since there IS nothing to take. No wonder this news has caused the library blogs and listservs to go nuts today.
I then decided to look at this development from a patron’s point of view. Are they going to care how unfair this is to libraries? I doubt it. What matters to our users is that titles are there for them to download when they want them. They don’t want to hear excuses about librarians boycotting a certain publisher in order to make a point. Nor do they want us to cut down on the number of copies available of a popular title because of costs. We’ve shown our readers what is possible and many of us have been actively publicizing our e-book services. I find it very ironic that this missive from HarperCollins comes just a few months after the holidays when so many folks got e-readers as presents. Call me cynical, but I can’t believe this is all coincidence!
So, what do we do? I wish I had an answer. If one publisher is successful is putting this kind of restriction on their e-books for libraries, the other companies are certain to follow. It’s counter-productive to boycott the companies since this hurts our patrons. In this great age of instant communication, I wish every library in the country that offers this kind of service could get together to collaborate and form a united front to communicate with HarperCollins. Since I don’t see this happening, we need to get our local consortiums, user groups and librarians to deluge this publishing company with our emails and letters. With so many libraries having their source of revenue cut drastically, we certainly don’t need to be hit with these new, excessive costs and restrictions!
The holidays are here and our librarian staff has been innundated over the past few weeks with questions regarding which e-reader is the best one purchase. Since none of us on the staff actually own an e-reader , the decision was made by our director to purchase several different devices currently on the market and then have our staff become familiar them so we would be able to carry on an informed discussion with our patrons. While we would never recommend a particular brand, at least we can talk about issues such as the number of text sizes and the placement of navigation tools as they vary from one device to the next.
Right now I’m reading a book on the Nook and having a great time doing so. I had some initial problems trying to locate the “preferences” link so I could change the font face and size. In fact, I had to resort to reading the User Guide online at Barnes & Noble before I finally located it! I do like turning the pages by pressing the arrows located on each side of the screen. This was much more convenient than having to move my fingers down to a single button at the bottom of the Border’s Kobo e-reader. Yet I did like the feel of the quilted back and easy menu on the Kobo.
Of the three e-readers I’ve worked with so far – the newest Amazon Kindle, the Kobo and the Nook, the Nook is the largest and weighs the most, which isn’t a drawback for me but might be for others. I love the weight and feel of the Kindle, but I’m unable to use it to download our OverDrive library books. I’m still waiting to try the Sony e-reader which has gotten high praise from the librarian currently using it. It looks promising, but I am happy getting to know the Nook at the moment.
We are so fortunate to be able to have such an assortment of e-readers for our staff to use and then demonstrate to our patrons. I anticipate that in January we’ll have even more questions regarding how to use these devices from folks who received them as presents. I’m planning an informational program after the first of the year with lots of “show & tell” and step-by-step instructions on how to download the digital books made available through the Library. I may not be an expert in all e-readers by that time, but thanks to our Director, I’ll know enough to carry on an intelligent conversation regarding their basic operation and features.
I’ve been busy preparing my talk for a conference on mobile technology to be held on Thursday. My portion of the program deals with how patrons are using OverDrive audio e-books, e-videos and e-books on mobile devices. To say that this service is popular is an understatement! Yet, when our library first offered downloadable materials in digital format in 2004, our statistics looked dismal. We circulated a grand total of 44 e-books in six months…not an auspicious start, to be sure. When the audio e-books came on the scene the following year, things started to look up a bit. However, patrons were restricted to listening to their books on devices compatible with Windows Media Player. This left out the growing market of those owning one or more varieties of the Apple iPod. E-videos became part of our digital offerings from OverDrive a year later. Again, in order to view one of these movies, users had to have a Windows compatible device! Usage statistics were climbing into the hundreds by this time, but still the format restrictions were a problem. The big change came when OverDrive released audio e-books that could be used on iPods as well as other MP3 players. It took some file conversion and worked through iTunes, but this really gave a huge boost to our circulation. In addition, the MP3 format was released that made it much easier to transfer files to iPods, iPhones or iPads. Now, there are mobile apps for OverDrive designed to work with phones including Blackberry, Droid and iPhone. Users can directly download audio e-books without going through their computers.
As these improvements were being made in the audio e-book formats, a similar trend was taking place with the e-book market. Although the Amazon Kindle e-book reader was not able to be used with OverDrive products, several Sony E-Readers worked very well with our Library’s OverDrive offerings. Adobe released a new format called EPUB that worked amazingly well with mobile e-readers and the popularity of e-book titles started to rise. This past December, Barnes and Noble released their Nook, another mobile e-reader that could be used with OverDrive e-books and our monthly statistics really took off. I can now happily report that since 2004, our library has circulated a combination of e-books, audio e-books and e-videos totaling more than 10,000.
While we, as librarians, love the success of OverDrive products, the multitude of formats necessary to accommodate the variety of mobile devices on the market today stretches our limited budgets. With three formats for e-books (PDF, MobiPocket & EPUB) and two for audio e-books (WMA & MP3), with each new book title released, a decision must made as to how many copies in each format. Thankfully, we are a member of a 25 member consortium where group purchases are made by talented selectors. Working on a one book per license model, it still requires skill to choose the most popular formats for a given title. In an ideal world, developers will eventually come up with one format for audio that will work on all mobile devices and another for e-book display that will work with all e-readers. In the meantime, we’re left to explain to our patrons why they can listen to a book on their new iPad, but can’t read the same book on their screen!