The World of Teaching Tablets

For many months, I thought things were on a fairly even keel in the world of e-books and e-readers.  OverDrive regained access to both Hachette and Penguin publishers, and the demand for e-reader helped died down.  Our E-Reader Users’ Group had dissolved a long time ago, due to lack of interest.  Statistics hummed along, gaining at a steady pace each month.  Sometime around October, patrons began to ask if we were going to do a program on which tablet they should buy for Christmas.  Even though I didn’t really believe it was going to be in great demand, I agreed to put together a program comparing the current offerings for our patrons.  This program, while it didn’t draw the huge audience I’d had in past years, surprised me by how popular it was.  It was then I decided to start offering classes in the use of several different kinds of tablet devices.

I based my choice of tablet classes on my monthly statistics from Google Analytics.  For as long as I’ve been following my mobile stats, devices featuring the IOS have come in at the top.  IPad is always #1, followed by iPhone and the iPod.  It was a no-brainer that my community liked the iPad!  Looking further down the Analytics list, the Kindle Fire (all models combined) was the next most popular.  The Google Nexus and Samsung Tab were represented, but in double digit figures for usage.  I scheduled my first class for the iPad, but was not present when the sign-up sheet was released.  (It was over Christmas vacation and I had taken time off.)  By the time I returned to work on December 29th, I had over 50 people signed up for my program.  Knowing that I already had more folks that I preferred in a technology class, I immediately cut off registrations and offered an additional three classes a bit later in the month of January.  This time, I wisely limited sign-ups to a maximum of fifteen per session.  The night of the first program, we had record cold temperatures and lots of snow.  I expected no more than a handful to show up.  Boy, was I wrong! Seventy hardy souls braved the bitter weather conditions and attended this program.  My presentation was composed of a PowerPoint Slide Show with lots and lots of screen shots, followed by a long Q & A session.  My second class in January was devoted to Kindle Fires of all sizes and configurations.  Several attendees showed up with the Kindle Paper Whites or Touch’s – so much for reading the program description!  The last class was the hardest – Androids.  I chose clumping all Android devices together since I didn’t really know how many patrons had Samsung Tabs vs. Samsung Notes vs. some other flavor of Android.  We own a Google Nexus, Samsung Tab and a Samsung Note 8 at the Library.  I took screenshots from all three for this class.

Here are some of my observations based on 5 iPad classes; 1 Kindle Fire class; and 1 Android class:  The skill level of patrons in all of these classes varied wildly.  By the time I was doing my second iPad class, I didn’t even take for granted that folks knew how to turn on their tablets.  I’d guess over half of each class that I taught had never fully powered down their tablets.  Most assumed that making the screen go dark was turning it off.  I was amazed that no one had heard about putting a device to sleep or on power-save vs. powered it totally off.  I knew that I’d lose a certain percentage of the novices at some point in the programs, but others in the class became bored with the very basic information I was giving.  My only solution has been to offer “drop-in” tutoring on Saturdays over the next few months and to encourage those who are truly technologically challenged to attend these sessions.  So far we’ve had one of these tutoring days and six patrons stopped by.  One had a very old Pandigital tablet; one had an Adroid tablet called a Nextbook; two had iPads and the other two had Kindle Fires.  They all walked away more comfortable with their devices.

I firmly believe that we must continue to offer classes on tablet since the demand is growing each month.  Attendance at our traditional “computer basics” classes using a regular PC have dropped off drastically in the past year.  As librarians we need to switch gears and embrace mobile technology.  The challenge will be trying to learn each device on the market.  We’ve already had patrons ask for a Surface class.  I had to admit that no one on our staff owned one of these tablets and the Library couldn’t justify it in our budget.  This is going to be an ongoing problem, but one we’ll have to face.

February 26, 2014 at 2:56 pm 1 comment

Computers in Libraries, Day 1

It has been 15 years since I last attended a CIL conference. My most recent experiences have been at Interent Librarian sessions in Monterey, but I have returned to Washington DC this April. The first thing that struck me was the lack of traditional note taking, even from just three years ago. There are no pads of paper nor pens to be seen anywhere. If I worked for Apple, I’d be thrilled at the sight of literally hundreds of iPads and MacBooks in the hands of every librarian in sight. That being said, the participants remain the same, friendly bunch of people sharing ideas and hoping to gain inspiration from the speakers.

After a thought provoking keynote. I was eager to get to the first session on 15 web trends for 2013. David Lee King is one speaker at the top of my list at any conference. I find him informative, practical, and always ready to share his own opinions on a variety of web topics.
David didn’t disappoint! His primary message was that content is always first. Good design starts with good content. Design in the absence of content is just decoration. A follow up to the good content was to air for simplicity of design with lots of white space on the page.

July 24, 2013 at 7:06 pm Leave a comment

Digipalooza 2013 is coming soon!

E-Book life has been pretty low key over the past months and I’ve sadly neglected this blog.  Next week is Digipalooza 2013 in Cleveland and I’m hoping to revive my enthusiasm for this media and learn what other librarians from around the country are doing to help their patrons embrace this technology.    Steve Potash is famous for bringing out his predictions on the last morning of this conference and I look forward to hearing good news regarding full integration within our library catalogs, easier methods of downloading, and a host of other things on my wishlist.  Please don’t disappoint me, Steve!  While we do love OverDrive, there are now other options available if our current provider can’t continue to compete in this ever-changing market.

I think one of the big shifts in our relationship with OverDrive this year is the emphasis on Advantage library purchasing.  For almost nine years, our 25 member consortium has been able to pool precious resources in order to purchase e-books and e-audiobooks to benefit both large and small libraries.  Now, two publishers will only license titles to individual libraries who are in the Advantage program.  If we want to provide our patrons with bestsellers from authors like James Patterson or David Baldacci, each library must purchase them individually.  With licenses costing anywhere from $75 to $90 each, this eats up our budgets quickly.  We are then faced with a conflict – do we keep increasing the amount we give into the consortium pot for the good of all libraries, or do we start holding back so our local patrons can enjoy authors not available to the group.  Our entire consortium model is in danger of breaking down. I’m not sure that publishers wouldn’t be very happy if this were to happen.  Perhaps I’m just being cynical!

Look for daily updates from Cleveland if our wireless access holds up.  Otherwise, you’ll be hearing from me when I return!

July 24, 2013 at 6:50 pm Leave a comment

Back to the World of E-Books and E-Readers

This past year has been a frustrating one for me as an e-book selector and an e-reader trainer.  I found that I had to take some time to step back and just calm down.  Ranting about the various publishers and their practices did nothing to remedy the situation.  This is still true, even as we face another holiday season where our patrons will demand more e-books and need help with new e-readers.

Thinking I’d be ahead of the game this year, I researched and prepared what I thought would be a popular talk on Selecting The Best E-Reader for Your Reading Needs.  I prepared endless tables on handouts comparing the latest and greatest offerings from Nook, Kindle, Apple, Samsung, Nexus and several other brands.  I was shocked  when only eight people signed up to attend the program this past week.  I downsized the presentation room and scheduled it for our computer lab, knowing it would comfortably fit a dozen patrons.  Then I got another surprise – not only did the eight registered attendees show up, but another eight folks just walked in, ready to participate.  I ended up hauling more chairs into the area, but I was delighted that I had a fairly full house.

I took a survey of my attendees and found that only two of them wanted to purchase what I’d call a traditional dedicated e-reader using the e-ink technology.  The rest were pretty much sold on one of the various Kindle Fires or a tablet.  By far, the iPad Mini was the most popular device of the night.  While we all admired the traditional iPad for its retina display, most users were put off by the relative bulk and heft of the device when used as an e-reader.   The iPad Mini was judged to be just the right size for holding as a reading device and it weighed less than several of the other tablets.  Despite the price difference, it appeared that our patrons were willing to pay quite a bit more just to get the iPad Mini experience.

I have a follow-up program scheduled for the first week in January called Help! I Have a New E-Reader and I Don’t Know How to Use It.  It will be interesting to see how many of my folks actually received or purchased an e-reader for Christmas and if they got the one they chose from my program.  In addition, I’m holding a small classes for hands-on instruction on downloading to Kindles and Nooks.  Hopefully our new device owners will take advantage of these free training opportunities so they can enjoy this new technology.

So while I get discouraged by the lack of progress with publishers, formats and DRM, it’s the new users at our Library that bring me back to reality and keep me excited by this new digital world of e-books.

December 14, 2012 at 3:21 pm Leave a comment

Hachette – the new Random House ?

I received an email from OverDrive this afternoon informing me that all Hachette titles will be increasing in price by approximately 220% as of midnight, September 30, 2012.  I should have seen this coming, although I confess that I had hoped that it wouldn’t.  Why not?  Random House got away with it, so why shouldn’t Hachette take advantage of a captive audience as well!  I look at the authors whose works will be skyrocketing – James Patterson, Nelson DeMille, Michael Connelly, Faye Kellerman, David Baldacci, Anita Shreve, Nicholas Sparks, Sandra Brown and many others. We’ve already lost access to all of the authors under the Penguin Publishing unbrella, and we certainly can’t afford to stop buying any bestsellers that are offered, no matter what the price may be. 

Who will suffer the most from this outrageous cost hike – our library patrons, of course.  Our budgets only stretch so far and we’re heading into the last quarter of our calendar year.  Most of us were planning on purchasing additional e-books in anticipation of new patrons who are getting e-readers or tablets over the holidays.  Now we’ll be unable to add as many titles as we had hoped, and the wait lists will grow to the point where our users will lose patience and just purchase the e-books from Amazon or Barnes and Noble.  Is this what the publishers are hoping to achieve? 

The American Library Association has been in discussions with the publishers for months now, and we keep hearing that progress is being made in making presenting the library’s point of view.  Perhaps that’s true, but if so, Hachette Publishing certainly wasn’t listening very well!

September 13, 2012 at 6:31 pm Leave a comment

Finally, Some Good News for Libraries with E-Books

I’ve pretty much taken a vacation from blogging this summer for several reasons.  First and foremost, nothing innovative or exciting has taken place as far as public libraries and e-book publishers over the past months.  I returned from ALA rather discouraged with what I heard from both publishers and speakers, so rather than just gripe, I’ve been silent.  I continue to read updates regarding surveys and follow ALA releases, but nothing revolutionary is forthcoming.  Then, I read a blog post that has given me reason for hope.

At the 2011 Digipalooza conference in Cleveland, we heard guest author Joe Konrath talk about his experiences publishing on Amazon.  In case you’ve missed his books, Joe writes the “Jack Daniels” mystery series and was published in print format for years.  He now publishes his books directly in digital format.  Mr. Konrath has his own blog, A Newbie’s Guide to Publishing, that I follow regularly.  In his most recent post, Joe talks about an e-mail he received from two librarians in Houston Texas who asked if he’d allow them to purchase his e-books directly.  As a result of their communication, Konrath has decided to sell his e-books to libraries WITHOUT DRM attached for a very low (and I do mean VERY) price and they will belong to the library forever.  This is just unbelievably good news, because in the follow-up comments to this posting, there were other indie authors who also expressed a willingness to do something very similar.  This tells me, first and foremost, that authors want libraries to be able to offer e-books to their patrons without jumping through hoops and paying outrageous fees.  Joe included his e-mail address in his blog post and suggests that libraries who want to purchase his books simply e-mail him.  I have visions of his in-box being overwhelmed with these requests in short order.  There are so many librarians out there who are totally frustrated at the current state of affairs that they will be thrilled to work directly with a talented author who sees the value of libraries offering his work.

It has taken all summer for me to be this excited and hopeful.  Our library is looking forward to making this process happen and get these titles into our collection.  I can only pray that this first move by author Joe Konrath will be the beginning of many other opportunities for new models in providing digital materials to our patrons.


September 1, 2012 at 1:16 pm Leave a comment

ALA Sessions ~ Reader’s Advisory in the e-book era; integrated advisory services.

I think all of us need refresher courses in Reader’s Advisory from time to time, unless we’re actively purchasing a variety of fiction – and I’m certainly not!  This is why the session on Reader’s Advisory in the e-book era appealed to me.  The panel of speakers defined Integrated Advisory  as providing advisory service that includes all different formats and media while staying focused within one genre.  There are key elements of I.A., just as there are in traditional R.A. and they are:
  • Plot – (For example, in most detective shows, they are considered “police procedural”)
  • Character – (In mystery, you have Sherlock Holmes in every known media whether it’s book, audio or DVD)
  • Theme
    • crime – setting…Scandinavian setting big today
    • Science fiction –  technology is a huge theme
    • Romance – the many ways of love…diversity of romance
Crime Fiction:  Most famous crime setting now is Scandinavian.
     – Jo Nesbo in Oslo Norway with Harry Hole series (books)
     – Camilla  Lackberg in Fjallbacka Sweden with  Erica Flack series  (books)
     – Kurt Wallander novels   in Ysrad Sweden, (books, tv)
     – Peter Hoeg inGreenland and Denmark –  Smilla’s Sense of Snow                (book, movie)
New settings
      – Stuart MacBride series set  in Aberdeen, Scotland (books)
      – M.C. Beaton in Sutherland, Scotland – Hamish Macbeth series (books, tv)
      -Jesse Russell, Ronald Cohn – in  Baltimore Md –  Homicide, Life on the    Street. (Book, tv, movie)
      -Alexander McCall Smith – in Botswana – No1 ladies’ detective agency (book)
What’s Hot in Romance…from Steam Punk to Romantica
Essential three elements of every romance – There is a difference  between romantic fiction and romance!
  • Must have a couple (male/female, male/male, female/female)
  • Has to be some kind of working steps to some sort of relationship
  • Must have a happy ending
1/3 of romance book buyers currently read e- books
Of those, 90% reading on a device
Of those not currently reading on ebooks, 41% have indicated that they might in the future.
Romance writers of America survey: 54% romance read in ebook format.
In terms of popularity, Erotic romance , paranormal romance and YA romance are read more in e-book format than in print versions.
Longterm trends…paranormal, historical romance, romantic suspense, and contemporary romance are the most popular.
New trends include  erotica, Amish romance and  steam punk.
Historical romance still dominates the trend with Regency romances at the top.
Top Authors in Romance
Romantic Suspense – Nora Roberts, Linda Howard, Julie Garwood, Karen Rose, Suzanne brockmann, Cindy Gerard
Contemporary Romance –  Julie James, Jill Shalvis, Farrah Rochon (black) Kristen Higgins, Lisa Kleypas, Shannon Stacey, Nora Roberts and Rachel Gibson
Supernatural Romance – J.R.Ward, Sherrilyn Kenyon and  Kresley Cole
Steam Punk Romance – Meljean Brook and Katie Macallister
Amish Romance – Beverly Lewis, Beth Wiseman and  Cindy Woodsmall
Amish Vampire Romance  – Leanna Ellis (Plain Fear: Foresaken)
Erotica Romance – Beautiful disaster by Jamie McGuire, Zane, Maya Banks, Lorelei James, Anne Calhoun, Joey Hill and Lauren Dane( most checked out ebook author in their consortium) 
M/M Erotica Romance –  Josh Lanyon, Heidi Cullinan, KA Mitchell and Timothy Beck
Nonfiction for Romance Readers
Bonk: the curious coupling of science and sex by Mary Roach
The Pioneer woman: black heels to tractor wheels by Ree Drummond
Dear Jane Austen: A Heroine’s Guide to Life and Love by Patrice Hannon
Science Fiction…genre of the future
Genre crosses over into many media…graphic novels, games, movies, tv shows
Readers may have read science fiction and not even realized it.
Breaking it down
  • Cyberpunk and steam punk
  • Hard science fiction
  • Space Opera…Star Trek prime example
  • Aliens and invasions
  • Dystopias and disasters
  • Portal and time travel
  • Near future and post-apocalyptic
  • Colonies
Rough guide to science fiction movies
Bane is leader in scifi ebooks
I came away from this session with a much better idea of which authors to recommend to our readers, as well as potential authors to purchase in e-book format for our Library.  It was a worthwhile refresher for certain genres and an eye-opener in the area of Romance Fiction!

June 29, 2012 at 2:43 pm 1 comment

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