Posts tagged ‘e-books’
For months now we’ve been reading about the fact that of the “big six” publishing companies, Random House is the only one that has been friendly towards libraries borrowing books through Overdrive. As of today, I seriously question that notion. March 1 marks their price increase for e-book licenses purchased through Overdrive. I almost fell out of my chair this morning when I looked at the price of Catherine the Great by Robert K. Massie. I purchased several licenses for this remarkable (and popular) biography recently and paid $35.00 per license – certainly more than the $14.99 advertised on Amazon for its Kindle edition, but within fair pricing limits. Today, this same license costs a whopping $105.00! The book was good, but not this good! This particular book was not an exception in the amount of price increase. All of the Random House titles shot up like this. The first thing that popped into my mind was that Random House must really hate libraries. Perhaps this isn’t true, but it will take a lot of convincing for me to believe otherwise. Do they not realize that libraries are hard hit by the economic downturn and that our budgets are shrinking. How do they think we can afford to build a decent collection of e-books when we’re spending over $100 per book? I am terribly disappointed by this latest turn of events. E-readers are flying off shelves as retailers like Barnes and Noble and Amazon advertise the availability of borrowing free e-books from local libraries. When the free supply dries up due to these exorbitant pricing practices, owners of these devices will be forced to purchase their books directly from these same retailers or stop using their devices. I don’t want to see some conspiracy working here, but the thought has entered my mind!
Until libraries can come together and have a united and effective voice, we are at the mercy of publishing companies. Meetings between representatives from ALA and the publishers don’t seem to have made much of a difference. This is just a pathetic state of affairs and I remain frustrated and a bit disillusioned after being a librarian for twenty-six years.
Just when I think that publishers have stopped devising new ways to make libraries jump through hoops with e-books, something new happens. My initial reaction to the Overdrive announcement this morning regarding the release of Harry Potter books on April 30th was one of surprise. I didn’t think we would ever see this day! Then I started reading the fine print attached to the email. The first notice was that the license was only good for five years. This is a new twist on limiting circulation, but one I could readily understand. After all, I suspect that our print Harry Potter books don’t last much longer than that.
The next revelation from Overdrive was the one that made my heart sink. If you look at the Content Reserve ordering screen in OverDrive, Potter e-books have only the EPUB format listed next to the individual titles, not a Kindle Support statement. Potentially, this means that no one who owns a Kindle device will be able to borrow our Harry Potter e-books. Happy are the Nook owners, those who have a Kobo or Sony device, and the smart phone & iPad users! Now, can you imagine the confusion and/or frustration this is going to cause our e-reading public. We’re already telling them that if they own a Kindle and want a book published by Penguin, they must use a USB connection to download it. If they want one from Random House or other publishers, they can do it wirelessly. Now we’re about to tell them they are barred from borrowing e-books by J.K. Rowling.
How many hoops are we going to force our users to go through in order to read a book digitally? At some point, they are simply going to give up and either purchase it for their device or go back to print format. And what of our staff… how can we realistically expect them to remember each and every variation from publishers and e-reading devices. It’s one thing to be on the bleeding edge of technology, but this is getting just plain ridiculous!
I’ve been taking a break from posting over the past six weeks, mainly due to the never-ending stream of classes I’ve been teaching on how to download e-books to your e-reader. I’ve also been suffering, I confess, from simply being overwhelmed by the changes by various publishers and the increasing difficulty in trying to unravel the downloading differences in a way that makes sense to our staff and patrons. Frankly, if I get confused by the various scenarios in getting a book from our OverDrive site to a device, I can only imagine how much more challenging it must be for the rest of the staff to remember. I work with this technology each and every day. Other librarians and support staff don’t have that advantage. I’ve done five classes on downloading so far this month. I have another one scheduled for tomorrow. Two classes have been Kindle specific, and the handouts and hands-on demonstrations I gave to these patrons are now out of date due to the Penguin changes. My dilema is how to now get word to these misinformed users that they must now follow a different procedure. I don’t dare prepare anything more than a few days in advance for fear it will again change.
There are days when I simply want to throw in the towel and give up, but in my heart of hearts, I know that the entire e-book/e-reader technology is in its infancy and, by necessity, must go through growing pains. It frustrates me that we’re not getting clearer – and correct – information from our vendor, but they, too, must be pulling their hair out, virtually, of course. At some point, I trust that publishers will come to some sort of agreement with vendors and that libraries will be able to afford to then take their place in the world of digital books. Certainly our patrons have come to expect materials from us in a variety of formats and they are now equipped with e-readers, so they are told by Amazon and Barnes and Noble to come to us as lenders of free e-books.
In the meantime, the best advice I can give other folks in this same situation is to communicate. For staff, I send out emails whenever there is a change of any kind relating to e-books. I write articles for our web page and do instructional handouts that I also post on our web page for use by staff and the public. We continue to do regular classes on downloading for our patrons. Finally, we have an E-reader Users Group that meets on a monthly basis. It’s time consuming, but worth it when we have better informed staff and satisfied patrons. That’s why we are all in the profession!
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!