The Big Change

February 21, 2013 at 2:15 am (Uncategorized) (, , , )

I know that the truth is I haven’t blogged in a long time.  Ebooks used to occupy most of my professional activities.  When it came to eBooks, you name it, I was doing it.  Things have changed, and for what I see, maybe the better.  I am still an eLibrarian.  I still talk about eBooks at conferences.  Yet I am now in a more well-rounded place, surrounded by a more dynamic and technologically savvy-enviroment.

What does the first paragraph mean?  I am currently in a new field.  I have moved from being in Circulation, to running the behind the scenes in Automation, to now


…change… (Photo credit: ĐāżŦ {mostly absent})

fronting a brand new department, the Technology Learning Center (TLC).  It is an instructional lab for both patrons and staff alike, where new technologies are the forefront of our focus.  I am loving what I do.

With that said, I thought I would change the focus of my blog.  In the past, I discussed the parameters of eBooks and electronic borrowing policies, as well as it’s impact on public librarians and the communities they serve.  I have to now change that focus to highlight the new purpose I am trying to fulfill.  Do not misunderstand me.  EBooks are still a huge part of what I assist with on a daily basis; however, currently I am trying to revamp a computer lab that mainly taught basic computer classes, such as email 101.  We have added a lot since i took over in July, including classes on Google programs, apps, devices, and genre-specific classes within the guidelines of technology.

With all that said, I am also in an area that is completely new, and in many more ways, foreign to me.  We are planning to physically expand our small room to a functioning multi-room space.  We are looking towards building a sound recording studio, Makers Lab with 3D printers, digitizing equipement, and creative software, a modulare teaching space, Mac classes (totally new), as well as many other unforeseen and seen ideas.

This is now an exciting time.  My library has decided to not only embrace technology, but be the forefront of its possibilities for our community.  We are reaching out as a forerunner, as opposed to trying to play catchup.  Within the few months of our restructure (just classes) we are a bit overwhelmed, yet tackling the issues.

So I am now planning to blog on my adventure of planning a technology learning center from the ground up.  This will include areas I do not have training in, such as architecture and infrastructure.  It’s a new, and often frightening place, but I am going for gold.  I am planning to have a place that is inviting, instructional, innovative, while not be intimidating.

If you would like to read about this journey, please feel free to comment with ideas, criticisms, and support.  I would love the feedback. I will listen to all along my journey.

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E-Readers and QR Codes

November 13, 2011 at 9:29 pm (Uncategorized)

A Picture of a eBook

Image via Wikipedia

I work in a somewhat unique community.  It is  vacation destination due to its beaches and our population swells to roughly three times the normal amount of residents we have here in the summer months.  We are also a library that currently offers library cards only to patrons that contribute to our local taxes, even though that is in the process of being altered.  After having a conversation with my director about her vacation and how everyone at her resort was using some type of e-reader, I came to a conclusion.  We are a vacation destination and it is very likely that people who are visiting for a week or two, may indeed also be carrying e-readers with them.

Thus, I surmised that I wanted to offer access  to our e-collection. I did not want vacationers feel like they needed to purchase a library card in order to be granted access to free library content.  This an idea that I felt strongly about.  I never want to turn someone away from library without the item they came in looking to find.  So with all of that said, I decided that we could link visitors, and patrons, to Project Gutenberg through our OverDrive website.

Project Gutenberg (PG) began in 1971, and as of this post, it currently offers over 36,000 free e-books, with most of them in the International Digital Publishers Forum‘s standard ePub format.  (ePub is a fantastic format because it utilizes re-flowable text, which has the ability to adjust text to any size mobile screen; therefore, making it usable on a wide variety of mobile devices).  PG offers  titles that are readily available to anyone in the United States.  They are mainly titles found in public domain because the copyright has never been renewed.  On the other hand, OverDrive is the largest provider of e-content to public libraries in the United States.  They offer e-books to libraries, within a platform where there is a yearly service charge for their services plus the individual costs per title purchased.  The combination of the two brings together free and paid for e-content services.

In the beginning of 2011, OverDrive began to promote Project Gutenberg on their website.  Patrons can download titles, keep them for as long as they like, and never have those particular check outs count against what they borrow from the OverDrive library.  The titles will never expire.  Patrons can keep PG tiles for as long as they want.

I really wanted to promote this new partnership and decide to create a QR (quick response) code.  It was simple to do and

Project Gutenberg QR Code

took no time.  I simply found a QR maker, saved the image, and began printing materials to promote the service.  I used the QR code on our library’s homepage and patron handbook.  I created large glossy posters that I distributed to our branches and plastered everywhere I could in the main building where I work.  I placed it in a tri-fold that explains how to download content to e-readers that I constantly hand out to patrons and visitors alike.  I even mentioned the code in classes I taught to the public and our staff on downloading to e-readers.

The result?  Our statistics have gone up.  Although, I cannot say this is a direct correlation to the QR, the timing between its implementation and the usage of our OverDrive-Gutenberg page did increase.  So what does all this mean?  I think it is important for librarians to continue and try to strive to discover ways in which technology can make for a better patron experience.  There has also been many a time where patrons have asked me about the QR code and what it is exactly.  This has led to some great conversations, not only about the code and what it links to, but the fact we have e-content and are finding various new ways to promote it.  There is really nothing more satisfactory than seeing patrons scan the code with their mobile device and seeing where it leads too.  I should also mention that promoting Project Gutenberg has also freed up my e-budget as well because I no longer have to buy the classics when they are available for free and to anyone who discovers their presence.

So in the end, you may not feel like making a QR code, but at least you know there are ways libraries can be computer and technology savvy about their collections.  It is about making the patron experience interesting and noteworthy, so they know that the library is a wonderful, giving, and important asset to their community.  If it was not for our patrons there is the chance that we may not be here.  So when you have a moment, think about your favorite technologies and how the library can be integrated into the aspects that you find interesting and noteworthy.

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The Selfishness of Kindle

September 8, 2011 at 3:27 pm (eBooks, ereaders, Kindle, Libraries, OverDrive, Uncategorized) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , )

I need to discuss the fact that the Kindle is the most selfish eReader on the market!  In a recent blog on The Digital Reader by Nate Hoffelder titled, Amazon Won’t be Adopting Epub, it was announced that the Kindle will not work with the popular and universal ebook standard format, the ePub.  Instead, and yet once again, Amazon has decided to create its own format, the Kindle print replica, or KPF.  According the blog post,

” KPR is a fixed layout ebook format like PDF and it even uses a similar tool bar”.

With the creation of a new format, I was always under the impression that new technology is supposed to propel us forward.  The ePub is a fantastic format because of its reflowable-text.  The KPR is basically a PDF. It’s a stagnant file; a mere picture of a page.  So instead of offering the masses a format that adjusts to any screen on any device, Amazon has decided to offer something archaic with scrollbars?   The thought process behind this new format really just does not make sense to me at all.

This really blows my mind.  Back in  April when I spoke directly with OverDrive I was left with the impression that Amazon’s Kindle will be working with the formats we, as public libraries, have already purchased.  I do not blame OverDrive in the marketing ploys of Amazon; they are merely a service that is trying to deal with the plethora of publishers and devices and trying to find commonality in delivering e-content across the board. OverDrive is a company that is trying to give libraries access to e-content as best as possible in a time when so many companies and publishers are in an e-content battle.  (I also believe it will be quite a while before the war on e-conent finalizes into anything that remotely illustrates a resolution).

With that said, while we, librarians and patrons alike, are struggling to to keep on top of this ongoing battle, Amazon suddenly insists on bringing for yet another format to the market when the ePub is the industry standard according to the International Digital Publishing Forum (IDPF).  This just makes me so frustrated.  It leaves librarians with the likelihood that when the Kindle finally begins to work with OverDrive,  we will now be forced to once again compromise our budgets because will have to purchase another format that duplicates what we already offer in our collections for one particular device. (Kindle should look at the demise of the Mobipocket).  There is also a possibility that patrons will be also enraged that they will have to download a separate set of software in order to sideload ebooks to their Kindle from either a desktop or laptop, with regards to obtaining free ebooks through OverDrive.  The frustration just continues to grow . . .

The redeeming quality that the Kindle currently maintains is the fact that their rumored tablet seems to be ready for release very soon.  It will run on Androind-based technology, (bonus), with full color and a touchscreen.  As of right now, it’s simply being called the Amazon Kindle, which, well, is not the most sexiest marketing term, but at least allows its audience to know that Amazon is still the propeller of the Kindle.  With its cost and size, it looks like the Kindle tablet will be going after its biggest competition as of yet, the Barnes and Noble Nook Color.  The ereader war continues.  To read more about what Amazon is planning check out, “Amazon’s Kindle Tablet is Very Real. I’ve Seen It, Played With It,” by MG Siegler on TechCrunch.

In the end, I hope that the birth of the KPF ultimately teaches Amazon a lesson that they cannot dominate the market with a single format, let alone with their Kindle, especially when so many other devices, such as Sony eReaders, B&N’s Nooks, Apple’s iPads or iPhones, Smartphones, Kobos, and just about any other device, including personal computers utilize, implement, and share the universal ePub.  I know only time will tell, but I am truly keeping my fingers cross that this will raise a riot with libraries, librarians, and OverDrive, and bring forth the  realization that the Kindle does not support libraries or the needs of its patrons.

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In Limbo, but Thinking . . .

July 27, 2011 at 1:52 pm (eBooks, ereaders, Libraries, OverDrive)

So I haven’t blogged for a while, but with good reason.  I have been going through huge changes at work.  I am no longer on the main floor of the public library, but now linger within its depths training to become Head of our Technology Department, which is fantastic.  I do not think that leaves me out of being a librarian, the type that assists the public day-in-and-day-out, but instead allows me to follow my pursuits in how technology and e-content can further impact the library’s presence within our community.

With all that said, I recently attended an E-Summit in New Jersey the other week, and not only left with my head spinning, I also parted with many questions about the future of  e-books and where our library’s  role will fall within this realm in the future.   First, there are more players, a.k.a. vendors, on the market.  3M just released a lending model for ebooks. ebrary and EBSCO are also players. In addition to more vendors, there are also a variety of lending models cropping up.  One that I found interesting was patron-driven acquisitions, which depending on the vendor, allows patrons to develop the collection and the library footing the bill.  I do not think this is the best model, but the option is interesting.

However, my main concern is with OverDrive.  Recently, I began purchasing ebooks for our library, outside of what I obtain for the Southern New Jersey consortia, which we also participate in.  My fear lies in the fact that OverDrive may currently be the main vendor for public libraries, but the competition is starting to gain strength.  In the future, if my library decides to no longer be a part of OverDrive and use an alternative vendor, we will lose access to all the ebooks we “purchased” because we no longer have the platform to deliver the e-content to our patrons.  In essence, we do not “own” anything we buy unless we stay with OverDrive.   Basically we could reluctantly be stuck with the vendor, or simply lose access to what we purchased, because the model does not allow us to own ebooks.  Unless you stick with OverDrive you are only borrowing access for a price.

This is not the best plan for public libraries.  Why invest our funds into a model that actually denies us ownership to the e-content we believe we own, but actually only merely have for as long as we feed into the vendor’s expenses?  What we need to do is actually purchase e-books directly from publishers and actually own the rights to circulate them to the public.  The Summit allowed me to walk away with the notion that libraries need to cut out the middle man, the vendor, and deal with publishers directly.  It is truly the only way we can gain control of the e-book situation.  Libraries need to stick up for ourselves and stop allowing vendors to sell us products that only sound fantastic from a sales person, but in all actuality only deliver half of a product.   We are wasting our budget on skeletal lending models when we need to be direct with publishers.

So where does this leave me?  My library is now holding off on our purchasing with OverDrive and trying to find alternative avenues.  I also think it is time for other libraries to do the same.  It is time to take a step back and analyze what we are truly getting and find direct and alternative ways for purchasing e-books.

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Bridging a Little Bit of the Gap Between EReaders and EBooks.

May 25, 2011 at 2:17 pm (eBooks, ereaders, Kindle, Libraries, OverDrive, Uncategorized)

 I recently enjoyed a meeting attended by an OverDrive representative.  So I thought I would pass along some of the information I learned about, outside of the news that Amazon’s Kindle will soon work with OverDrive’s services.  Maybe some of the following information is not new to you, but just in case, I thought I would share.  The following could help your library enhance its digital branch presence.

1. Okay.  I thought I would avoid it, but here is a little Kindle information.  Our current formats, such as pdfs and ePubs, will work with Amazon’s Kindle and the Kindle app in the future.  Libraries will not need to purchase or re-purchase new formats; however, that comes with a price.  Patrons will most likely have to download separate software to side-load, a.k.a. transfer, items to their Kindle.

2.OverDrive offers  LEAP,  the Library eBook Accessibility Program.  It is designed to help visually-impaired patrons gain access to the titles they want, but may not be in the library catalog. OverDrive has combined forces with Bookshare, which is a non-profit organization that has, ” 70,000 popular digital books, textbooks, newspapers, and magazines”*.  The LEAP program includes formats such as DAISY, which is compatible with many devices.  They also offer free software including Read: OutLoud and Victor Reader.  The best part, it’s free.  So, add it to your site.

3. The Community-Reserve service.  It would be an icon:Community Reserve - Library 2 Library

on your library’s OverDrive webpage where you can upload digitized content from your local community collection.  Community Reserve is not limited to sharing only digitized print materials.  You also have the capability to offer your patrons access to local video, audio, and music files.  Again, it’s free.  Click here to learn more about it.

4. LibraryBin.  This is a fantastic program; although, currently it is being updated.  So, while I am waiting to hear back on when it will be available to my library group, I will tell you about it.  LibraryBin allows patrons to buy eBooks through OverDrive’s website.  For instance, if there is a long holds list for Water for Elephants, patrons have to option to buy the eBook, if they do not want to wait for it. (I picked this title specifically, because we have over 70 patrons waiting to download it)!  All the proceeds from the sale of the eBooks go directly back into our collection development fund.  LibraryBin also allows patrons to make donations to the library, again with all the proceeds going back into our collection budget. I personally do not feel that prices for LibraryBin’s ebooks are very competitive when compared to other vendors, but the program stresses over-and-over again about how purchasing books through this avenue strictly benefit the public library and no one else.  I am going to say this again, but that is why it is so fantastic:  It’s free, so put it on your site.

5.  OverDrive also mentioned for public libraries not to waste their time on investing our valuable budget dollars into lending out eReaders.  Concentrate on your collection. No matter which device you buy, in several months they will most likely be obsolete.

6.    Overdrive has also released a new version of their app, v2.0. The app now has the ability to run advanced searches.  Hurray!  It also allows for better functionality with the Blackberry, meaning that particular device is no longer is restricted to Mobipocket formats.  It will now accept ePubs.

So, maybe this is not the most intense learning experience, but my point is that OverDrive offers a lot of services to its customers for free.  All you need to do is simply send out an email to your account representative.  I also need to mention that OverDrive is extremely receptive to changes to your website, whether it is completely revamping your look, which we just did, or simply adding an icon or two.  The best part, all the changes and additions are free if you are already an OverDrive subscriber.  I love the fact that the company is so supportive towards public libraries and constantly and consistently inventing new ways to make our services valuable and appealing our community demographic.  So, when you get the chance, email your account manager, and add all of the services you can.  Again they are free, and more importantly, valuable.

*OverDrive. (n.d.) OverDrive-LEAP. retrieved May 25, 2011 from

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The Impending Wrath and Friendship of the Kindle.

May 6, 2011 at 1:24 pm (eBooks, ereaders, HarperCollins, Kindle, Libraries, OverDrive)

It’s been about two weeks since OverDrive announced that the Kindle will be working with public libraries at some point this year.  There are plenty of articles out there about this topic.  Here are some describing this major breakthrough in bridging the gap between public libraries and the Kindle:

Amazon to launch library lending for Kindle books By Nancy Blair, USA TODAY

Kindle Users to Be Able to Borrow Library E-Books by Julie Bosman, New York Times

To anyone who has followed the power of the Kindle and its lack of support towards public libraries in the past knows that this has been an ongoing issue.  For years librarians have been told that the Kindle will never, NEVER, work with OverDrive.  However, saying, “Never,” is truly a remark that will most likely, well, never lasts.  So with the introduction of the Kindle to the public library sector, what can librarians expect?  It’s hard to say, since so many details are under wraps for the time being, but there are some details floating around.

So here are a few things I have learned.  OverDrive will be compatible with the Kindle and the Kindle app.  Any previously purchased eBooks in our OverDrive collection will be compatible; there will not a separate format we (librarians) will have to purchase, now or in the future. Patrons will use OverDrive in the same way they do now: browse, checkout, and download.  There will most likely be a button somewhere at the end of the checkout process asking patrons if they are planning to transfer to a Kindle.  Best of all, the service will not be limited to public libraries alone.  Schools and colleges will also have access.  The possible somewhat-negative side effect: there may be more software patrons will need to download, but at least we are all used to that at this point.  Also, when the Kindle is ready to work with OverDrive, we need to be prepared.  There is going to be sheer madness as far as activity on our sites.  My advice, buy as many eBooks as you possibly can, although, that still will not be enough to meet the impending demand that will happen.

Frankly, I am very excited about Kindle finally opening up to public libraries for the sheer fact that, as librarians, we no longer will have to turn patrons away with the only option of going to Project Gutenberg. It gives me hope that maybe all the incompatibility between devices and formats will be ironed out sooner rather than later.  (I am also having underlying wishes that HarperCollins will relinquish their gross injustice with their ridiculous cap on eBook circulation.  Only time will tell).

So with all that said, thank you Amazon for recognizing public libraries and our patrons as a valuable asset.  It is so nice to know that we are going to be playing nicely in the future.  I am looking forward to our impending friendship.

–Melissa the Librarian

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Teaching My First eReader Class

March 16, 2011 at 6:36 pm (eBooks, Libraries, Uncategorized) (, , , , )

So, here it is.  It has been almost a week since I taught my first class on eReaders and how did it go?  I think it was a success.  I had 31 eager patrons show up.  Some were there with their devices in hand, ready to learn to how to sideload from their laptop to their eReader.  Others where there simply to learn and see what the devices look like.  In the surveys I got back, there was a lot of positive feedback, so I thought I would share what I learned in case you may consider teaching an eReader class at your library, which I personally think you should.

1.  Learn about the ins-and-outs of the service first.  I know this is an obvious route, but there are so many various scenarios that could, and probably will occur, that you really need to know what your eBooks can and cannot do. We use Overdrive and there are many ways you can, or should not, search for an eBook.  Advanced search is one of my favorite tips.  You can limit your search results to format, in my case ePub, and  only show available titles.  This is a great time-saving feature.  It it so much nicer than scrolling through titles that are all checked out.  I would also like to mention that you can also customize the “My Digital Account” tab.  Once you are logged in to your account you can default your borrowing periods for eBooks and audiobooks.  It’s just another time-saver.

2.  Learn eReading devices.  I know that this may not always be the most feasible option.  In a period where so many libraries are faced with significant budget cuts and staff layoffs, it is impossible for every library to purchase various types of eReaders.  Yet, there is always a chance to learn.  I know friends and family members who have eReading devices and I have borrowed them in order to familiarize myself with how Overdrive will work with them.  I have learned a lot from patrons who have brought their devices to my desk.  There are also many blogs out there.  I have found them to be invaluable resources, especially when it comes to trouble-shooting a specific device.  Maybe you cannot get your hands on one, but there are plenty of blogs out there to help you understand how eReaders work.

3.  Realize that all eReaders are not made the same.  In fact, in my experience with Apples and Andorid products, Sony eReaders, and the Nook or Nook Color is that each device works differently.  I stress that they are very unlike one another. There are enough differences between each product that it can be problematic in trying to setup Overdrive with a specific device and the proper format.

4.  Remember that your audience may not have any idea what you are talking about.  For instance, the differences between a pdf, ePub, and Mobipocket formats.  I have also encountered patrons who are very uncomfortable in downloading Overdrive’s software.  You really have to walk them through it.  I sometimes feel like I am talking to someone who faced with their most deathly fear.  I just let them know, ” It is going to be okay.  Things will work out. Breathe.  I will get you an eBook on your device. We can do this.”

So the lessons I guess I m trying to convey go beyond knowing your service and how various eReaders or mobile devices work.  It is also about remembering your audience is probably listening to you because they are very inexperienced in how to navigate themselves in the eBook world. Give out handouts with lots of screenshots.  Here is the link to what I usually distribute to our patrons. Be prepared to answer questions on, “What is the difference between a pdf and an ePub?” (Answer:  re-flowable text).  Have a lot of patience.  Be ready to answer the same questions over and over again.  Stay up-to-date with the latest eReader trends.  Remember that your audience, or patron, may be inexperienced, and yes also scared, of downloading software and eBooks.  He or she may freak out on you at various times, but remember to consider yourself the friendly host to the ever-changing world of technology and that you are there to help patrons find their way to the eBooks they would like to read.

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Where Do Publishers Expect Us to Find the Funds?

February 25, 2011 at 11:47 pm (HCOD, Uncategorized) (, , , , , , )

I just received a letter from Overdrive explaining all the efforts they have made to offer us, public libraries, a better service. This is a true statement.  They developed an app for Apple and Android users.  They added over 180,000 new titles.  They are also planning many upgrades and enhancements in the coming year.  However, in the same letter it was also mentioned that there are going to be some major changes to their borrowing platform based on the concerns and limitations being set by publishers.  Basically, within the one user-one, one-title platform, there will be a cap on the amount of times an eBook can circulate before libraries are forced to buy another copy.  This begs the question:  How many times will an eBook be borrowed before a library is forced to purchase another copy?  10 times?  50 times?  100 times?  I understand part of the logistics behind the cap.  EBooks never have to be replaced.  Patrons will never lose them or forget to bring them back. They require no maintenance like a regular, tangible books would eventually require.  Currently, once an eBook is purchased it will always be part of the library’s catalog.

The whole issue has my wheels turning and I am really fired up about this.  On the blog, Read, Write, Web: This Library E-Book Will Self-Destruct After 26 Checkouts, the recent post states the HarperCollins is planning the cap being a 26 rotation!!! What!! We have books that go out for far longer, sometimes 80 times, before they need maintenance or a replacement copy. This is an unfair and unjust model! In fact, it proposes that it is more reasonable for a public library to purchase a hardcover book, because libraries would get more circulation out of their purchases without the caps on how many times they are allowed to let a book go out.

In a time where most libraries are faced with both layoffs and budget cuts, how do publishers feel this is a sustainable purchasing model?  They want us to buy the content, but restrict access to it. Basically, publishers do not want to support public libraries circulating their e-content.  They may say that they do, but as in so may other instances in life, actions speak louder than words.  Do not misunderstand me.  I do not blame Overdrive at all.  In fact, they are more of the go-between that is forced to deliver libraries the bad news.  This is strictly an issue with publishing houses and how they want us to repeatedly repurchase the same title over and over. So I am left asking: Where do publishers expect us to find the funds to fuel and ridiculous and unsustainable purchasing model?  If you know the answer, please clue me in.

Melissa Brisbin

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eReaders . . . and Their Ultimate Demise

February 17, 2011 at 8:40 pm (Uncategorized)

So as my interaction with eReaders continues, I am currently gearing up to teach my first class to our public library’s patrons. So where does that leave me? I am practicing  a lot on my coworkers. While I am informing them on how to download eBooks from Overdrive, I in fact, find that I am learning a lot more about the service and devices than I ever thought I would have before.  It also makes me ponder the future of eReaders and their role within libraries.

in all my practicing, one of my greatest discoveries is the application of Project Gutenberg. It allows for our patrons to have access to over 33,000 public domain titles with 15,000 titles available in the ever popular, and practical, ePub format. It is also a great way for patrons to practice downloading titles because items from Project Gutenberg do not count against Overdrive’s title allowances. Although some of the titles may not be the most desirable, such as an eBook filled with just primary numbers, it does grant the public access to many popular classic titles, such as Metamorphosis by Kafka.  It also allows me to alleviate  some of the disappointment Kindle users have when they discover that their device will not work with Overdrive; at             least they can access some titles through Gutenberg.  It also helps to mention that they can use Overdrive with their desktop or laptop for new titles. I hate to leave a patron skulking away because they got a Kindle.  In essence, Project Gutenberg is my band-aid for Kindle users at the public library.

This journey has also led me to thoughts about mobile devices and eReaders.  For instance,you do not need an eReader to read eBooks.  Sure their functional and snazzy to have, but they are not a necessity.  You can just read them on your desktop or laptop.  In “Integrating eBooks and eReaders into Your Library” with Susan Polanka, the death of the eReader is already being predicted to occur sometime  around 2015.  In fact, it could be stated that its death is slowly happening right now as each minute passes.  The future is more about devices that have multiple applications. Androids and Apple’s iPhone and iPads have illustrated the power in having functionality in one device, as opposed to having to always have several at one’s disposal, as being the way of the future. Other companies seem to understand this, especially with the wave of Droid tablets set to hit the market this year.  Of course,  I can’t really see myself answering a call on a tablet without feeling ridiculous, but the market is moving to devices that do more than one simple application.

So is the eReader a dying device?  Perhaps.  I think it is a great tool for academic and learning purposes.  Instead of carry around a backpack full of heavy textbooks, it would be much nicer, and easier on one’s back, to have all books loaded onto an eReader.  However, with academic libraries already circulating iPads and laptops, perhaps the eReader will be phased out of this area as well.  Only time will tell.  I have a feeling though, as with most technology, it is only a matter of time before the scythe of the Grim Reaper fall down on the eReader.


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eReaders. . . The Saga Continues

January 20, 2011 at 8:07 pm (Uncategorized) (, , )

eReaders. . .They are a love that has mutated into the plague of my life lately.  I know I’m not the only one who has noticed the ever-growing presence. At ALA Midwinter this year, they were more than a major topic of heated discussion.  After several days of talking to librarians about eReaders and where technology is taking the good, old paper-based book, I came back to a desk full of patrons’ emails regarding them with urgent messages for an immediate reply.  All of this has now given me a lot to think and say about them, including the good, the bad, and the ugly. Although, there are many people and articles touting the benefits and downfalls of eReaders, I, per say, have to take the public librarian-side, because frankly, that is where I thrive.

So here is how I feel: eReaders are great in the right syntax. I like many of them for the fact that they offer the masses countless amounts of books, newspapers, periodicals, graphic novels, etc.   From my personal public library perspective, they offer patrons the opportunity to have at least 8 books at a time for absolutely no price whatsoever.  When it comes down to comparing Overdrive’s services to the many various types devices with eReading capability versus the world domination of Amazon’s Kindle, I always have the luxury of telling my patrons that they have the opportunity to use Overdrive and have 8 free books for a limited time.  There are also no fines.  Your just denied access once the borrowing time is over.  Sorry Kindle users, but that device does not play nice with what our public library has to offer.  It’s not our choice, it’s Amazon’s.  The problem lies in the fact that public libraries are left with stretching out their budgets to cover the cost of another high-demand format and well as deal with all the hoopla that encompasses simply trying to download an eBook to a portable device.

I do a lot of purchasing of eBooks.  I tend to buy the same in  electronic formats that often mirror what we offer our patrons on our physical shelves.  That said, why do libraries allow publishers and developers of eReaders to allocate the price for materials and files, especially when its often the same title in a newer, savvier format?  Don’t we as a whole have enough power to push  publishers into offering us what we want, as opposed to letting publishers tell us what we need to buy over and over again?  As for eReaders, why are there so many various hoops that patrons have to jump through just to obtain a book?  Couldn’t there be some form of standardization that would make easier on the end-user?  I want standard format all eReaders can utilize and make the entire experience instantaneous and enjoyable.  ePubs files are close, but they don’t work on every device. 695397

At the ALA Midwinter in San Diego, I hear a lot about this issue and the thoughts and logic were substantial:  for instance, as Brewster Kahle stated, if all libraries in American but $1000 aside for the next 3 years we could digitalize everything.  Of course, that leads to the question, “What is everything?”  To me, everything is a lot of stuff and very vague, but it does open a possibility that libraries have the power to make their own digital content.

So, my second core issue would be: Where is the public library left?  We want to be ahead of the ballgame, but frankly, our bugdets do not always leave us with enough room to be ahead of the electronic trend.  For that matter, it is almost impossible to keep up with the pace of electronic trends, but in order to remain valuable to our communities it is a job the public library must strive to do.  That leaves me me to my next problem, as Brewster Kahle also stated at ALAMW11, it’s time for libraries to unite and tell the publishers what we want as opposed to letting the publishing houses telling us what we should be purchasing.  It’s a ridiculous circle.  Here we are subscribing to journals and and buying books that have decided to go from paper to electronic format:  therfore, selling themselves to us at one price to only re-sell themsleves at another.  Mind you, that price continues to only escolate; therefore, eating away at budgets that can not afford to keep sustaining the costs for pricey journals and re-purchased book titles.

So where does that lead eReaders and technologies, such as tablets, left?  Frankly, I love both.  I am equaly frustrated with the technology that encompasses the practicality of using any one of these devices.  I want a device that allows me to read books, periodicals, etc, without jumping through hoops.  As a public librarain, and using Overdrive-a service that is the best suited for public libraries’ needs, the company itself seems to be equally frustrated with the amount of steps involved in order to get an ebook.  They too wish it could be a simpler process.  The truth of the matter is between the publishers and designers of eReaders, everyone wants to make their mark, only to clog up the channels and frustrate their target market.

So where does this endless verbal verbatim end?  It doesn’t, frankly.  I want the world of ereaders, and like devices, to open up.  Okay, Apple apps were cute in the beginning, but that has worn off.  If I want a book:  let me download it, read it at my leisure, and then return it–just like borrowing a real book from the library.  Why is there so much territorialism?  I get it; it’s all about the making money.  However, I feel that if public libraries could unite their strength and make a stance against the publishing houses and even electronic developers we could make a difference. We could finally tell them what we want, as opposed to them selling us what we think we should buy, only to be extremely territorial with their products and Digital Rights Management.   There are plenty of public libraries out there with enough power to delegate where we think we should be, whether or not it concerns a databases or a latest book  title.

The fact of the matter is, public libraries have the power to tell the publishing houses and developers what we want.  Why should we allow them to digitize materials we already own them, merely to have then sell them back to us?  It sounds implausible, but that is what we are essentially doing.   As a public librarian, and making connections with others, we have the opportunity to unite and make a difference.  Let’s set the price for eBooks and the access to them.  Forget waiting for the publishers and developers to tell us what we want, when we already know it.  Stop sitting around waiting, and instead, take them by their inky horns and shout what we need. Together, we have enough power to delegate prices, materials, and hopefully easy access.

–Melissa the Librarian

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