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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