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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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. . . 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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