When the opening keynote speaker was delayed by an airline problem, a panel of information experts–Roy Tennant (OCLC), Dick Kaser (Information Today), Steve Abram (Gale Cengage Learning), and Marshall Breeding (Vanderbilt) was hastily convened to discuss the e-book marketplace, and they did a fantastic job!
Here is an edited transcript of their conversation:
RT: We will broaden our subject from just e-books to ebooks and mass digitization. Google has been moving through libraries like a massive Hoover vacuum, making Google Books. It has become a massive new player in the e-book market, which has amazing marketimplications. What are some of those?
MB: The idea of digitizing the world’s books was formerly inconceivable. Now it’s in sight through the efforts of multiple players. But you can’t depend on Google for everything!! There is a need for reundancy. Google has the clout and the resources to do massive digitization–a world-changing phenomenon. The benefits are more than reading them online, discovery is included. Few library systems have capability to search inside book. The potential for discovery is most exciting.
SA: It is most exciting, but what are the consequences? We have thought of databases as information, but we are still regarding Google Books as just books. What will answer space look like? We will disintermediate books like we did for bound periodicals. What’s the difference between a scholarly article and a chapter? Will we start pulling chapters together ? Free text aspects will change dynamics of answer space. The books will be fully integrated with articles, video, etc.
DK: We have the means to do these things now–mass storage space, digitize things rapidly, and Google has lots of money. Libraris thought never to trust a commercial vendor, but the impact of digitization affects what libraries do. Google sits on top of the books and search engines; what’s left for the library catalog to do? People are going out of their local communities and digitizing personal collections for the libraries. It’s about data, archival records, etc. more than books. Commercial enterprises will pay to do this, but the library community must be sure that we end up with something people can use going forward.
RT: Other players are active such as the Internet Archive, and Hathi Trust. What ecology is growing beyond Google Books?
SA: Why would you digitize books? To put ads in reading. Now we can contextualize ads in reading. The president of Demand Media recently said that the smartest thing you can do today is digitize books so you can personalize ads to their readers and drive results based on content.
MB: Cataloging the books is very enticing to the libraries. We might have to make some “deals with the devil” to do that, but that’s a powerful motivation. There is a balance of what Google gets out of it vs. what libraries get. The Internet Archive approaches this in a more library-friendly way. Although the library has to pay part of the cost, which limits what it can do, the spirit of openness is a more friendly business model, especially their work on orphan works, etc. We need to find the right deals that benefit the libraries and their users the most.
DK: Initially some libraries were limiting the books they would allow to be scanned to those out of copyright, but we still don’t have a big open collection on Google. It’s not the most ideal situation. Other people are digitizing books very rapidly as the publishers. There has been a rush by them in the last few years, which has led to controversies with libraries. Once HTML5 standards get in place, it will be more economical to do it. The main controversy has been about lending models.
SA: We are about to be very disruptive. Some time in 2011 the US Supreme Court will make a decision on the consequences of one company owning the access to books. The real issue is that 1 station in every academic library has no downloading and printing rights. By signing up all pubs, you have Trojan Horse marketing by Google. Will you pay for access and print rights? What are the strategic issues when all those books are there? How will you handle it? This is a major disruption!
RT: What are the consequences of pubishers changing the deal (like what Harper Collins has done)?
DK: Erik Boeksteijn interviewed ome librarians and told them about the 26 loan rule, and they didn’t react negatively. The whole idea of lending e- books is disruptive to publishers. They will try to impose limits on the loan.
MB: This is challenging for libraries. Lending rights are based on legal models and the landscape is changing rapidly. It is amazing how quickly this will change. What is the library’s role when all books are published electronically? We are ill prepared for that. Companies are trying to figure out what the lending model should be. There will be a lot of messages to be carried–libraries are in the way of publishers marketing directly to consumers. We must figure out how to do this when everything becomes electronic.
DK: E-books are already in place in a lot of centers and with a lot of publicity. Springer will license their whole collection with no DRM.
SA: The Harper Collins issue is just one example of what may be ahead for books. The publishers have done an amazing job of aggregating the books, but they have come up with some draconian rules–where’s the balance? Do we cant a commercial entity creating the environment?
RT: What kind of impact will the massive collections of e=books have on managing our print collections? Will it mean that more books will go to storage or be discarded?
MB: We have already seen the massive changes on the serials side–the range of bound volumes have been moved to storage in academic libraries. Will that happen on the monographic side? On the journal side, the articles are smaller than a book. Unless you can put them on a good reader–these are entities made for long term reading, so the impact won’t be as drastic.
SA: Do I want Amazon controlling the format for an e-book and not allowing libraries to put a book on their dominant reading device? Do we think that because you can control the format to generate amarket share you can control what librarians do with the content? Do we want someone to have that kind of power? Will you let an individual ban a book in your library? We don’t let phone companies tell us what kind of calls we can make because of the device we’re usig. Do we want that to happen in libraries?
DK: Libraries may be pushed in this direction because that’s what their constituencies want them to do.