It’s no secret that book formats and technologies are going through a period of major change. I attended the first two sessions of a well attended 2 day-long track on the e-book evolution and revolution kicked off with an overview of the key issues and challenges for libraries.
This panel of experts laid out the challenges.
Bobbi Newman said that 12% of the US population has an e-reader, so we are only trying to reach a small number of people, but they bring an important perspective. Many people do not understand e-book requirements. For example, Barnes & Noble was telling people to go to the library to borrow e-books, but they did not tell them they had to have a PC connected to the Internet. So there are some gaps in the e-book world. Libraries want to have e-books, and they must think about beefing up their collections.
You can now read e-books on a Kindle, which is very easy to use and wonderful for libraries. But Amazon keeps the statistics that libraries should have. They know how many kindle users read e-books, how many read a library’s books, and how many purchase the books. We must stand up and demand the statistics that they have.
Sarah Houghton agreed, saying that we will take anything the publishers give us ecause we are desperate to get the content. We are not looking at what we are signing up for. Realize that you do not own the books, you lease them. Read the fine print! The terms of service override copyright law, and companies can put whatever they want in those terms.. It is important to read these terms and not just click and agree! We must know what we are getting. People now conclude their checkout on a corporation’s website (i.e., Amazon’s). Their library borrowing history is kept elsewhere, and can’t be erased which raises major privacy issues. When you check in the book, they try to make you buy it.
Amy Affelt works at a consulting firm of Ph.D. economists who testify in litigation. She hardly ever wants to buy an entire e-book–only a chapter, or a single page. But she cannot buy just a single section and it is limited to reading on her PC only. She does not want to read the e-book, but get it to the user and be the conduit. Unfortunately, she cannot do that becasue of the way Amazon is set up. She wants to pay for the right to read across all platforms instead paying to read the book on each device.
Faith Ward is an elementary school librarian at a girl’s school. She studied how kids read on e-books. The first graders made more mistakes reading an e-book instead of print. They were motivated and enthusiastic. The reason probably is because first graders’ reading habits are not as precise as those of adults. They were too occupied with the screen and the distractions. Full color devices seem to be worse.
She felt she had a duty to educate the parents to read more in the e-book environment. It is hard to work with teachers who do not embrace technology, so she has become an ambassador of the technology. For 5th graders, she told them to bring in their own device, and there was a big variety which caused many problems to make the technology work. Students in colleges today taking distance learning courses are being educated in an online environment. In the elementary market, we are educating students how to conduct themselves in that setting. Where do print books fit in? They don’t.
There are problems explaining to publishers what libraries are going to do with the e-books. They are just passing them along to their requesters, not reading them.
The cost of e-book circulation vs. print depends on what you are circulating. Publishers do not offer any discounts on electronic products like they do on print products. This is not a good deal if you figure in the cost of the platform each year.
AIIP has negotiated the right to pass on the content to the end user, but there is no unified voice for libraries to do this. As a group we are powerrful, but we are operating as individuals. We need a solution to this problem.
Libraries have a problem with lending e-reader devices: that there is a significant cost if somebody loses it. There is a difference between the container and content, and they are wedded together. Because we like the container, we are ready to accept bad terms for the content. If the library is loaning a Kindle,it is taking a stance in a competitive market. Do we need to be involved in this?
Sarah Houghton said that we should fight for content with no DRM. That is a hard battle but worth fighting so you can have device-agnostic content.
No library system is an island, and we need to work together! We are still trying to work out the process of using e-books.