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E-book Wrapup

Dick Kaser, ITI’s Vice President of Content, moderated the wrapup session of the 2-day e-book track, which featured this panel. It was an excellent summary of the issues.

(L-R) Dick Kaser, VP of Content, Information Today (moderator); Ken Roberts (Chief Librarian, Hamilton ON Public Library); Aspen Walker (Branch Manager, Douglas County Libraries, Castle Rock, CO), Joe Murphy (Science Librarian, Yale University)

Because of the popularity of this track, the discussion will be continued at the Computers in Libraries 2012 conference, March 21-23, in Washington, DC. The entire track was live streamed, and the video archive is available here.  This session began with each panelist summarizing what they heard or the issues that concern them.

Joe Murphy:
Is sharing of content across mobile devices a worry or an opportunity? Rapid transformations can cause concerns, but every player in the industry faces the same problems. We must move quickly to adapt. Companies that succeed push for change and accelerate through it. Major trends for the next year will be proximity to content and social media. We need to find an optimal point of tension.

Aspen Walker:
Douglas County Libraries has created their own e-book model. They purchased an Adobe Content Server and are making sure that content is discoverable through their catalog. Users can opt in to maintain their reading history. A large wall display makes content discoverable. They are working directly with publishers and negotiating to own the content, not lease it–the same arrangement as with print books.

Very few people can contribute to the social capital of the human race. Libraries can help them show their ideas. Remembering the local is also important. Stories of small towns matter; diversify your opinions. The long tail is so important! Be willing to focus on both the popular and the niche.

Lessons from the Wild West: We are wandering in the wilderness. A major concern is that patrons and organizations will get the short end of the stick. Let’s not repeat the mistakes of the past. Make progress without shooting friends in a quick draw contest; don’t step into the wilderness without looking!

Libraries exist because of first sale and fair use rights. Our copyrights are being eroded. When we rent content, give up those rights.

No single superhero is going to save the day! Lots of people want a place at the table, and we all want to be involved. We need to work together, form a league of superheroes, and work towards our strengths.

If we don’t get e-books right, it could be the end of what we all love so much. We need to be marketers and library advocates, build community, boost local businesses, and become a smart investment. Is money the greatest good, or is it people and sharing ideas?

Ken Roberts:
There has not been much information given to the publishers about the business of public libraries because they sell to intermediary distributors. There really is a food chain: creators, agents, publishers, distributors, booksellers, readers. Everyone in that chain is impacted by current issues. Publishers are losing money on paper format at present because they are structured around an old model.

When we talk to our city council, we don’t whine for money but tell them the good we are accomplishing. As a result, the library has never had a budget cut. There should be more listening to our partners as to what they need and how we can serve them.

Ken: Libraries are a political force and have market clout. They have the ability to demand what they want and are a market force. They can be powerful agents in the distribution channel.

Joe: I would use libraries more if they provided more specialized types of access, such as material by local authors.

Ken: I would definitely help local authors sell their books and make them available, but the electronic sale doesn’t harm the local bookstore. Publishers are as fearful of Amazon as the public libraries.

Aspen: We are already selling books by embedding links and buy it now options in our catalog. Libraries can be new players in the literary ecosystem. We can be part of creating the future. Libraries are a part of the community; let’s leverage that.

Dick Kaser listed the issues we have heard during the past 2 days: Title availability, DRM and licensing terms, locking content to devices, discoverability of e-book content and its portability, owership and archiving, access and privacy. Then he asked the panelists what worries them most.  Here are the answers:

Ken: DRMs (but he says that it now worries him the least becasue it’s a marketplace. There are many new publishers starting as e-only without DRM).

Aspen: Can we ever control something that can be copied so easily? A greater worry is that people should be reimbursed for their creative content and be able to continue to share ideas. (See Cory Doctorow’s free e-book “Content“.)

Joe: Discoverability problems when companies put restrictions on their content distribution.



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