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Future of Libraries 2010
The Consumer and Library E-book Markets: Implications and Challenges for Libraries
Paul Sims, Ann Awakuni, and Henry Bankhead

Paul Sims began by saying that he characterizes himself as a doomsayer. He believes that eBooks have the potential to disrupt our ability to provide access to collections. He quoted the ALA Core Value about Access: “All information resources that are provided directly or indirectly by the library, regardless of technology, format, or methods of delivery, should be readily, equally, and equitably accessible to all library users.” eBooks are preventing us from meeting this core value. Technology is changing user expectations. They expect immediacy, portability, durability, and ease of use. Publishers and vendors have expectations that conflict with those of the users: profitability and content ownership. They want to make more money off of eBooks and demanding that they maintain ownership of the “work” that you license (not buy) as a library. The changing culture of reading is preventing us from providing equal and equitable access.

Print is going to go away, says Paul. Are we, as librarians, ready to let it go? Arthur Sulzberger, the publisher of the New York Times, said that they will absolutely stop printing the newspaper at sometime in the future. On September 10th, Vernor v. Autodesk weakened the First Sale Doctrine, a 102 year-old law that says that when you buy something you have the right to loan it and resell it. This applies to eBooks because eBooks and other types of eMedia are thought to be considered, legally, in the same category of software…as you license it instead of purchasing it outright. Harlequin and Random House have succeeded very well with the eContent moves their companies have made. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo was the first eBook to sell over 1,000,000 copies. We as libraries are locked out of many of the distribution channels due to our limited vendors & their publisher contracts. As a result, many of the popular eBooks our customer want are unobtainable by libraries. Traditional print bookstores are failing. Barnes & Noble is up for sale and Borders is on the verge of bankruptcy. Sales of eBooks are up 204% in the last 6 months. In June 2010, Amazon reported more eBooks sold than hardcover books. eBook sales are flying up seriously quickly. Library eBook volumes are not keeping pace with public purchase demand. We license and rent the same books over and over, and we don’t expand our collections quickly enough. He quoted some stats for the book Mockingjay: Kindle & Nook price $8.03, hardcover $8.44. There is a 5 month wait list for the title at MVPL, and 9 weeks at SCCL & SFPL. There is no eBook copy immediately available to our users and wait lists are much longer for eCopies than for print for the most popular titles.

Three scenarios that could undermine our business:

  1. What if Virgin or another company offers an eBook reader for free with a 2 year contract for $9.99 a month and get 3 free anytime eBooks every month (very Netflix-esque). These would likely be promoted heavily at discount chain stores and campuses. They could also offer Read-As-You-Go plans.
  2. What if publishers abandoned printing books and instead allowed licensed eBooks to be printed by vendors and partners only. Libraries would continue to get print books and have to pay twice, for content and printing. Some libraries might adopt the print on demand technology, but guess what? Libraries are back to fixing printers all the time. What if FedEx/Kinkos starts printing books for people?
  3. What if Google announces the creation of Google Publishing? They could offer best-selling authors huge signing bonuses (e.g. 50% of sales and 50% of ad revenue). eBooks might be sold for $2.99 to read online with ads, or $9.99 to download and transfer to other devices and with no ads. And they would likely make no provision for libraries…except the lovely one reading computer station per library.

So what do we do? We need to start device-lending, loaning entire libraries of titles on iPads or Kindles. But the EULAs don’t technically allow us to lend the content or the software out beyond personal use. The quick turnover in technology could be a problem with replenishing and updating devices on a tight budget. And it’s a stop-gap measure. It’s not a permanent solution.

The Oregon State Library did a study (the COSLA Project). They recommended creating library collaboratives to purchase eBooks. They recommend eBook reader certification, multiple vendors in the marketplace to choose from, the need for libraries to research connections between library use and book buying, supporting self-publishing, promote civic discourse about public policy affecting eContent, and using the library as a laboratory to test out new possibilities.

We have to work with ALA to lobby to get copyright law changed so that we can lend eBooks in a meaningful way. The other option is to just give up on collections, service, and librarianship. We need to continue to promote the idea of civic engagement at local, state, and federal levels about how eContent and copyright law affects democracy.

Ann Awakuni talked about formats and technologies. eInk is not backlit, is easier on teh eyes, has good battery life for 2-4 weeks even, but has a longer page refresh. An LCD display (tablets & iPads) are backlit but have glare, is harsher on the eyes, has 10 hour battery life with wifi, and has a quick page refresh.

iPads are $499 or $630 and at 3 lbs is heavier than other eReaders. The nice things are the color 9” display, has instant page-turn, and a 2-page layout in landscape mode. You do have more than just an eBook reader, though, with a web browser and games aplenty, as well as other tablet functions. You access books through the iBook store (somewhat small).

Kindles are $139 for the 6” and $379 for the 9.7” dx model. There is a bigger selection than the iBooks store. You can link together all your Kindle apps on various devices to be synced (Whispersync). Average cost of books is $9.99, it has an actual keyboard, a read-to-me feature, and it’s not compatible in any way with library eBooks like those from Overdrive.

The Kobo costs $129 & has a 6” eink display, weighs less than 8 oz, has 1gb of storage, comes preloaded with 100 books, and is compatible with library eBook collections like Overdrive.

The Nook sells for $149-$199. It has 2gb of storage and has wifi. You can lend an eBook to friends for 2 weeks, has a dual eInk & LCD display, and is compatible with library eBook collections like Overdrive.

The Sony eReaders are various — $179 for the pocket – $249 for the daily edition. It uses “eink Vizplex,” black and white display, can be read in direct sunlight, and offers reader touch and other features.

10/14 libraries she contacted that loan eBook readers are loaning Kindles, but more are moving to the Nook. She talked with a librarian in New Hampshire (Mary @ Howe Public Library) noted that libraries have no problems loaning out 5 $100 art books to people but freak out about loaning out a $200 eBook reader. Is it legal for libraries to loaning out eBook readers? Amazon has stated that we can loan out the readers, but not with any content or jail-breaking the devices to allow content copying. So far no one has received a cease and desist letter. She suggests that we need an exclusive library terms of service contract from Amazon and other eContent vendors.

Most public libraries loan out eReaders pre-loaded & don’t let users download anything else onto the reader. Some libraries, though, let the users select which eBook they want and then download it for them before checkout. One good tip: Make sure your Amazon account isn’t linked to your library credit card but a gift card (to protect credit card info & spending sprees). Toronto wants to pilot delivering eBook readers to homebound patrons too. Several college and school libraries are loaning out readers with titles by request. They’ve encountered student and faculty questions about how to cite an eBook (page #s don’t exist).

eBook formats are key to understanding access. EPUB is the International Digital Publishing Forum’s digital standard for eBooks. PDFs work too as a relatively accessible and universal standard.

Blio is a free software eReader. Copia is a social network built around an eReader experience. And Book lets you buy books and see video content attached (e.g. cooking videos with cookbooks).

What does this mean for libraries? We need to add value to the reading experience on digital devices. How can we offer this up with the tools we have now (can’t). She sees us moving toward a “haiku culture” with digital content. We’re moving away from solitary reading to sensory, social, and arguably more shallow. Libraries have to keep up our eContent for the “haves” and not just the “have nots.” We will definitely see more people preferring the electronic to the print, and what are we doing to meet that demand? Do we know what our patrons want? What formats do they prefer? What categories or genres do they check out most?

She did a search for iPad, Kindle, Kobo, Nook, and Public Library in Google Trends, and found that “public library” came in second in California Google users (yay1) — not so bad.

Henry Bankhead concluded by talking about the role of the public library with eBooks in the future. Books are simply packaged words, a time transfer of knowledge, culture, and entertainment. Books show us what the past was like and what the future may hold. eBooks are just another format and formats change over time. The history of bamboo books in China exceeds in duration the use of paper books. When eBooks first came out in the 1990s, they failed pretty badly and left a bad impression with people due to bad selections, formats, and digital rights management. But now eBooks are becoming popular because of the wide availability of eBook reading devices and apps. Dedicated devices, mobile phones, and apps that cross platforms (like the Kindle & Stanza apps). eBooks will become more popular than paper books. They offer a superior reading experience with a limitless selection and low cost. There is also the instant gratification factor (at least with consumer eBooks – libraries require long wait times). eBook sales have more than doubled from a year ago. Many patrons are culturally habituated to getting their reading material from the public library. We must not disappoint them. Libraries are guardians of the public trust and upholders of the public good, and must ensure that eBooks are available to our users. If we are not proactive we risk being cut out of the equation and the conversation altogether. Consumers will become habituated to going directly to publishers and bypass the library altogether. We have applied a physical model to a digital forum with dire consequences. The one-book, one-user model does not work for digital content. It works against providing broad access to popular releases and is counter-intuitive. DRM is frustrating and complex. There is a paradigm shift about books and eBooks. We tend to think of the printed paper book as the epitome of the “work.” The “real book” usually starts as an electronic file before it’s turned into dead trees and ink…it is born digital anyway. Libraries need to change from curators of predefined collections to distributors of access. Physical DRM can be coupled with print on demand as just one of many formats, on compost-able cheap paper meant to be recycled once you’re done reading. Picture a future when you say “book” and you actually mean eBook, not the print book. We need an easy to use technology and an easy interface that works for users. Pay per download is one model. This lets patrons choose what they want, as with Netflix, creating patron-driven acquisition. This ensures that publishers have a defined revenue stream. A multi-format distribution means that patron-driven acquisition results in multiple formats. Patrons choose titles and formats that fit their needs. Libraries don’t pay for every single format ahead of time, but rather pay per access in the format and for the title that the user has selected. There could be a premium cost for new releases and less for back lists. New release titles could be made available only in the library (wish list!). We could have a cumulative pricing option as well. Simple DRM with all formats. Let’s work together to make something happen by working with vendors and publishers and distributors to create a top-notch eBook experience in the library.

“Future of Libraries 2010: The Consumer and Library E-book Markets (Paul Sims, Ann Awakuni, & Henry Bankhead)”

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  5. Scott Says:

    I don’t normally consider myself a doomsayer, but I definitely share Paul Sims’ concerns re: our ability to provide access to not just our collections, but to all kinds of information, in a licensed-and-DRM dominated ebook landscape.

    What I wish would happen (and it needs to happen soon) is for a library to meet this head on by purchasing ebooks and despite the restrictions imposed by licensing, loaning them out. That library would almost certainly be issued a desist letter from the publisher(s), and would have to be willing to go to court…

    (…Which is why my wish is very likely wishful thinking. But unless libraries get some kind of exemption(s) to carry out our missions to give people access to those materials, whatever opportunity there is to get such exemptions may be lost.)

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    It is hard for me to imagine how libraries will be a significant player in providing ebook access to patrons unless libraries deal collectively with publishers and distributors. Otherwise, how can libraries provide free access to ebooks on the same scale that they provide free access to physical books? And if they cannot, then what is the value of libraries to patrons who want only e-content?

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  9. Pete Basofin Says:

    Thanks for summarizing this panel in detail. Very thought-provoking. I’ve not seen a discussion that faces the huge threat ebooks pose to public libraries.

  10. Brent Hanner Says:

    I’m a first semester information science student who did graduate work in history before persuing this degree and I came across an older blog post refering to similar statements made in a Library Law blog. Something that strikes me both in reading some of the stuff on the blogs but also many readings for class is a high degree of self indulgence among a certain segment of librarians leading to a lot of talk about why librarians and libraries are so important instead of focusing on making librarians and libraries more important. And part of that is to be actually educated on the issues at hand and not being chicken little every time some new issue comes along.
    At the moment the legal nature of an e-book has not yet been defined. If it is a book then they will fall under first sale and there are no new issues. Publishers say they are like software and licensed. Even if we accept that premise public libraries have little to worry about because the COMPUTER SOFTWARE RENTAL AMENDMENTS ACT OF 1990 explicitly allows public libraries to lend software. So either way public libraries basically unaffected by any rights the publishers claim as long as they do due diligence against copyright infringment.
    Beyond that public libraries should welcome a lawsuit over the issue. We should be prepaired legally and on the publicity front but a large majority of Americans support the idea of public libraries even if they are not high on the funding priorities.
    It may end up that public libraries end up as mostly a reference desk at city hall with the majority of the collection in digital format, that does not change the need for them just the physical shape they take.
    Also libraries looking at what readers to buy should serously consider the Sony, it has the fewest attachments to the book trade and as such is more likely to side with libraries should a legal fight emerge.

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  16. Dan Gerson Says:

    The current ebook licensing model threatens not only the viability of libraries bur also ‘privatizes’ public discourse. Soon readers amd libraries alike will not enjoy a choice when selecting the format of their reading materials but will be forced to license the content from a particular vendor using certain hardware and software. No longer will we be able to loan or sell our ‘book’ nor donate it to a library without the explicit cooperation of a publisher and or intermediary, if made possible at all by software capabilities. Particular books could potentially be clawed-back by publishers for any reason and entire collections cold be deauthorized by hacking or database failure.

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