Skip to main content

Friday Reads - Final Four Edition

3 min read

First off. GO RAMS! My wife's alma mater is in the Final Four! It would be sweet if they won it all! Even if they don't they have energized the entire Richmond metro area. Kudos to them! It's great exposure for a great school. Just two more wins!

Did I mention that we've almost got a contract signed for Boopsie? No? Well, it looks like things are moving fairly quickly (quickly being a relative term) for my library to begin working with Boopsie to provide mobile apps on all mobile platforms. I'm excited by this and hope it doesn't get derailed somewhere. I'm keeping my fingers crossed...

On to the links for the week!

Look! only 1.5 links about eBooks. I'm getting better...

If you read nothing else on the list for this week read this. It a great interview and Tim O'Reilly has interesting answers to good questions. He's a very smart man and has an interesting philosophy on many things. His take on DRM is very interesting:

Let’s say my goal is to sell 10,000 copies of something. And let’s say that if by putting DRM in it I sell 10,000 copies and I make my money, and if by having no DRM 100,000 copies go into circulation and I still sell 10,000 copies. Which of those is the better outcome? I think having 100,000 in circulation and selling 10,000 is way better than having just the 10,000 that are paid for and nobody else benefits.

So, read this. It's a little long but worth it.

Eric Landes does a great job of explaining the conundrum publishers are facing with eBooks. He makes a pretty sane recommendation for the pricing of eBooks. He doesn't discuss libraries and that's good because I'm interested in learning more about the publisher's point of view.

This is a great use of Amazon and the Library. Too bad she couldn't do this within the library's catalog.

Lane Wilkinson provides a quick framework for understanding the term 'literacy'. I admit that I am a bit confused by all of the different 'literacies' and am hesitant to embrace 'transliteracy'. Maybe I'll come around but I like this post as a primer for all of the 'literacies' out there.

Kansas City will partner with Google to deliver SUPER FAST internet service. It will be interesting to see how this works, if other communities get an opportunity to try it and how the big ISPs will react.


Friday Reads Sweet Sixteen Weekend Edition

3 min read

I'm really looking forward to the weekend. It's been a long week and I don't feel like I accomplished much.

I'd like to thank Nate for reposting my Modest eBook Proposal post on his site. It's gotten some pretty thoughtful comments. I appreciate that a lot. It's good to get comments about eBooks and libraries from people not employed by libraries.

I don't know what's going to happen with regards to eBooks, publishers, and libraries. It's a bit scary and not only because I'm many years away from retirement, with a mortgage, and a family to support. I think libraries are one of the only places left that can actually benefit ALL of society. But we need to change how we do business if we are going to be around for the next 100+ years. We should really question our focus and how we chose to spend our community's money. I have no answers. Lots of questions and hope are all I can offer.

Hope you enjoy this week's links:

Francine Fialkoff thanks Harper Collins for making librarians question the current model of digital distribution. I do too.

David Lankes give us his opinion on publishers, digital content, and libraries. I've been looking forward to hearing what he has to say on this issue. He doesn't disappoint. Here's a quick bit:

We shouldn’t be angry with publishers – we should help them see there is life in the digital frontier – that they can be more than their inventory. Just like us. And like us it doesn’t have to be for free (libraries are not free – members pay for them with tuition, taxes, budget lines and so on).

This is a very interesting article about the effects of file-sharing on the recording industry. The author highlights some studies that suggest illegal file-sharing did not have the negative effect the recording industry says it did. Other factors (ex lousy economy and reduced discretionary income) are more likely the causes of the decline in revenue for the recording industry. Definitely worth a read.

Steve Matthews discusses the difference between the library as 'Community Center' and 'Center of the Community'. Big difference.

I'm sure risk management would love this idea. While we may not run with this particular type of program/service it is worth thinking about new ways to engage our community. Ideas like this, while they may not stick, are good to consider.

This week's list wouldn't be complete without reference to the Google Books decision. Ars Technica does a good job of summing up the implications of Judge Chin's decision.


A Modest eBook Proposal

3 min read

I've got an eBook idea that I'd like to bounce off the dozen or so people who read my stuff. I don't know if it would work. That's why it's called an proposal and not a plan.

Ready? Here it is.

To any publiser willing to experiment with a new distribution model I propose the following:

  1. We will give you a big bag of money each year.
  2. With this bag of money we expect our library patrons to be able to access your entire catalog of electronic material (books and audiobooks)
  3. We also require that the one person per title model be done away with.
    1. We'd like for our people to be able to download any book at any time without having to wait on a digital copy.

That is all we really require. So what are we willing to do to make this more palatable to you?

  1. We will limit the number of titles an individual has checked out to a very low number.
    1. How about 2 at a time?
  2. These digital copies will be packed full of DRM
    1. So copying your material will be difficult for the average user.
    2. The titles will also be unsuable after a few weeks of being checked out.
      1. and need to be checked out again
  3. We will pay a bonus for titles that are very popular.
    1. So if a certain title is checked out 100 times (just a number I made up) we will give you a small bag of money.
      1. On the flip side of this; if a title is purchased by one of our people while he/she has it checked out we get a credit.

This seems like a good idea to me. Libraries get access to a lot of eBooks, publishers get paid, and authors of popular books get paid extra. Granted, there are a lot of details to be worked out. Like:

  1. How big is that annual bag of money?
  2. How big is that smaller bag of money?
    1. How often is it paid?
  3. What is a reasonable number of checkouts to trigger a bonus payment?
  4. How do we set it all up?
    1. Technically speaking

Anyone want to discuss this proposal? Is it silly? Will it work? I've got no idea. I'm just tired of people complaining about eBook distribution and not providing any alternatives. So here is an alternative. This is just a starting point. Let's talk.


Articles of Interest March 4-11

4 min read

So. This week was fun.

I spent last Saturday at the Kite Festival and had a great time! They say that over 20,000 people were there and I can believe it. When I left at 2:30 there were cars lined up for miles waiting to get in.

I spent the day Wednesday getting a crash course in the mobile web. I watched a great video by Luke Wroblewski about designing for the mobile web first. I'm no designer or web developer but I got a lot out of his presentation. The thinking (as best I can understand) is, designing for mobile will make you really think about what you want in your site. It should help you focus on what is important and what isn't. It's a good talk. So if you've got 54 minutes take a look.

After the video I watched an online demo of Boopsie. I set this up a few weeks ago for my boss and others so they could get an idea about what Boopsie does. I like the product and think we can use it to improve our connections with people with smartphones. The demo went well and I think 'the decision makers' liked it. We will see what happens. I'd like to get it.

Then in the afternoon I watched this webinar by ALA Techsource. It was about making mobile services work for your library. I enjoyed it but didn't really much new information from it.

I took Tuesday off to hang out with my parents. I went in late on Thursday so I could go to a special event at my youngest daughter's school.

The ACC Tournament is this week. Go Heels!

For this week's links I've got more eBook posts (sorry I'm trying to learn more), plus one about website redesign.

Aaron Schmidt makes the case for iterative web design. Instead of a complete redesign make small improvements frequently. Something for us to think about as we discuss making changes to our website.

Om Malik discusses the 'unbundling' of media. He compares it to what happened to the telecom industry in the 1990's.

Just as telecoms of the past maintained their near monopoly by controlling the last mile of the network, the media companies maintained their money machine by controlling the distribution network: trucks, radio waves and television frequencies. The arrival of cable loosened their grip, but not as much.

Then came the Internet, which meant the distribution network was no longer under control of a select few.

ReadWriteWeb asks the question I've been asking myself.

This post caused a bit of negative feedback from librarians. Justified or not, I think the points he makes are valid from a publisher's point of view. If we are going to figure out a solution to eBook distribution we should be learning as much as we can about the publisher's position.

This post does a great job of discussing the main points libraries are facing with eBooks. Then a plan is actually provided. The plan looks good and I like the vision. My question (as always) is how do we get started? It is a good idea and should be investigated.

Jessamyn West provides her views on a recent meeting she attended about the Digital Public Library of America. I'm happy she was there. I'm pretty sure she represented libraries and librarians very well. The DPLA is something I really have to learn more about. It is in very early stages but it has interest from many different people and organizations.


Yet another #hcod blog post

4 min read

William Smith Morton Library - Union Presbyterian Seminary - RichmondLike many librarians this week, my thoughts have been dominated by the recent Harper Collins decision to change the way they distribute their eBooks to libraries. I am unhappy about this decision. There have been many blog posts and tweets about this and as much as I'd like to add my voice to the mix I really don't have anything new to offer. I'm not as eloquent, fierce, or energetic as the people leading the charge. I'm grateful to these and many other people for their vocal and thoughtful comments about the situation. They have kept me informed and helped me think through this issue. I've been working in libraries for over a dozen years and I've never seen the majority of the profession this focused on one issue. It's amazing! (Of course, it would be nice to have some sort of statement from THE national library organization...but I digress)

I do have one idea though. I'd like to see librarians get to know their local publishers. Most localities have small publishers we could get to know. Why? One reason is to learn more about the publishing industry. How can we negotiate with publishers if we don't understand what they are going through? We see our side of this situation and understand it very well. Having a better understanding of the publisher's side can only help us.

By establishing relationships with local publishers this may give us the opportunity to experiment with new methods of digital distribution. This will take some time and we will really need to establish a great relationship with them. The benefits could be great. We could work with them to create a method of distribution that could benefit libraries and publishers. If we find something that works on a local level it may work on a national level. It's an idea. Maybe someone can run with it. I'm hoping to contact some of the local publishers soon.

Here's to a great opportunity to create something new!

The links I'm highlighting this week are my favorites. There are many other great posts about this topic. If I included all of them none would get read. The list is that long. Bobbi Newman has done a great job of keeping a posts " href="">list of the posts. I've created a posts" href="">short list of more of my favorites.

  • Sarah Glassmeyer gives us some economics concerning eBooks and libraries. Bad news, if the public buys just one book that would have been a check out then the publishers will be ok. She's not an accountant but her point is well made. The publishers will be just fine not doing business with libraries.
  • Eric Hellman challenges the 'Pretend it's Print' mindset of many publishers (and librarians) have with digital content. He mentions a tiered pricing structure as a possible alternative. Although he doesn't really go into this idea it's one that I'm open to learning more about. Others have mentioned it also so maybe I'll get my chance to learn.



Interesting ideas from some smart people.

3 min read

It's been a good week.

I was allowed to participate in the LITA National Forum 2012 Committee. Now the hard part. Doing a good job and representing the County well. I'm looking forward to the experience. I hope to learn and contribute as much as I can.

I had a good time Thursday at the RALC-Web Users Group meeting. I always enjoy hanging out with librarians with similar interests. Those people are VERY smart and I'm happy they let me tag along. My friend Suzanne discussed the redesign process of her library's new website. They launched it on Monday and it has gotten many positive reviews. Everyone at our meeting really liked it. I hope we can redesign our website in the near future...

The articles/posts below contain some interesting ideas from some smart people. They've gotten me thinking... As always you can download them in various formats here if you'd like.

  • I think Andy sums up one of my personal philosophies pretty well: "For me, librarianship is about being self aware of one’s own ignorance and embracing it as an impetus to stay curious, to seek answers, and to continue to grow. It is truly a journey into ignorance."
  • I'm a sucker for trends so this one caught my eye. I'll have to find out what actually happened at the Mobile World Congress. Maybe next week...
  • Mike Shatzkin discusses ebook 'sales' and emphasizes the distinction between a selling something (physical) and licensing something (digital). This is an interesting article and I believe we should probably begin thinking about ebooks this way. I don't know what it will mean for libraries but if licensing content (instead of owning a physical object) is the future model of the publishing business then we might want to start thinking of ebooks more like the databases we subscribe to now.
  • A call for unity among Librarians of all varieties, OR "Hey! We really should get to know each other better". I think this is a great idea. It can only benefit the profession. By getting to know librarians in other types of libraries we can establish useful connections, learn different aspects of library service and get a clearer outlook of librarianship as a whole.
  • This is an interesting prediction about the future of connectivity. If the phone is the hub of a personal "Internet of Things" then it could be possible for someone to: walk into a library, search for a book, then be directed to the book, and check it out all via his/her phone without ever having to talk to a person. Scary or exciting?


eBook Cheat Sheet

1 min read

[caption id="attachment_2085" align="alignright" width="231" caption="Ebook Cheat Sheet"]Ebook Cheat Sheet[/caption]

I was asked a few weeks ago to create a cheat sheet for eBooks so our staff could have something to reference and handout to the public. Luckily I had just read a very helpful post by Jason Griffey that really summed up a lot of issues with eBooks, file types and DRM. I asked in the comments if I could adapt the post and he said it was ok. So I did.

Since we will be getting Overdrive soon we put this on the other side.

Here is what some of us put together. Hope you find it useful.

Ebook Cheat Sheet


My take on the eBook Summit – Part 3

5 min read

The last in a three part post about the eBook Summit I promise. (Part 1) (Part 2)

My questions and real take are at the end of this post.

I mentioned my take on Mr. Kelly’s presentation earlier so I’ll go to the final keynote of the day, The “New Librarianship” in the Age of the Ebook by R. David Lankes. A little transparency here: I’m a fan of this guy. I found his blog a few years ago and have listened to a lot of his presentations. He makes me think about librarianship in different ways and that has been good. So, I was really looking forward to hearing him speak. Hopefully I’ll get the gist of his presentation correct. Here goes. If you’d like to watch his presentation, it is here. I recommend you watch it if you have the time (45 minutes). Really.

We need to think in terms of connection management not collection management. We are in the business of connecting people to: ideas, learning, education and each other. We’ve been moving in this direction. With our subscription based access to databases we are making it easier for our public to connect to information. They don’t have to come to the libraries to use them, they can search in minutes what took days before and they have access to more than we could possibly provide in physical form. So we’ve been doing this with periodicals for a while. It goes beyond our database subscriptions and also includes the net. People can access so much information easily that it makes the librarian more important. We’ve been helping people find digital information for over a decade. Now that it’s the books (aka the thing that comes to mind when people think of libraries) that are becoming digital we feel threatened. He feels that the real threat to libraries is the perception that libraries are about owned artifacts.

EBooks make him cranky and he uses and loves them. They make him cranky because the current implementation of hardware and software is so BORING. He feels that they haven’t begun to reach their potential because they are busy referring to the previous method of publishing. The wooden bookshelf in iBooks drives him crazy. Moving to a digital format is a big change. He uses the development of maps from paper to GPS and Google maps as an example. He sees them as a facilitating infrastructure. They are now used as a social platform to help people connect (ex Facebook Places, Foursquare). It is possible for eBooks to be a social platform also. They could be used to find connections between books, music, movies, and the net and people too. It could be a discovery platform. How are the connections created? I’ll be honest. I don’t quite understand all of the concepts he pitched. I did get that there will be multiple interfaces (not just apps) and reading will be a less passive exercise. It will be more of an authoring-while-reading and establishing connections between many different pieces of information process. The connections created while I read can be shared with others and vice versa. It could make for very interesting reading. Makes my head spin.

After that discussion he had some words for librarians. He recommends we:

  • Stop waiting for “them” to figure this out.
    • “Waiting for the publishers to figure out the eBook model of the future is like waiting for heroin addicts to develop methadone.”
    • This is our problem.
    • This is our opportunity.
    • Stop whining.
  • We can figure this out and build our own eBook platform.
    • We have the network infrastructure
    • We have the operating systems
    • We have the standards to do this (ePub, XML etc)
    • We have the connections
    • We have the foundational data (WorldCat etc.)
  • Don’t be BORING!
  • Be innovative
    • Solve a real problem in a better way.

As always, his presentation was inspiring. I am always energized at the end of one of his talks. But I have to ask “How will this help me plan for next year?”

How did spending a day at this online conference help me? Did it give me resources I can show my boss? Am I better able to describe the current state of eBooks and Libraries? Do I have a better understanding of what is happening in the present? Did I gain any insight into the future? I guess my answer is yes but not a resounding one.

What I need is a plan for getting the most eBooks into the devices in the hands of the people of Henrico County. They aren’t concerned with what the future of the eBook will be and how it will be able to create wonderful connections to information they didn’t know existed. They want the latest James Patterson or (insert author’s name here) book. They want it now. They want it tomorrow. That’s what they want.

I don’t think what I want was the purpose of the conference. I did enjoy it. I like imagining what may be and thinking 5-10-20 years down the road. I really do. But my boss needs a plan for now. I guess I’ll be working on that for a while.


My take on the eBook Summit – Part 2

5 min read

This is a continuation from Part 1.

The first break out session I attended was Ebook “What If’s”: Issues that Impact Scenario Planning with Bobbi Newman, Matt Hamilton, Sarah Houghton-Jan and Josh Hadro. This session asked three well respected technology librarians some “What If…” questions to see what they thought may happen.

The first question was “What if there is a Google Information terminal in each library?” This is in reference to the Google book settlement reached last year. Part of the settlement states that public libraries can have free access to the works in Google Books…but only on one machine. This is a simplified definition but it’s about right. What would this mean to libraries? Sarah Houghton-Jan answered this question first and nailed it. The said that public libraries would not see much change and that having only machine being able to access this database was going back to the CD Rom days. The idea that all of this information is locked on one machine only doesn’t really make sense to people these days. I agree. Of course you could pay for access but that wasn’t the question. The other two agreed. Bobbi Newman brought up a good point. In smaller libraries where there are few computers having one dedicated to one thing would cause a bit of hassle. Imagine having someone working on a resume being asked to move so someone could access the Google Book database. Who wins? I feel bad for the staffer who has to make that call.

The next question was “What if the price of eReaders is zero?” Matt Hamilton answered this one first and brought up something I found very interesting. Training staff on how to use the devices will be damn hard. There will probably be many different devices and they will all have different interfaces, formats etc. This will be challenging. This doesn’t even take into account the affect it will have on our collections. What do we do when someone can get their summer reading list on their device without leaving their house, most of it for free? This will also affect our technology infrastructure. If people did come to the library to download books, how would our bandwidth hold up? Yikes! Something I learned in this session was that CVS will be selling an eReaders and netbooks very soon.

The next question was “What if the DRM issue went away tomorrow?” Digital Rights Management is the scourge of digital media and is one of the reasons eBooks are so tricky. Bobbi Newman answered this question. We would need to increase our digital collection quickly and figure out a way to make downloading the book to a preferred device easier. I agree and I’d add that I’m less concerned about DRM as I am about being able to easily download something to my device. I don’t want to have to plug my device into a computer to get new content. Maybe that’s why the Kindle is doing so well?

The next session I attended was Ebooks and the Library user Experience with Rebecca Miller, Michael Bills, Jean Costello, Joshua M. Greenberg and Aaron Schmidt. I’m just going to go with some quotes I wrote down from this session because, honestly, my brain was about full at this point.

“Which crumbles first: the publishing industry or library budgets?” (Greenberg) I’m thinking library budgets go first. The publishers are way ahead of us in eBooks and they pretty much hold all the cards. They produce the content, own the copyright and with digital copies will control the terms of service that govern use of their material. So, yeah, we have an uphill battle.

“The eBook ship has sailed and libraries are not on it.” (Schmidt) He used the example of libraries debating whether or not to lend VHS tapes years ago. While we were busy debating an entire industry sprung up. How to interpret this? Do we build another ship? Do we swim like mad to catch up?  I don’t know. I was hoping someone presenting at the summit would have some ideas.

“Libraries need to be less like supermarkets and more like kitchens.” (Schmidt) I take this to mean that we need to focus less on having a lot of things on our shelves and more on being a place for people to create. I’m getting the feeling that in the not-too-distant future our libraries will consist of tables, study rooms, high-speed wifi, and an Espresso Book Machine. Maybe that’s not a bad thing.

Part 3 soon.


My take on the eBook Summit - Part 1

5 min read

I’m glad I was able to attend but I have to admit, I’m a little disappointed.

It was well put together. The interface was slick. They tried to recreate the conference feel online and mostly were able to pull it off. I visited all of the booths and I’m sure I’ll get lots of bacon from this conference.

The keynotes were ok. If you like two famous futurists who talk about the future of eBooks without really mentioning their impact on libraries then those talks were for you. Awe-inspiring ideas and thoughts that left me feeling a bit overwhelmed. Mr. Kurzweil thinks we will have screens in our glasses that will act as add a layer of augmented reality to our reading and Mr. Kelly mentioned having bound books with ePaper as the paper. Wow! Really. Just. Wow! I’m looking forward to that. It will be interesting and I can’t imagine what the next 20 years will deliver. But I need to be able to plan for next year and their presentations didn’t help me with that.

There was also a lot of promotion of Overdrive and the new Blio reader from Baker. I understand that they paid a lot of money to sponsor the event and it wouldn’t have happened without them. But did we really need a pitch from them at the end of almost every presentation? I think there may have been one or two (out of the seven) I attended that did not include a discussion about one of their products. My impressions of their products:

  • Overdrive = the best option we have now but limited.
  • Blio = brand new, late to the game (been waiting for it since last spring) lots of potential but won’t be adopted until it’s on more devices.

That said. I can’t wait for us to offer Overdrive to our members. It will make many people happier.

So, what did I get out of the eBook Summit? Ian Singer started the day with a quick overview of a study done recently that says eBooks are growing in popularity in libraries. If you want to buy it, be prepared to spend a lot of money. The Kurzweil session was next and I’ve already mentioned it.

The session The Tipping Point: How eBooks Impact Libraries, Publishers & Readers was interesting because Eli Neiburger said what everyone thinks: “Libraries are screwed!” We are screwed, he says, because we are invested in the codex as our primary format. He believes the traditional book is becoming outmoded and replaced with a more convenient option.

He listed other outmoded technologies (vinyl records, candles and typewriters) and discussed how they have fared since becoming outmoded. Vinyl is still around and is selling pretty well but the technology that outmoded it originally (the 8-track tape) is pretty much gone. It was superseded by much more convenient technology cassette tapes and compact discs. People are still buying vinyl records but they are a niche purchase. Candles are still around but they are primarily used for decoration, ceremony or when the power goes out. Gas lamps were also discussed. Cities used them before the advent of electric lighting to light the streets. They are gone but the infrastructure they left behind has been reused. The typewriter is outmoded but its descendants (keyboard etc) are still instrumental to producing content.What will the eBook become? Is it an 8-track or is it a technology that will have an impact for generations like the typewriter?

Ok. Let’s assume that eBooks are the future of publishing. What does that mean for libraries? We are screwed if we stick to the circulating materials method of library service. A digital native is not interested in waiting for a digital copy of anything. That’s the current model of digital content in libraries. People have to put a hold on a digital copy of an eBook. That's not going to endear us to people accustomed to getting stuff quickly everywhere else.

One of the things libraries are built on is the idea of having a local copy of an item. This works in the physical world. If you want that book and the library down the street has it, great! In digital terms local copies are not needed. You can acquire something from across the world in seconds without leaving your chair. So, what’s the value of having that copy of a bestseller when someone can get it quicker and more conveniently via a download? There is no value in it.

Maybe libraries will be better served if they begin to focus on producing local content? Get that writers group together. Work on that local history project. Collect those pictures of local scenery and architecture. Bring in those candidates for a debate. Work on making the library a platform for the community. If we can make the library a community platform we are not screwed. If you can’t tell, I was really impressed by Mr. Neiburger. There were some other people who spoke in that session but, honestly, he was the show.

Part 2

Part 3