Thursday, January 20, 2011

E-Books and librararies (several takes)

I decided to put this separately from my usual link articles. There are a number of articles/posts which recently hit my desk about e-books, Kindles, and libraries.

First one I saw was Stephen Abram's on Kindles and libraries. He cites a post from the Kindle Review, a blog about Kindles. Here is what that blog says is the answer: "The quick answer would be – No, not really. Not unless Amazon loses its head. Not unless another company starts beating it on the basis of library book support. Not unless there’s a gun put to its head." He notes that it is simply not in Amazon's business plan. Stephen then goes on to suggest that libraries need to not purchase Kindles and encourage patrons to purchase one of the other devices out there. [As a side note, today I had a phone call from a library user who wanted to know how to download library books on her Kindle. I was gentle, told her this story, and sent her on to her local parish library's web site for info on the kinds of e-books she could easily borrow.]

AL Online picked up on Meredith Farkas' and her post about e-books and libraries and her concerns. Meredith notes that she was surprised at how much she liked the Kindle (after using NetBooks and ebrary). It is the lack of a back-lit screen. [I am reading that as more of an endorsement for the technology than for the DRM which comes with the device.] Below are two important points she makes:
And the options that libraries now have for ebooks (in terms of content, interface, interoperability, etc.) are, by and large, piss-poor. ... But the negatives, the uncertainties of where the ebook market is headed, and the current restrictions most ebook vendors have placed on their products often outweigh the benefits.
Here are the bullet points for the other issues she raises in this fairly long piece:

  • There are differences between eBooks for individuals and eBooks for libraries to lend
  • What about ILL?
  • Too many platforms, too little interoperability
  • And how do you browse a shelf of eBooks?
  • DRM and crazy rules for “lending”
  • What do we own and what does that mean?
  • Patron driven acquisitions is not a magic bullet
Read the whole thing. It is worth it.

There were two "Christmas present" posts. Sarah Houghton-Jan talks about her love for her Kindle (with reservations) as does Chad Haefele and his new-found love for his Kindle, since he got one for Christmas.

Sarah clearly states that she loves the Kindle as a consumer, but detests it as a librarian. You can also watch her unpack her Kindle. Chad talks more about why he likes it, and defers to Sarah on some points.

Finally, Eric Hellman reviews some of the issues related to book and e-book identification. He attended a recent book industry presentation which shared a study of the use, issues and practice surrounding assignment of ISBNs in the US book industry. He noted that while there is a theoretical policy for assigning numbers to e-books,
Implementation of that policy is all over the map, with little coherence between one company and another in ISBN assignment practice. What's more, he found that the industry is almost unable to communicate with itself due the wide variations in the practical definitions of terms such as "format," "product," "version[,]" and "work."

Eric gives an excellent example of this in the way Barnes & Noble assigned numbers including to some "enhanced" e-books which originally only they were selling. There is much more, and Eric lays out some of the issues for libraries in very clear language. It is an aspect of e-books which I had not previously considered.

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