So over at the Digital Shift you can read the full article, I won’t bother to go through the whole thing. I think the whole idea is and will be a failure causing nothing more than larger rifts and a greater escalation of animosity between pubs and libs. Argue against if you want, but trust me, anyone who says they are both playing nice and really striving hasn’t heard of the cat and mouse approach to things.
What I want to do is look at the 4 demands the libraries are making, because some of them are just plain wonky, I’ll explain why.
1. Search and browse a single comprehensive catalog with all of a library’s offerings at once, including all e-books, physical collections, programs, blogs, and donor opportunities. Currently, content providers often only allow searches within the products they sell, depriving users of the comprehensive library experience.
- To be honest a large chunk of this is the libraries responsibilities, not the pubs. If you own content in your library, your search portal should handle the searching across your collections and content you own, not the pub. If the pub wants to provide an api to allow for access into their catalog to find more content, great, but can your lib system handle it? Have you heard of patron drive acquisition, this same thing is accomplished somewhat with that. A large dump of records, users don’t know if you own them or not, but they are discoverable. Seems to be a mix of what a library is suppose to do and what a publisher does and what a vendor of services does.
2. Place holds, check-out items, view availability, manage fines and receive communications within individual library catalogs or in the venue the library believes will serve them best, without having to visit separate websites (libraries, not distributors, should be enabled to manage all interactions with users).
- This makes no sense in some respects this demands list is going back and forth with pubs and distributors. Some of these services are provided by ILS systems, some by distributors, but not all by one. There is a reason vendors of products focus on specific offerings and services, it’s what they do best and why get involved in everything, not a good business plan.
3. Seamlessly enjoy a variety of e-content. To do this, libraries must be able to choose content, devices and apps from any provider or from multiple providers, without bundling that limits a library’s ability to serve content they purchase on platforms of their choice.
- This is more of a making sure the content is in either epub or mobi for kindles. Plus it brings up a whole issue of what is an eBook? Is it the pdf documents, is it website content that isn’t a database. You need to define these before you can say support this, we need it when you don’t really know what you need or want. PDF is horrible on small devices, so then does the vendor need to offer it in epub or mobi as well, if so, how does that figure into cost and backend systems and do they want to support a format not ideal for smaller mobile devices. Saying we want this is great, but does it make sense?
4. Download e-books that are compatible with all readers, from the Kindle to the Nook to the iPad and so on.
- This is really wonky and makes me think whomever wrote it didn’t bother to really think about it. If the eBook is in epub, it works on all readers, just to varying degrees depending on the device, app, etc. Kindle mobi files can be read on the ipad in the kindle app,plus kindle isn’t only the device but the platform, so a parameter needs to be set by what is meant. Therefore with the iPad alone, you would be covered for reading any formats. For the nook or fire to support different formats, well that’s the device manufacturers discretion, not something the pub forces or has a hand in. Plus all readers, seriously, know how many apps and devices that are out there, a pub nor vendor of eBooks will be able to supply a file that looks and acts exactly the same on each device, too much crap out there.
The biggest problem I have with the overall demands aspect is that it is a gimme gimme gimme and no matter what side you fall on, we all know that it means failure. I’ve said it before, will say it again, both pub and libraries and vendors need to talk about what really matters and give up some and take some, no 100% satisfaction will bubble up, just not possible.
The other part of this is something I have thought about and come back to, the “we need to do x like we did with print.” To fully achieve eBooks in libraries, here’s what needs to be done, scrap every thought and model you have, especially for trade, academic and research is actually pretty good, then start over… Yep, DUMP IT ALL. The reason for this is simple, eBooks are not print, print titles are not eBooks, eBooks should, can and will be more then print. So the minute I hear eBooks are great, but with print…. I stop listening, Why? Because it doesn’t matter. Print is print and eBooks are eBooks, they are not the same and when we stop trying to stick things from print in eBooks we’ll be better off. Content wise, yes, let’s add or enhance in eBooks, Inter-library loans were meant for print, not eBooks, let it go. I don’t care the argument, they served a purpose in the print world and still do, but for eBooks, they make no sense.
Libraries want eBooks in the most widely used or offered format and that works well so they don’t have to deal with complaints or tech issues, makes sense, then demand that ePub and mobi are used for the eBook format, not pdf. How do you change this with pubs, stop buying the content. Realize that whatever you do, is for the patrons, not because of some cause or petition or something else, you are using taxpayer money for a lot of this, no matter how you slice it, somewhere, somehow tax money pays for it all, unless you have a wealthy benefactor. What this means is that boycotting because of usage, isn’t the answer. Yes, I said to not buy if not in the format, because that limits accessibility, etc. The usage models are something that need to be scrapped, we all know that, but at least people are trying with them.
There are vendors that will promise you the world, especially with trade titles, ed titles etc. Many of them don’t have a clue, they are simply a sell through for the pubs content and have no idea, there readers are skinned adobe digital editions and most don’t understand what an eBook is, does, how it is created or how it is used. I’ve worked with libraries for about 15 years, maybe longer in a variety of ways. Collection development, acquisitions, workflows, explaining what an eBook is when they hit in libraries and people started working with them. I can tell you that there are just as many pubs and distributors and vendors that have no clue as their are librarians. It’s not a slam, not by any chance, what it is is a reflection of poor information, or jumping on a bandwagon. ALA is no embraced with knowledge on eBooks then some of the average people on the street. Having worked with a variety of the vendors out there and many larger universities, public libraries, k12 systems, curriculum people, I can honestly say that many are still feeling around. It’s not a bad thing, admitting you don’t know is fine, better then just following the crowd when it doesn’t make sense.
These demands though, stating they must be followed to achieve such and such is ridiculous. If they do happen, it’ll only be to appease libraries for a short time while the next change in the eBook world takes place and we’ll be back to square one. I said this once before, to achieve anything of eBooks and libraries, they both need to come to the table, not ALA, but other librarians and people that actually know what they are talking about and bring your list of wants. Don’t call them must haves, or needs or any of that junk, say this is what we want, how do we get there? Then the pub has their same list of wants and then you both knock 50% off your lists and realize from that 50% remaining on each list, you’ll probably only get 50% of that, so 25% from each side…. It’s better then nothing and achieves more then ultimatums and demands…