Purchasing eBooks Slides from Sue Polanka over at No Shelf Required
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.
I’ve been absent for a little while, been a little crazy with work and a variety of projects. One thing I keep coming back to though is eBooks in the education market; due partly to the fact that I have sold K12 books for over a decade. I’ve sold eBooks in K12, Higher Ed, Public Libraries, I even produce and create eBooks, so anytime one of the many pubs I know starts taking about their digital plan and eBooks, I perk up, because I want to know what their approach will be. I also perk up when vendors start touting they are selling eBooks, more on that in a bit.
The biggest challenges for any library now are budget, time and buying the right type of content, whether that be in print or digital. What I am seeing and have been in all ed markets has been the push of eBooks but being sold as PDF, which in all honesty, isn’t really an eBook. Sure you can put it into a reader platform, usual adobe digital editions and dress it up pretty, as many vendors are currently doing for K-12, but that doesn’t make it an eBook. Even when I sold them that way, I knew the better models were there, ePub and mobi. The thing is, once you put your content into a web environment, especially for K-12, you are more aligned with databases then you are eBooks. This is due to the nature of the content being in that environment and that is fine, but you see way too many companies, from follett to mackin to others touting eBooks, when what they are selling, is a pdf version, often static of a print book. Some times there are bells and whistles, but not often. I won’t get into B&T’s blio since it seems to pretty much have failed and nobody does anything with it really, even though they say pubs are, I haven’t found any that even know of it or use it.
Now I’m not trying to slam anyone here, I give them credit for trying, although they are late to the game and many including myself told them this 2-4 years ago, but we were just looked at with blank stares or like we were lunatics. What I want is for every librarian and teacher in K-12 to think about; are you just being shown the shiny new toy in one hand and blocked from the truth that’s being hidden in the other hand? I challenge you to ask your vendors and push the publishers you work with to come up with better models, especially in nonfiction and fiction. Really look at the vendors and see if they actually know what they are even talking about as well or did they just jump on a bandwagon and join the crowd. I only pointed out a few vendors above, not throw them to the wolves, but if that happens, so be it, but there are more and more vendors out there selling the same way. The point is to question, always ask a question, find someone from the company or hell, probably someone outside of the companies to ask about this, hire them for your district on a short-term contract basis to advise you on your libraries digital strategy, it’ll be money well spent to have someone who will be straightforward and honest with you. Also, connect with others and see what they are doing, people such as Buffy Hamilton who I know, she’s done some interesting things with her library.
If you’ve had a good or bad experience with someone, share it, no censor here, unless your rant goes completely crazy, then I’ll have to step in mildly.
So much of the conversation for the past week or two has been about HarperCollins implementing a limitation of 26 checkouts before an eBook is considered used up and you need to purchase a new one. Now many people have chimed in with some great thoughts, views and ideas and that’s awesome, that’s exactly what is needed. Check out Guy Gonzalez or any of the others or heck, just jump on twitter and follow the #hcod hashtag to follow along. Now I’m someone who has worked in the library world for many years, well over a decade now and that’s not counting all the other publishing gigs I have held. So I know libraries, I understand them, I’ve worked with them in sales roles, consulting roles and as advocates for them, understanding workflows, especially when it comes to digital offerings. I believe strongly in libraries and librarians and I also understand the business side of things. Now before you get crazy on me, here what I have to say. Publishers, trade publishers are scared of eBooks. They feel they cannibalize sales, take away from print sales and drive down profits. All understandable items, no profits means no new material means no publisher means the library has no new content or support for content they have acquired or subscribe to. This all makes sense from a business standpoint and I know authors that are just as worried as well. What this comes from is a lack of knowledge and understanding of both sides. Libraries want it to work a certain way and they want it to be the same as others or at least as manageable as other content, I get it, I agree, the reality is that it won’t be so, especially for the trade market. Now if we are talking academic or reference/research content as eBooks, well, that’s a different story and that is figured out, but that content is unique and we cannot, cannot put a square peg into a round hole, just won’t work for trade content. Continue reading
So the web, twitter and it seemed like everyone in publishing and those not in it were talking a lot about Google Editions which is to come by end of year. Google Editions has some nice features and offers. Offline reading, which should just be standard, accessible from anything with a browser, very smart and hosted in the cloud. Now this is a very smart move, this helps take away the whole device issue and moves to what I have stated for the past couple years but others as well, that eBooks need to be device agnostic. No matter what you are using you can get to the eBook from anywhere, google may very well achieve this. Yet, there is one little hiccup, what about those people who want the actual eBook file, ePub, pdf or other format? Hosted in the cloud means no file to worry about, but I see some areas where they may want to have access to the file itself. Supposedly google will allow for an archival version to be downloaded and have to use for personal use, but let’s be real, will the rules be followed. I’ve also seen it may be only the PDF version and may have DRM on it, even if you choose no DRM to be applied. So the question here is what’s the deal, hopefully I’ll know more as I am actually asking them this question because it seems odd if you can have ePub but the archive version might be pdf, kind of defeats the purpose.
Google Editions also mentioned that format only matters in how they accept it and how they use on the backend but not for downloading. It’s weird.. send us ePub, but it won’t matter because you access online, ok… I guess. By no means am I slamming google, they are trying to approach the problem that is plaguing everyone, device snowstorm, which to choose, which to develop for and how to go about it. When you think about it, makes sense for google to work with ePub, it’s the defacto standard, people are designing for it, I know I am, so it’s a workflow ability where everything can flow easier. I look forward to seeing what becomes of google editions but mostly, will it actually launch come the start of 2011? Who knows, it could change again, maybe it’ll be like Microsoft’s courier and shutdown. I do know that people want eBooks, they want them the way they want them and they want them as soon as possible. They don’t want to wait, they barely want to pay the prices on them, which are much lower than the current hardcovers, that’s another blog topic.
I see Google Editions doing well, initially it’ll do great, it makes sense, largest search and discoverability engine, whether you like them or not, you need to jump onto it if you are an author or smaller pub and want your eBooks seen. It’ll be interesting to see how metadata plays out with it and how well it works for libraries? The ed market is watching this closely, they want to see what will their patrons/students be able to do with google editions, how will it affect eBook lending? If the archival version is the only version available to download and Google will be checking IP’s, which is how they will handle authentication apparently, so no passing your username and password to others, they’ll have to look at how they work with the ever-changing ed market. As libraries have stated loudly, the models out there are not ideal, so what will google’s be if any at all? All we can do now is sit and wait, see what happens and how well the platform, which it still is, is implemented and used and what the naysayers and google fanatics have to say.
Good article over at No Shelf Required about a public library embracing ePub. Check it out, some good comments as well and I think it is a great conversation piece on the role of libraries and how things are changing.