Tag Archives: publishers

Demand for better eBook Services

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…

eBooks in K12

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.

Book Business Magazine article

Some great information over at the Book Business Mag website. Book Publishing, Book Industry News, Content Delivery, Production Tips : Book Business. I get the printed mag as well as follow online. The issue is good, however, I found one piece really interesting.  It talks about eBooks and how publishers are approaching the emerging e and how that is affecting print.

There are some great questions asked; how much percentage wise accounts for your print vs eBook sales, etc.  What I thought was interesting is that one had a fear of the PDA approach. For those not knowing what this is; here’s a down and dirty. Patron Drive Acquisition puts the collection development and acquisition part of purchases into the patrons hands.  I think what scares pubs is will the big ticket items for them sell. Well, if you truly about giving your customers the content they want, how they want it, then this shouldn’t scare you. (this is exactly what many pubs say they are trying to accomplish) Continue reading

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