Posts tagged Librarians
At first glance, yesterday’s news that Amazon is launching a Lending Library – an arrangement to make Kindle e-books available for libraries to loan – sounds like good news for libraries. But many librarians are taking the news in stride, glad to have more options for their patrons, but cautious – even skeptical – about the program’s implementation and its impact.
The stakes are incredibly high for public libraries right now. Federal, state, and local budgets are tight. Libraries are closing or cutting back on services. Alongside these fiscal trends are digital trends: the explosive growth in e-books, something that is radically changing the face of book publishing, book distribution, and yes, book lending.
Clearly consumers are interested in reading e-books, as the latest sales figures from the Association of American Publishers demonstrate. But what isn’t clear is how this interest in e-books will translate into libraries’ ability to meet their patrons’ demands. There are questions about licensing, DRM, fees, and formats, for example.
Amazon’s announcement yesterday hasn’t really cleared that up. Nor has it seemed to have quelled all of the concerns that librarians have about the future of e-books and libraries.
Good News for Libraries and Library Patrons
There is good news here, of course. The Kindle is an incredibly popular e-reader, and Amazon says that the library option will work with both the device and with Kindle apps. That greatly opens accessibility to library patrons who might not own Sony e-readers or Nooks, the two devices that, until now, were common in libraries that had e-book lending programs.
More good news: Amazon will let you annotate your library books – forbidden in print, but amazing in e-books. These notes will be uniquely yours; the next library patron won’t see them. But you’ll be able to access them again if you check the book out again or purchase it.
Questions Remain for Librarians
But as we noted yesterday, Amazon’s announcement was light on specifics, leading many librarians to ask questions about exactly how this new lending program would work. Some of these were answered when Karen Estrovich, the collection specialist for OverDrive, a company that handles many libraries’ digital content and that is partnered with Amazon to roll out this new lending library, wrote a post clarifying some issues, including one of the most important to libraries:
Will libraries have to buy new e-book copies in order to have files available in a Kindle-compatible format?
According to Estrovich, no. “Your existing collection of downloadable eBooks will be available to Kindle customers. As you add new eBooks to your collection, those titles will also be available in Kindle format for lending to Kindle and Kindle reading apps. Your library will not need to purchase any additional units to have Kindle compatibility. This will work for your existing copies and units.”
- Will this represent a change in pricing and licensing models for titles?
- Will self-published authors on Amazon’s platform have a chance of being on library “shelves” now?
- Can library patrons opt out of linking their Amazon accounts to their library account?
- How much check out information will Amazon have access to? How will that change if someone purchases a title they’ve borrowed?
And another big question: which publishers are participating? Simon & Schuster and Macmillan have opted to never license e-books to libraries. And HarperCollins has decreed that its books will “self-destruct” after 26 check-outs, forcing libraries to buy them again.
What About ePUB?
The announcement may have other implications as well, as libraries will now have access to Amazon’s (proprietary) Kindle file format in addition to the open format ePUB. ePUB, available as both DRM and DRM-free, has been the primary format in which libraries have distributed their e-books. While ePUB files work on other e-readers and e-reader apps (on the Nook, on Kobo, on Stanza, and on Sony’s e-reader, for example), Amazon has not supported ePUB on the Kindle (as a delivery format).
Will Amazon now support ePUB? That seems unlikely. Will Amazon use Adobe Digital Edition’s DRM services on ePUB? Again, unlikely. Amazon already has DRM “baked in” to its e-book format.
What will happen, then, to ePUB now that Amazon brings its own format and DRM into the library market? According to Mike Cane, in a rather provocative statement, “ePUB is dead.”
That’s certainly a better headline than “the library is dead.”
Of course, declarations of “this changes everything!” and “X killed Y!” are often overblown. But it’s hard to argue that the move of Amazon into the book lending space is likely to have major ramifications for libraries. Librarians hope it’s for the better, but their early reactions to the news may be more cautious than optimistic.
Photo credits: Austria National Library
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Weekly Wrap-up: Goodbye Data.gov, Hating Bieber’s ‘Baby’, Augmented Reality For Librarians and More…
It was two short, short years ago that the Obama administration thrilled data and transparency wonks by launching Data.gov, USASpending.gov and a number of other ambitious sites. But as Marshall Kirkpatrick reported in our top story this week, Congress is now planning to eliminate the sites’ funding. There’s a push to save them (check the story for the updates), but I have a sinking feeling that it was just too good to last.
After the jump you’ll find more of this week’s top news stories on some of the key trends that are shaping the Web – mobile, location, Internet of Things – plus highlights from our six channels. Read on for more.
Top Stories of the Week
- Data.gov & 7 Other Sites to Shut Down After Budgets Cut
- Awesome Augmented Reality App Could Save Librarians Hours
- Bieber’s ‘Baby’ Will Hit 500m Views Today; It’s Also The Most Hated Video on YouTube (For Now)
- Why Would Google Release an iPhone-Only Group Messaging App?
- Google Ditches Barcodes for NFC
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- Is Publicly Sharing Your Location Creepy? This App Thinks So
- No Wireless? No Worries. ForeverMap Gives You Offline Access to Maps
- The iPad Turns One: My Top 10 iPad Apps Over the Past Year
- Google’s Newest Mobile Search Feature is a Thing of Beauty
Internet of Things
ReadWriteEnterprise is devoted to enterprise 2.0 and using social software inside organizations.
- A Facebook Operations Chief and the Product Lead for Google Chrome OS Join Jive Board
- Microsoft Needs to Open-Source Something Big. But What?
- Salesforce.com Acquires Radian6: Are Businesses Ready for the Social Data Fire Hose?
ReadWriteStart is a resource for startups and entrepreneurs.
- How to Flip Your Startup in 5 Steps
- Is “Stealth” the Best Way to Build Your Business?
- Entrepreneurship’s Unclear, Unsanctioned Path
ReadWriteCloud is dedicated to virtualization and cloud computing.
- The Advantage of Cloud Infrastructure: Servers are Software
- Oracle Had a Killer Quarter – What Does That Mean for Open Source in the Cloud?
- Forget Rivalries, Pay Attention to the Developers
ReadWriteBiz is a resource and guide for small to medium businesses.
- Tweeting Often and on Weekends is More Effective, Suggests Data
- Are Your Files Backed Up? March 31 is World Backup Day
- Using Posterous for Your Small Business Email Newsletters
ReadWriteHack is a resource and guide for developers.
- 3 Presentations on R: Data Mining, Web Development and Data Visualization
- Gitmarks: A Bookmark Sharing System Built on Git
- PhantomJS: The Power of WebKit but Without the Broswer
ReadWriteMobile is dedicated to helping its community understand the strategic business and technical implications of developing mobile applications.
- Need a Mobile Web App Template? Mobile Boilerplate 1.0 is Here
- Google Tightens Its Grip on Android
- IDC Predicts Windows Phone Will Beat RIM & Apple by 2015
Enjoy your weekend everyone!
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If you’ve ever worked in a library, you’re familiar with the drudgery of shelf reading. That’s the process of verifying that all the books on a shelf are in the right order, based on their call numbers. Books get out of order fairly easily, when they’re taken off the shelf and examined, for example, or when they’re just stuck in the wrong place.
Miami University’s Augmented Reality Research Group (MU ARRG! – that exclamation point, I confess, is my addition), led by Professor Bo Brinkman, has developed an Android app that could save librarians a lot of time and hassle. Using the Android’s camera, the app “reads” a bookshelf, and with an AR overlay, quickly flags those books that are misplaced. It will also point to the correct place on the bookshelf so the book can easily be re-shelved correctly.
The app can also aid with inventory, generating a report of what a library really has on its shelves.
There are a few drawbacks. Thin books, such as those found in the children’s section, would be difficult to tag. Also, this prototype only uses 16 bits on the tag, but Brinkman says the group is working on a version that would allow them to put around 72 bits on a tag, allowing the system to scale up to work with any library collection.
The app was developed by undergraduate research assistant Matt Hodges, and it will be demoed next month at the Association of College and Research Libraries 2011 conference.
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The news that the publisher HarperCollins would be capping the number of times a library could lend a digital copy of a book to 26 has raised concerns – yet again – about the ramifications of our rush to embrace e-books. As one librarian, John Atzberger writes on his blog, the new model from HarperCollins “eliminates almost all the major advantages of the item’s being digital, without restoring the permanence, durability, vendor-independence, technology-neutrality, portability, transferability, and ownership associated with the physical version.”
Libraries may be on the front-lines of this latest battle, one that makes it clear that issues like DRM and lending policies can have troubling repercussions. Although the HarperCollins announcement impacts just lending through libraries, librarians are quick to point out that it isn’t simply their institutions that will suffer.
To that end, librarians have started issuing statements, posting an “e-book users bill of rights” to their blogs. The statement, posted in full below, addresses “the basic freedoms that should be granted to all e-book users.”
The Bill of Rights insists that users have access to their e-books – unrestrained by proprietary platforms – and can retain, archive, annotate, share, and resell their e-books. Many of those actions are forbidden if not restricted by e-books.
Should Libraries Avoid DRM Content?
The librarians’ statement challenges the use of Digital Rights Management (DRM) which makes possessing an e-book a lot less like ownership and a lot more like licensing or subscription. As author Cory Doctorow notes in his story on the HarperCollins e-book lending policy, DRM media is “unsafe at any speed.”
I mean it. When HarperCollins backs down and says, “Oh, no, sorry, we didn’t mean it, you can have unlimited ebook checkouts,” the libraries’ answers should be “Not good enough. We want DRM-free or nothing.” Stop buying DRM ebooks. Do you think that if you buy twice, or three times, or ten times as many crippled books that you’ll get more negotiating leverage with which to overcome abusive crap like this? Do you think that if more of your patrons come to rely on you for ebooks for their devices, that DRM vendors won’t notice that your relevance is tied to their product and tighten the screws?
HarperCollins isn’t the first time that access to e-books have been retracted. Amazon set off an uproar several years ago when it summarily deleted Kindle users’ copies of George Orwell books.
Is DRM the price we pay to move to digital content? Is it a necessary move in order to convince publishers that their products are (relatively) safe from piracy? Or is this price too high, closing down access to information, art, and literature?
The E-Book User’s Bill of Rights
Every eBook user should have the following rights:
- the right to use eBooks under guidelines that favor access over proprietary limitations
- the right to access eBooks on any technological platform, including the hardware and software the user chooses
- the right to annotate, quote passages, print, and share eBook content within the spirit of fair use and copyright
- the right of the first-sale doctrine extended to digital content, allowing the eBook owner the right to retain, archive, share, and re-sell purchased eBooks
I believe in the free market of information and ideas.
I believe that authors, writers, and publishers can flourish when their works are readily available on the widest range of media. I believe that authors, writers, and publishers can thrive when readers are given the maximum amount of freedom to access, annotate, and share with other readers, helping this content find new audiences and markets. I believe that eBook purchasers should enjoy the rights of the first-sale doctrine because eBooks are part of the greater cultural cornerstone of literacy, education, and information access.
Digital Rights Management (DRM), like a tariff, acts as a mechanism to inhibit this free exchange of ideas, literature, and information. Likewise, the current licensing arrangements mean that readers never possess ultimate control over their own personal reading material. These are not acceptable conditions for eBooks.
I am a reader. As a customer, I am entitled to be treated with respect and not as a potential criminal. As a consumer, I am entitled to make my own decisions about the eBooks that I buy or borrow.
I am concerned about the future of access to literature and information in eBooks. I ask readers, authors, publishers, retailers, librarians, software developers, and device manufacturers to support these eBook users’ rights.
These rights are yours. Now it is your turn to take a stand. To help spread the word, copy this entire post, add your own comments, remix it, and distribute it to others. Blog it, Tweet it (#ebookrights), Facebook it, email it, and post it on a telephone pole.
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