Posts tagged ‘challenges’

February 14, 2012

The Question of eBooks

I recently submitted a proposal to speak at a state library conference about the challenges of eBooks in libraries. To that end I’ve been spending a lot of time lately trying to get a grasp on all the different ways in which eBooks are, in fact a challenge. Expect more posts on this as I am able to clarify my points. Today, I just want to get some preliminary thoughts down on (proverbial) paper.

Availability & Format Issues

At my place of work we subscribe to 5 different eBook collections. Of those, one offers in-browser reading only, three offer both in-browser reading and downloads, and one offers downloads only. In addition we also check out Nooks and Nook Colors, which come with pre-loaded titles selected by the library staff. Of the three collections that offer both in-browser reading and downloads, one offers downloads as pdf files, the second offers both pdf files and (by special request) Kindle files (.azw), and the third offers downloads to Adobe Digital Editions, which of course means an additional software download. The collection that offers downloads only also requires an additional software download, but not Adobe Digital Editions.

So if my library patrons want to read books from all our collections, they must have a browser, a .pdf reader, Adobe Digital Editions, and Blio. . . and eReaders are optional.

Let’s give these collections names, for easier reference:

  • Collection A: browser only (html)
  • Collection B: browser and .pdf (html & .pdf)
  • Collection C: browser and .pdf and Kindle (html, .pdf, and .azw)
  • Collection D: browser and ADE (html & DRM-restricted .pdf)
  • Collection E: Blio (not sure, compatible with Nook & Sony Reader, but not ePub)
  • Collection F: Nooks for physical checkout (format unimportant, but ePub)

Different Collections, Different Rules

In addition to the issues above, there is the problem of keeping the rules straight. eBooks in Collections A, B, and C can be viewed by unlimited simultaneous users at once and .pdf/.azw downloads do not expire. eBooks in Collection D may be read and/or checked out by only one user at a time, checkouts can be anywhere from 1 to 7 days, and there is no restriction on the number of books a patron can check out. eBooks in Collection E can be checked out by only one user at a time, checkouts can be for up to 14 days, and patrons can check out only 5 books at a time. The Nooks in Collection F can also be checked out for 14 days at a time.

The Big Six

This next problem has been addressed by dozens of other bloggers, as well as being tackled by various print publications and by ALA itself. I don’t presume to have anything significant to add to this conversation. . . yet. However, this has been the focus of a lot of my time over the past week, and as I’m not finding the particular information I want, I may just go out and launch my own study. Some questions I’d like the answers to:

  • What percentage of eBook sales to libraries are to public libraries, school libraries, academic libraries, and special libraries?
  • In the various types of libraries, how are funds allocated between print books and eBooks? How do libraries decide what to get in print and what to get electronically? How likely is it that a library would buy the same book in both print and eBook format?
  • What percentage of books weeded from a print collection (be it for age, condition, or content) would be replaced by an exact copy, rather than a new edition or a different title altogether?

There are more, sort of floating around in my head without clear wording just yet. As I said before, expect more posts on this topic soon.

I sure hope my proposal is accepted for the conference!