Thoughts on eBooks

29 Sep

There are so many conversations going on right now about ebooks that it is hard to keep up. I’ve been thinking about ebooks and ereaders a lot over the past week or so, since attending the Pacific Library Partnership’s Future of Libraries 6.0 conference at the San Francisco Public Library last week. I’m not going to rehash everything that was said at the conference here. If you are interested, the Librarian in Black has a great recap of all the sessions.

The final session of the day was all about ebooks, ranging from worst-case scenarios presented by Paul Sims, to a discussion by Ann Awakuni of the various formats and devices available, to the role of the public library, presented by Henry Bankhead (see the Librarian in Black’s excellent recap). The main point that stuck out was that ebooks are a very big deal – they are already rapidly becoming a very popular format for reading new and popular titles – and libraries are being left almost completely out of the conversation. Very few of the ereaders on the market are compatible with borrowing ebooks from the library, and many of the most popular new titles are not available through library ebook vendors. (I know some libraries are lending ereaders but this can be somewhat problematic, although…). Bankhead suggested a possible way for libraries to provide ebooks while still providing a revenue stream for publishers – a pay-per-download model, something like Freegal (a pay-per-download service for music provided by some libraries).

I have also noticed that lately the Kobo ereader seems to be everywhere. I actually hadn’t heard of it before this conference, but a couple of days later, an acquaintance of mine showed up with one, and just this morning a new wifi version of the device was announced. I got curious about Kobo and browsed their website to find out more. I was really interested to find their “eReaders Bill of Rights,” in which they describe a commitment to openness and interoperability. To me, these sound like the values of a company that might be willing to work with public libraries on a better ebook lending model. In fact, they say

it [Adobe Digital Editions] also lets us do cool things with public libraries and library books on the eReader, which makes us happy.

Sounds promising, right? I’m certainly going to keep an eye on this company to see what they do next.

I admit to not being all that knowledgeable about the issues involved with ebooks in libraries, but I am very interested in the conversation. I hope the current level of interest in the topic evidenced by the Future of Libraries conference and today’s eBooks: Libraries at the Tipping Point online event are indications that the library world is going to start to demand a seat at the table, and have their concerns addressed by publishers and vendors.

If you would like to read more about what’s going on with ebooks and libraries, here are a couple of good resources:

If you have any favorite resources for reading about developments in the ebook industry, particularly for libraries, let me know!

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