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These days, I'm the director of the American Library Association' s Office for Intellectual Freedom. I'm also executive director and secretary of the Freedom to Read Foundation. See "About Me" for contact information.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

More on ebooks

First, here's the graphic (revised):



[Click on it to get a more readable size!]

Next, here's a little more text to describe my thinking about the issues faced by libraries this year.

From left to right -- in something like chronological order -- I think there are 7 key strategic directions:

* Free content. Thanks to the amazing Valerie Horton of CLiC, it took just two months to deliver about 500 classics to virtually any library that already knew how to load a MARC file. If memory serves, over 68 countries, and some 2000+ libraries have at least looked at the file, and may well have downloaded it. Whether we use public domain or Creative Commons titles, we've proved we can quickly add them to our "holdings," and thereby demonstrate that libraries are paying attention.

* Vendors. Overdrive we know about; 3M and Baker and Taylor are now rolling out products, too. But we have to be vigilant to ensure that the content shows up in our catalogs (instead of requiring one search per source, like databases), AND that we continue to get DISCOUNTS, not price hikes for materials that are far cheaper to produce and distribute than paper. Libraries are a cooperative purchasing agreement, and we contribute, today, some 10% of the entire publishing market's income, and for children's books, 40%. That deserves a discount.

* Training. We do public tech petting zoos, one-on-one support, and online training right now. But we can be more systematic about all of these. Where are the Youtube guides?

* We have to work econtent more smoothly into our systems and work flow. We need mobile apps for people to grab our content, perhaps managing it from a Dropbox-like cloud location. Monique (head of IT at Douglas County Libraries) tells me that the Adobe Content Server would allow us to grab any ebook, with or without Digital Rights Management, and circulate it ("check it out," for you non-librarians). We can restrict use to one-copy-at-a-time, just as we've done for over a century. We don't NEED a vendor to offer us that content-and-presentation service. We'll be testing this in the first half of the year. I'm working with an ALA task force to help us roll out a "give an eBook to the Library" national campaign, highlighting the issues involved. Like, if you buy an ebook, you own it, right? So you can give it away!

* Display: our prototype Digital Power Wall is under rapid development. Imagine a wall-sized iPad that let you browse ebooks, then check them out on the spot.

* Longer term, I'd like to see libraries step into the world of self-publishing, guiding local writers up to a level of quality, then offering their ebooks for public use.

* Finally, resource sharing. I haven't given much thought to this one yet. First we have to learn how to acquire, display, and manage these materials as well as we do everything else. But eventually, we'll want to loan them to other libraries. Valerie has already started thinking about this.

There's a lot libraries can and should do, right now, to do what we've always done: provide public access to the intellectual content of our culture.

3 comments:

Judy Van Acker said...

I enjoyed reading your seven strategies. Thanks for the visual representation for us visual learners. Loading content on an Adobe Content Server sounds intriguing. Hope you post more about that.
Have you heard anything about this? "Overdrive licensing prohibits schools from loading their “for private use only” software on our [school district] devices." Which means kids cannot load public libraries' Overdrive titles (or at least the OverDrive Counsel) on school district e-reader devices. At least that is what I think it means.

Jamie said...

Thanks, Judy. Reviewing this, I see I left off something important: apps. We need some very easy way for people to search and grab files without making them jump through so many hoops: freely downloadable apps created by us. These should be both for phones and for computers.

Joe Grobelny said...

i think loveland has some good vids on OD if you're looking, but not on YouTube:

http://www.ci.loveland.co.us/library/video/Overdrive.htm