Friday, December 31, 2010

Amazon lending program - what should libraries do in response?

A self-published author recently forwarded this email to me. It's intriguing on several levels.

From: "Amazon DTP"
Sent: Thursday, December 30, 2010 12:47 PM
Subject: Announcing Amazon’s Kindle Book Lending Program

Dear Publisher,

We are excited to announce Kindle book lending ( The Kindle Book Lending feature allows users to lend digital books they have purchased through the Kindle Store to their friends and family. Each book may be lent once for a duration of 14 days and will not be readable by the lender during the loan period.

All DTP titles are enrolled in lending by default. For titles in the 35% royalty option, you may choose to opt out of lending by deselecting the checkbox under "Kindle Book Lending," in the "Rights and Pricing" section of the title upload/edit process. You may not choose to opt out a title if it is included in the lending program of another sales or distribution channel. For more details, see section 5.2.2 of the Term and Conditions.

For more info on how Kindle Book Lending works, see our FAQ here:

Amazon Digital Text Platform

First, with cloud computing and a global network in place, this would seem to position Amazon to become the world's digital library. In theory, anyone who buys a book through Amazon can share it with anyone else. That makes buying a Kindle, and one book, the price of a global library card. Add an app that says what all the other customers have available for loan, and there you have it.

Second, it's clear that libraries need a comparable alternative. Absent that, we have only the advantage of physical place, which while real and compelling, cedes the ground in digital lending. Clearly, that's not thinking far enough ahead.

Some options:

* through ALA, OCLC, or some other professional group, get Amazon to offer subnets of libraries. All our digital purchases (collectively made through our members) are available to those same members. A subnet might be limited to, for instance, the residents of Douglas County. This makes us the digital jukebox for our funders. This is truly no different than what we do now: one use at a time, a purchase for each book. It makes Amazon our ILS.

* establish our own independent servers, with various apps to access our purchased content. This means that either we need software to manage and preserve Digital Rights Management (DRM), or something to replace it (we strip the DRM and archive it, which is surely our right as the owner, but still allow only one use at a time, in keeping with the spirit and letter of copyright laws). That approach allows us to add our own content without going through a vendor. Call it the "local cloud."

As I said to my staff earlier today: things are moving fast. Libraries need to move fast, too.

P.S. A follow-up by Susan Linden in Loveland: it seems that PUBLISHERS are opting out, or have not opted in, among any of the top 10 books. That's an important point. But I'll counter with another one: today, self-published materials represent over 2.5 times the number of commercially published titles. They may be more positively disposed toward libraries.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Library Journal highlights eDiscover the Classics project

A nice article here about CLiC's wonderful project. This Monday, we had about four people per hour coming to the reference desk asking for help with their new ebook readers. Thanks to the eDiscover the Classics project, and the wonderful how to guides posted by our staff here, we were able to help them. We have more to do in this area, but I believe it was vital for the library to appear ready to help our patrons with this new technology - or risk losing them altogether.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

New computer

I got my HP a520 Pavilion computer in May of 2004, and used nothing but Linux on it. Eventually, the fan gasped, memory chips were dying, and using it was getting painful. So I upgraded it for Christmas. I am now running a little System76 desktop machine, 2 gigs of RAM, prebundled with Ubuntu 10.10, "Maverick Meerkat." It's a 64 bit machine, but I can't say as it feels blindingly fast. Much faster than the old HP, for sure. It cost under $400, and will probably last me another 6 years.

It didn't take long to set up. It found monitor and printer with no problem - no setup necessary. I was stumped for a bit until I realized that what I thought was a flash drive was in fact the wireless modem. Nifty. The work of maybe half an hour to grab all my other programs, set things up for multimedia.

I fiddled around with Evolution (Outlook for Linux) for an unnecessary period of time, trying to get it to use my Google contacts and calendar. The trick seemed to be to start the program, then quit, then start it again. After that, it suddenly knew that when I asked for a new calendar, to offer Google as a type. Same thing with contacts. That stuff always feels so sloppy to me. It should work the first time. I also played around with reading in some older Thunderbird folders. So far, so good. It doesn't talk with our Exchange Server - which seems a little too new for Evolution to know about.

I think I also had a little moment of confusion after I copied over my files. I had to issue something like "chmod 760 * -R" to restore my permissions. But that's one command.

On the whole, pretty uneventful. It makes life so much easier not to have to sync my Palm, but let the Palm Pre sync wirelessly with the cloud. And since then, I've updated my website (I got a book with a chapter I contributed on community reference), sent out a column, updated a few journals, and so on. A piece of cake.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

The Nook and public domain books

Through the good graces of the the Colorado Library Consortium, my library added about 500 Project Gutenberg titles, mostly classics, to its catalog. In the past week, I've used that to read several books on my cell phone. Today I found a good review of the Barnes and Noble Nook Color ebook reader, ("It ain't heavy, it's my e-reader," by Nate Anderson") and was struck by this:

If e-book readers have done one thing for me above all else, it's getting me to read some terrific public domain books. In the last two weeks, I've been plowing through The Education of Henry Adams, Thoreau's wonderfully over-the-top essay on "Walking," Kafka's "Metamorphosis," Byron's Don Juan, and a late Victorian translation/abridgment of The Arabian Nights. I wouldn't have read these on a computer screen, I wouldn't have printed them out, and I wouldn't have bothered to purchase them—but I'm enjoying each of them tremendously.

This is exactly my own experience. Of course, since the name of the CLiC program is "e-Discover the Classics," that seems perfectly appropriate.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Castle Rock Arts Center

Produced for NewsTeam Boulder and TV Newsgathering class at the University of Colorado. Many thanks to Greater Castle Rock Art Guild and Front Range Theatre Company.

Look carefully, and you'll see the famous Tuna Boys at the beginning, and my "giddy as a school boy" dance for Scrooge.

Conclusion: I should grow back my beard.But it's good to see this big step forward for the Castle Rock fine arts community.

Friday, December 10, 2010 - Welcome

In November of 2018, I left my position at ALA in Chicago to return to my Colorado-based writing, speaking, and consulting career. So I'...