Al Carlson is our resident ebook specialist here at TBLC. He has a great site which he updates with the latest ebook resources, news, and FAQ’s , Digital Delight. The article I am pasting below gives you a run down of what he thinks libraries will face in the next few years concerning ebooks.
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The article below is my current take on e-book issues in libraries– mostly public libraries–over the next few years. As always, let me remind you that I am not Nostradamus. In fact, I don’t really want you to agree with me. I want you to think about what I say and see how well it fits your picture of library service and eBooks. Then talk about where you think things are headed.
When OverDrive started selling libraries e-books that we could lend to patrons, their big question was, “Should I get a Nook or a Sony Reader?” And once they had one, the complicated task was getting that first e- book downloaded and sideloaded. Kindles weren’t an option; neither were iPads; and smart phones weren’t all that smart yet. Format and DRM issues kept the field of usable e-readers small.
Time passed. Technology evolved. Borrowing e-books got more complex and easier at the same time. It got more complex in that dozens of devices–including Kindles and iPads and iPods and smart phones–were able to read OverDrive e-books. So, there were more choices to be made. But it got easier, because most of the devices needed no “PC as middleman” and made format and DRM barriers inconsequential. Your iPad–and most other new devices–can read OverDrive books, Kindle books, Apple books, B&N books, Kobo books and more. Touch the App and read the book. Who cares about AZW vs. EPUB format?
So, as we go into 2012, we Librarians have three groups of patrons to help with e-books. The easiest group are the folks with the smart devices. All we really have to do is tell them, “Go to the App Store/Marketplace and load this App!” The second easiest group is the Kindle owners. The default method of getting an OverDrive book onto a Kindle involves transferring it from the OverDrive server on the Web to the Kindle server on the Web. You can even use a Library PC to do this. Once the OverDrive e-book is in the patron’s Kindle account on the Kindle web site, he can assign it to the Kindle he wants to read it on. The difficult group has become the group that used to be our only e- book patrons: the folks with Nooks and Kobos and Sony Readers. They still need to get an Adobe ID (which locks in the PC that obtains it, preventing you from using a library PC), install Adobe Digital Editions on their PC (and authorizing that PC with their Adobe ID), downloading the eBook, connecting their eReader (and authorizing that with their Adobe ID), and side loading the book. Whew! Easy once you know how, but pretty complex compared with smart phones and Kindles.
So where will we go from here? Well, smart devices will continue to proliferate, and OverDrive will work its corporate tail off to have easy-to-use apps for each one of them. An exception may come along, but getting OverDrive e-books on most smart devices will be a no-brainer. I don’t yet know how the Kindle Fire will handle OverDrive e-books, but I suspect it will handle them as easily as current Kindles do, because OverDrive checkouts bring so much traffic to the Amazon site. And when was Amazon ever averse to cash flow? The new Sony Wi-Fi has a direct link to OverDrive, so they should be easy. And the new Barnes and Noble tablet and the Kobo VOX should behave just like their older brothers with two exceptions. 1. I think that both will eventually get an OverDrive Media Console App, so that owners can download directly. 2. And I think someone will develop a slick replacement for the clunky and limiting Adobe Digital Editions, so you will no longer have to lock your PC to an Adobe ID.
What does all this mean for Libraries? I think it means our lives will get easier at the public service desk. But they will get more complicated for Purchasing and Cataloging, as they wrestle with buying and managing e-books from OverDrive, 3M, ProQuest, Ebsco, Baker & Taylor and any other vendors who get into the game. And they’ll get more complicated for Management, as they look at the library buildings they have now and the ones they are planning to build in the future and try to figure out the floor space they really need and the ratio of shelving space to…, well, something else. Some smart people predict that 80% of trade books will be published primarily as e-books within five years. What does a library look like with 80% less shelving? Can we take down the “No rollerblades” sign?
So, that’s my take on where helping patrons with e-books is going? What’s yours? –Al Carlson