Popular E-Books In Libraries – Things Learned at ALA
– Charlie Parker’s E-book experiences at the recent ALA Annual Conference
E-Book Programs At ALA – There were several panel discussions relating to popular e-books and several of the more prominent participants are described below.
– Jamie LaRue, Director of the Douglas County Public Library (Colorado) – Jamie described how libraries can mount their own e-book servers so that they can put up local content and host purchased or licensed material themselves. Jamie, and the Colorado Library Consortium have been making MARC records with links to free e-books from Project Gutenberg available to libraries. They have also negotiated with the Colorado Independent Publishers Association to make their titles available. Jamie is showing the rest of us how.
– Brewster Kahle and Peter Brantley from the Internet Archive – These are some of the smartest people I’ve ever encountered. The idea behind Internet Archive and its Open Library project (Charlie’s interpretation) is to make millions of e-books freely available to the public through libraries. Part of their approach involves taking advantage of the right of first sale and scanning titles, then sequestering the hard copy from use, and then lending the digital copy or e-book. Those who join Open Library can check out up to 5 titles at a time and their circulation is over 1 million per month.
Meeting with Harper Collins – I’m a member of an ALA OITP E-Book Task Force and we were able to meet with representatives from Harper Collins and had a positive exchange of ideas and perspectives. You may recall that HC drew the wrath of the library world when they announced that licenses for e-books to libraries would expire after 26 circulations and the books would vanish. The Harper Collins folks made it clear that they want library business and that this is an environment that will continue to change and evolve. We informed them essentially that we would prefer “first sale contracts” (term stolen from Peter Brantley) that essentially would treat e-books under the terms of copyright law rather than contracts or at least under “perpetual contracts.” They aren’t confident that they can generate sufficient revenue with those approaches but at least we got that on the table. I asked them specifically if they would sell or license popular e-books directly to libraries and they said no. The meeting was cordial and we agreed to keep the lines of communication open. At least Harper Collins is allowing OverDrive to provide its titles to libraries – big 6 publishers Macmillan and Simon and Schuster will not offer their e-books through libraries at all.
There was a lot of e-book activity at ALA since that’s when vendors announce new products they are offering or will be launching in the next 6 months or so. Several companies are entering the popular e-book library market and will try to compete with OverDrive, the dominate provider. Here is a quick look at news from some of the providers.
OverDrive – I has a good meeting with Steve Potash the OverDrive President and CEO. Several enhancements announced prior to the conference include: ability for library customers to specify their choice of format in which to have their e-books delivered; customer recognition so bar code numbers will not have to be entered after initial registration; support for Kindle later this year; a feature for customers to recommend titles for library selection or purchase titles directly from booksellers; and collections of always available titles for certain types of books. One thing that has become clear to me in recent days is how if it weren’t for Steve’s negotiating with publishers, essentially on libraries’ behalf, and then developing the platform to deliver e-books, that popular e-books wouldn’t be nearly as available in public libraries as they are today.
There has been some controversy over a change that will likely appear in the new OverDrive contracts and contract renewals. Current contracts allow libraries to take their content with them if they don’t renew their maintenance agreements and the new contracts and renewals stipulate that libraries will not be able to take their content with them if they don’t renew. This issue got some library media attention when the State of Kansas’ contract came up for renewal and OverDrive informed them of the new contract terms and a maintenance fee increase. It is my understanding that some publishers may allow libraries to move their OverDrive content and others may not and that this is an issue that’s in flux. This has been fairly controversial, particularly among those who would prefer a “first sale contract” approach, but it doesn’t seem to be causing too much concern among OverDrive’s larger library customers. I suspect that OverDrive would not have made this change had they been given the option by the publishers. We will continue to monitor this issue as things progress.
We expect to hear from OverDrive soon about a possible second TBLC group.
3M – A pre-conference e-book press announcement insured a crowd at the 3M booth. 3M touts their product as a browse anywhere, read anywhere platform that you can access from any of your devices. 3M is in the process of negotiating with publishers and currently has some beta sites working with the product. Sales staff say they expect to have a cohort of early adopters lined up for August implementation. They expect to have the product fully ready for customers in January 2012. Based on sales folks’ descriptions, it sounds like their titles will be offered on a perpetual license basis.
Freading – The Freegal folks who offer music on a pay per listen basis have announced they are entering the e-book space. It appears that Freading will allow users to select what they want from participating publisher lists and will not be restricted by what the library has selected and purchased or licensed. Freading has been endorsed by directors of several large libraries.
EBSCO – Wednesday afternoon TBLC had a demonstration of Ebsco’s new Ebsco Host based e-book platform. They are aiming at the popular e-book market and are in negotiations with publishers. Ebsco has experience with libraries and e-books through NetLibrary and all NetLibrary titles will be converted to the EBSCO Host platform shortly. Since the product will use the Ebsco Host for discovery, it can be configured to search multiple sites where libraries may have actual e-books or licenses, thus providing libraries with a single discovery tool. EBSCO says they will not have annual subscription fee, that the maintenance cost will be built into the book cost, and that content will be provided under perpetual license. We understand EBSCO plans to have their product ready to offer this fall.
Baker & Taylor – There had been rumors prior to ALA that Baker & Taylor would announce that they would make popular e-books available on the Blio platform. I was not able to get by their booth but I am not aware any new product roll-out.