On February 2rd TBLC convened a conversation of the library role in providing access to e-books and e-publications. An energetic and highly motivated group of about 14 participated. Chad Mairn of St. Petersburg College Library and Al Carlson got things started with back ground information about the e-books products, the readers, adoption rates of similar technologies y (anyone remember 8 track tapes or Betamax?). The participants then had a lively discussion of where they expect these products to go and how libraries can position themselves to maintain their relationship with readers as print presumably makes some room for e formats.
Here are some of the more interesting and challenging issues that arose:
- Popular E-Books Are Here to Stay – Printed books are not going away but E-Books are going have an impact and if libraries want to stay relevant they need to get in the E-Book game. Young digital natives (now in their 20’s) are not likely to share the “old ones’” love of print so if we are going to give ‘em what they want, we better be offering them e-content.
- Epub Format Looks Like the Library Standard – During this period with competing reader manufacturers with different proprietary formats competing for market and reader share, it appears that the Epub format is emerging as the standard for libraries.
- Libraries as E-Book Aggregators – Can libraries position themselves as e-book aggregators, particularly of free e-books, so that the public can rely on them to provide or direct them to the free or for sale e-books they desire?
- Single Search Solution for Locating and Downloading E-Books? -Can libraries join together to develop a technology that harvests and maintains searchable database of e-book location information and provide it to the public? Particularly for free e-books?
- Need E-Book Training for Public Service Staff to Help the Public – TBLC needs to provide training to help library staff understand the various e-book products, formats, and readers so staff can help the public who are showing up at public service desks for help with E-Books more and more every day.
- Need E-Book Icon for Library Websites – We should develop an “e-book and e-resource” icon or button for libraries to use to direct the public to e-resources on their web pages.
- Libraries Need Publishers or Vendors to Offer a “Library E-Book Business Model” – Library’s report a positive experience in obtaining popular e-books from OverDrive but that model has significant cost barriers. Libraries need to negotiate a better pricing and business model that supports public lending, either with individual vendors or industry wide.
- Provide Content Not Readers -There was consensus that libraries should focus on providing the content, not the readers due to cost and how the investment in readers is tied up for too long if they are circulated.
Many thanks to Chad for developing and providing a Google Docs Page “E-Publishing Trends” to serve as a go-to place for folks interested in learning about and joining in the conversation about e-books in libraries. Please visit Chad’s site and join in the conversation. Another useful site is Zorba’s Guide to Free E-Books.
Thanks again to Chad, Al, and all who participated!