Hello everyone! I’m writing from an apartment filled with moving boxes, I’ve just relocated from Georgia for a position at a public library system in Columbia South Carolina. I’ll be responsible for staff learning and development, I will be helping library staff assist patrons in a transliterate world.
We are in the midst of exciting and challenging time for both libraries and publishers. Advances in technology have allowed society to re-examine (and perhaps redefine) what exactly is a book. Ebooks or electronic books have been around for years, but it’s only recently with the increase in popularity of devices like the the Kindle and the Nook that use among the general population has taken off. It is worth noting that despite the attention and time given to the issue of ebooks that they still account for a small portion of sales. 1
The ebook landscape is still evolving so while we generally have an idea of ebooks that we agree upon, there are file format differences between vendors, not to mention DRM (Digital Rights Management). DRM is technology used by publishers, and others, to control and limit access to digital content. Both the lack of an industry standard for a file format and the demands of DRM create a burden for libraries. DRM places additional limitations and requirements for the download process that makes accessing and using library ebooks a less than elegant process.
Note: Image from: http://bradcolbow.com/archive/view/the_brads_why_drm_doesnt_work/?p=205
With the announcement of the iPad in April of 2010 a new twist was introduced to electronic books. The interactive ability of the iPad allowed a whole new dimension to books the embedding or linking to additional content. As Rinzler notes these interactive books are actually apps that must be purchased from the app store not the iBooks store. Which might beg the question: are they books? Or what IS a book?
Because the ebook landscape is still evolving the lending/leasing/buying model between publishers and libraries is still evolving too. Recent HarperCollins decided that ebooks leased by libraries will only be good for 26 check-outs, after that they expire and libraries will be forced to pay for the title again. This creates additional budgetary problems for libraries as well as concerns on how to manage the title affected.
As the world is changing around us so is the role of libraries. It is now necessary for library staff to understand the different file formats and able to explain these to our patrons. The general public does not understand the difference between an epub vs pdf ebook file and the need to explain the differences in file format often comes in to play while assisting with ebooks. Staff may need to explain why the popular Amazon Kindle does not work with library ebooks, and they need to do so in a way that is free from jargon and techno-speak. Staff need to be able to pick up on an reader they may have never seen before and assist a patron with its usage. This can be especially hard because of the variety of ebook devices or ereaders on the market. Many libraries can not afford to purchase all of these devices for staff learning.
The emerging ebook eco-system is just one reason that library staff need to be transliterate. The needs of patrons in the 21st Century require a commitment to life long learning and exploration.
How do you define a book? How do you see the evolution of books in the next 2-5 years? How do you think the coming changes in the capability of books will affect new generations? How will it change the education system?
1. According to Association of American Publishers data, in 2008 ebook sales accounted for approximately 0.5% of all U.S. book sales; a year later, they accounted for 1.3%. Survey of Ebook Penetration and Use in U.S. Public Libraries, Library Journal 2010
Additional reading, watching: