Monday, February 27, 2012

Harry Potter Ebooks Are Coming! (For a while...)

OverDrive made the announcement this morning that they have entered into an exclusive deal with J.K. Rowling and Pottermore to make the Harry Potter series of ebooks available to libraries and schools using the platform.

This is really exciting news for us, as the requests for them really haven't waned at all, and the ebooks are not available for retail purchase yet. While no official word has been made about the release date, everything (including OverDrive's Content Reserve) is pointing to April 30 as the date when they will be available through OverDrive.

That is the good news...

Last week we noted that there was a publisher that was offering ebooks with duration purchases - not checkout limits per se, but a statement that "Units expire 5 years after the units become available for circulation". This is also the case for all the Harry Potter titles - ebooks and audiobooks.

So, not the constrictive 26-checkout limit that HarperCollins ebooks have, but a limit nonetheless. A lot can happen in five years, for sure. However, it makes you wonder whether this is something that is foretelling a change of licensing terms for digital downloads for the future?

Friday, February 10, 2012

With Ebooks, Libraries Play Monkey In The Middle

Did anyone miss yesterday's announcement that Penguin has severed its contract with OverDrive? By now, I doubt it.

This means that we no longer have any Penguin titles available to purchase for library lending, ebook or audiobook. For now, what has been purchased is staying in the catalog, but that a "continuation contract" is under negotiation.

Worse was this news, from the OverDrive announcement (again, after the news hit the internet waves):
Starting tomorrow (February 10, 2012), Penguin will no longer offer additional copies of eBooks and download audiobooks for library purchase. Additionally, Penguin eBooks loaned for reading on Kindle devices will need to be downloaded to a computer then transferred to the device over USB. For library patrons, this means Penguin eBooks will no longer be available for over-the-air delivery to Kindle devices or to Kindle apps. (Emphasis mine)
 So, not only can we not get any more copies of Penguin titles (The Help, you are stuck with a 7:1 holds ratio, now and forever), but anyone borrowing a Kindle ebook that happens to be a Penguin title is going to have to do the sideload process that is done with other dedicated ereaders, like the Nook.

This is going to be a major instructional issue. It has been difficult enough for us (more so for my colleagues in the libraries, since we train them) who have patrons coming in with their Kindle still in the box and asking how to use it. Now we will have to explain that some ebooks will work this way and others will work that way?

I believe that libraries are caught like the monkey in the middle. Patrons are lobbing balls of ebook demands we can hardly afford to keep up with these days; publishers are lobbing balls of access we cannot reach anymore. We are being thrown balls of different ereaders, different formats, different ways to get them. Issues of piracy and lost sales are thrown around, but no one is catching them and proving that they really exist.

So, while choking off library lending of ebooks may end up bringing sales that may not have happened (since it will be the only legal way to acquire them), publishers are also choking off a valuable resource of library lending: reader's advisory. I have heard more than once from libraries that patrons are giving up on ebooks from us because they "can't find anything". Half the time we may not know what to recommend if the availability is going to change from month to month. I hope that publishers understand that while yes, you are going to have people that will buy the book because they cannot get it from the library, you will also have people wondering what in the world is going on.

And we will have to tell them what we know.

That you are "looking for a suitable model", that you have "concerns" about piracy, about pricing, about making sure that you don't lose sales. We will explain that publishers think we just let anyone who visits our website have ebooks. With the amount of frantic emails I receive weekly about not being able to download from the digital catalog because their card is expired, I find this thought...uninformed, at best.

I just read Librarian By Day's post from Saturday, and I understand that it really is not the libraries that publishers are against; they are against a platform model that has placed the copies in the control of a commercial vendor, not the library one. I know that I was not happy to know that Amazon would be administering all of the borrowing for Kindle copies, and maybe OverDrive was not either. However, they were doing what they could to support their patrons (libraries) and their patrons' patrons. Our patrons want Kindle copies through the library, and all in all it was working okay. Or, maybe it wasn't, in Penguin's stance. However, it is still being left to us to explain to our patrons why we do not have the same titles that they can get from Barnes & Noble, Amazon, and so many other ebook retailers.

Librarians are spreading the word that it is not our decision-making that is stripping away ebook access from patrons. Those who do collection development are looking at smaller publishers to provide digital content, and those numbers are growing. We are also looking at other options, other contracts, other platforms. Truthfully, we want to make everyone happy and work with everyone to do so, but our patrons come first.

It is time to get out of the middle and start throwing the ball ourselves.


The Digital Shift - Penguin Terminates Its Contract With OverDrive
Paid Content - Penguin Ends E-Book Library Lending And Relationship With OverDrive
Agnostic, Maybe - Penguin Unfriends Libraries
Librarian By Day: How to Talk to Your Patrons About Penguin and Other Publishers Not Loaning eBooks to Libraries
The Digital Reader - ALA Met With Major Publishers - Nothing Has Changed

Monday, February 6, 2012

Library Day in the Life 8

Last week was Library Day in the Life, which I participated in through the Twitter hashtag #libday8. I thought a good round-up post was in order also, as I wanted to touch upon some of the range of work I typically do as a librarian for a network.

Much of my week was spent working on our upcoming online catalog. My network is in the process of migrating to the open-source system Evergreen, and has been working with a couple other networks in a consortial cooperative called MassLNC. With the upcoming release, it is going to give us a nicer version of the Evergreen catalog, based on Template Toolkit. So, I have been working on not only branding, but making sure that the functionality is there, including third-party integration of our Content Cafe covers and reviews. We will actually be having multiple servers doing the work, so this past week was spent getting the file changes uploaded to all the servers. There is still a lot of work to do on those, and some clean up as not all the images have been uploaded.

On Wednesday I had the opportunity to go to one of our member libraries to do OverDrive training. We have had an OverDrive Digital Catalog since 2005, and just this past season had a major redesign on the website. Between that and all the different devices and formats, libraries are looking for us to come show them how everything works. Our Digital Catalog support is me and half my department (which is two other people). So, while she is usually the one out doing training, I decided to get out of the office and do it to give her a break and give myself some more experience at it. I brought my bag of devices (Nook, iPad, Kindle, iPhone) and gave two training sessions at the library. It was a really great time, lots of thoughtful questions and passing around devices. It is pretty amazing the range of experience, both at the staff and patron level, and I am glad to help our libraries support the patrons.

On Thursday Shift The Digital released a post about Random House ensuring libraries that they will continue to support library lending of ebooks, but that wholesale prices were going up in March. Of course, if the wholesale prices are rising, I will expect the library retail prices to rise also. I discussed this with my manager and colleague so they were prepared for the coming months. The last year has been harder in digital acquisitions, we have lost access to a lot of new materials with publishers deciding not to sell to libraries or restricting access through checkout limits. Also, with only two staff working on the collection, we are buying at a fast clip, but holds and new items analysis takes a large amount of time. With demand continuing to increase, I am looking at ways to streamline the process but expand the collection: we have added a Patron Request for Purchase form to the website so that we can get more title suggestions, and I will be looking at other selection tools and hopefully developing a collection development policy this year.

Friday was a meeting day. I was selected from our staff to be part of the group developing the new strategic plan for the network. Working with a group of library directors and other Central Site staff, we laid out the timeline for developing the new plan, along with a lot of the other meetings that will be happening the next several months. Then I had a phone call meeting about a writing project, then back into an in-person meeting about Evergreen. That didn't leave much time to work on the catalog, but made for a very full day nonetheless.

In fact, this past week was a very full week in terms of work. The range of projects and the timeframe to fit them in is keeping me more committed to making sure I have a weekly to-do list handy. Time management is becoming more essential, and I plan to fit more outreach and professional enrichment tasks in this year. Library Day in the Life was definitely a worthwhile experience for me and I am looking forward to participating next time.