The reviewers wouldn’t be told who had arranged for the review, nor who was paying them (reviewers were offered $200 for the effort) until after they had turned in the reviews and they were posted here
The reviewers would examine 7 different Bibliocommons catalogs and write up their thoughts, but there was no suggesting of the books they were to search for or anything like that…they had free reign to use the catalogs in questions to look for any books they wished.
Tim wouldn’t know who they were during the review, and not afterwards until the reviews were collected and this post went live
There would be no editing on his part of the reviews…what they said, they said. No picking and choosing to rose color anything.
I would collect and edit the reviews only in as much as needed to anonymize them.
Tim would get the names of the reviewers after this is posted in order to pay them, but he would have no way of knowing who wrote what among the reviews.
This was as good a protocol as I could put together quickly for a blinded analysis of the two systems. I can promise that as I write this, Tim has no idea who the reviewers were, nor has he edited the reviews below in any way. They are as independent a look at the two systems as I could arrange.
So what is posted below are 4 comparisons, in the voices of the reviewers, between the recommendations provided by LibraryThing and Bookish.
This was done as a consulting job, so in the interest of full disclosure I am also receiving a small payment for my work in doing this.
Now that these are public, I will be sharing the identities in both directions of this endeavor. Who wrote which review will remain anonymous, but both sides will be alerted in order to settle the accounts in question.
The online library world exploded today over the revelation that Adobe Digital Editions, software that is required for many library-focused eBook services, evidently leaks like a sieve when it comes to our user’s information. The TL:DR version of the story is that ADE appears to be sending in plain text to Adobe’s servers information such as: the book you are reading, title, publisher, which pages you have read and which page you are currently on. Much longer discussions about the leak and potential fallout here:
There are a few things I wanted to emphasize about this situation. The first is that several of the reports have noted that earlier versions of Adobe Digital Editions didn’t seem to “spy on its users” in the way that the most recent version (version 4) does, and recommend using earlier versions. The truth of the matter is that of course the earlier versions are spying on users…they just aren’t doing it in as transparent a manner as the current version. We need to decide whether we are angry at Adobe for failing technically (for not encrypting the information or otherwise anonymizing the data) or for failing ethically (for the collection of data about what someone is reading). It’s possible to be angry at both, but here’s a horrible truth: If they had gotten the former right and encrypted the information appropriately, we’d have no idea about the latter at all.
I think that Andromeda has it right, that we need to insist that the providers of our digital information act in a way that upholds the ethical beliefs of our profession. It is possible, technically, to provide these services (digital downloads to multiple devices with reading position syncing) without sacrificing the privacy of the reader. For example (and this is just off the top of my head) you could architect the sync engine to key off of a locally-hashed UserID + BookID that never left the device, and only transmit the hash and the location information in a standardized format. This would give you anonymous page syncing between devices without having to even worry about encryption of the traffic, as long as you used an appropriate hash function. I would prefer this approach, because (as mentioned above), if the entire communications stack is encrypted, it’s a black box for anyone attempting to see inside and verify what the vendor is actually collecting. There are answers to this as well (encryption keys that the vendor never sees at all, for example, and are totally local to the user’s device a la Apple’s latest security enhancements).
There are technical solutions that satisfy our ethical concerns. We need to insist that our vendors care enough about our ethics that the technical answers become a market differentiator. We need to insist that this is important and then we need to make them listen.
I’ve spent a lot of time over the last several years thinking, writing, and speaking about ebooks. I’m on the Board of Directors of Library Renewal, a group dedicated to finding ways to make the ebook experience a good one for libraries, publishers, and authors. And I’ve spoken all over the US and Internationally about eReaders and how digital content changes libraries. So what I am about to suggest is something that has been rattling around in my head for some time now, and I feel like it’s something that I’d love to hear other thoughts about.
So as the Joker said in The Dark Knight Returns:
When we look at how libraries, pubishers, and authors all interrelate vis a vis electronic content, specifically ebooks, the models that are largely being forwarded are straightforward economic models. The rights-holders have content, we want content, we pay them for content. Most of the disagreement comes down to the details: how much are we paying, and what rights do with have to the content that we are paying for. The majority of “new” models that are being trumpeted in libraryland, like the Douglas County Public ebook model, are just differently-arranged ways of doing exactly the same thing…which, admittedly, gives different outcomes on the two contentious fronts (cost and rights) but isn’t actually new in any significant way.
In an economic system, when one side of an equation (libraries) want something from another side (rights-holders), there is an exchange of value that takes place wherein both sides agree that said value exchange is fair in both directions. Libraries pay money for content…this is, at its base, just a value exchange between libraries and publishers.
Libraries don’t want a free ride as far as ebooks are concerned. Every single librarian that I have spoken with is perfectly willing to continue to pay for content. Unfortunately, the economics of libraries are such that when we want more rights (the ability to check out ebooks to any number of patrons simultaneously, or the right to ILL ebooks, etc) we don’t have the ability to exchange our typical economic instrument (money) for them. Think about Amazon and their ability to put the Harry Potter books into their Lending Library…freely available to anyone with an Amazon Prime membership. Libraries would kill for the right to do this, but Amazon is the one that can write the check. If we had tens or hundreds of millions of dollars to throw at publishers, we could dictate any rights we wished. But we don’t.
So the question that’s been bugging me is: what else do we have, besides cash, that is of value to the rights holders and could be traded for more of what we want. Libraries generate value in enormous numbers of ways, but what do we have that publishers might want that would give us some bartering ability?
Finally we get to what I’ve been thinking of as my heretical idea. Because when I think about what other thing of value that libraries have that could potentially be traded to publishers in order to get an equivalent set of value back from them in the way of ebook rights, I keep coming back to one thing:
Information. Information about our patrons, information about our circulations of individual books, and demographic information about our users and what books they read.
I know. A lot of librarians just stopped reading, or perhaps began clutching the arms of their chairs a bit too tightly. Patron information! The holiest of holies in library land, the Thing Which Must Not Be Shared! One of the core tenets of librarianship is that the borrowing history of the individual is sacrosanct. And for very, very good reasons…it doesn’t take a paranoid person to see the ways in which reading histories should be kept private, from the teenager looking for information about sexuality to the individual checking out a book about chronic illness (you wouldn’t want your insurance company to know that, now would you). As the saying goes, “show me what you read and I’ll tell you who you are”.
But this information is valuable. Publishers would love to know more about their readers, as it helps them to make better decisions about what to publish, how to market, and what sorts of books that a given population is more likely to buy. The amount of data that libraries could have in this realm is enormous, and could be a huge lever with which to move the playing field that we are all currently on regarding ebooks.
I am very aware, there are huge problems with this idea. The data in many cases is actually non-existent (libraries are very good about dumping this data so that it can’t be used by law enforcement or others in negative ways against readers). In order to maintain any sort of patron trust, there would have to be serious thought given to sanitization of the data, stripping of individually identifying information, and more (and yes, I am aware that stripping of individually identifying information has been shown to bebasically useless…I retain some hope that there is a way to do it that isn’t). It is also the case that with the rise of cloud-based ILS systems that this information is going to be more available than ever, and centralized on servers that are out of library’s control.
But if we want the next decade to be a good one for us, libraries and librarians need to put some serious thought into what our other value-creation areas are, and how we can begin to identify and trade on those against the rights-holders. Because our money is getting thin, our prices are going up, digital is likely to kill our existing model completely, and we need new ways to think about these things.
What else do we have? What sort of leverage do we have that we aren’t using? What can we bring to the negotiating table that we haven’t yet?
If you had any doubts that Amazon’s Lending Library was eventually going to compete with public libraries, here’s where your doubts get shattered. From Amazon’s homepage today, on the announcement of all 7 Harry Potter books entering the Kindle Lending Library program:
With traditional library lending, the library buys a certain number of e-book copies of a particular title. If all of those are checked out, you have to get on a waiting list….the wait can sometimes be months.
With the Kindle Owners Lending Library, there are no due dates, you can borrow as frequently as once a month, and there are no limits on how many people can borow the same title…
I was lucky enough to interview Jason Chen via email about his new ebook startup Storybundle. He had some interesting things to say about the ebook market. Unsurprisingly, as a new ebook startup, he didn’t even consider libraries at first.
As to whether or not this is good for libraries, at the current time I hadn’t even considered libraries, so I’m going to aim for personal use for the first few bundles and see where things go from there. It depends heavily on the author, because the promo is a limited time thing, and making a sale to a library becomes a forever thing.
You know those indie video game bundles where you pay what you want for a batch of quality titles? We’re like that, but for ebooks.
We give you a handful of ebooks (about five or so) for a low price that you choose, all DRM-free, delivered to your ereader.
We only choose quality independent authors so you can be sure what you’re buying is good. Plus, you decide how much these books are worth. Great reads delivered cheaply without killing a single tree? That’s something everybody can feel good about.
Very, very interesting. I have a huge number of questions, mainly: how can he possibly hope to compete against Amazon in this space? I suppose the idea is that DRM free and name-your-price luring readers, but I’m not sure why that will lure authors. I can’t imagine that it’s a better deal for authors in terms of either reach or profit. But it’s a really interesting experiment, and we all know that we need more models for this stuff. I’ve got a request for an interview out to Jason…I’m very curious as to how this model might work with libraries.
Here’s a look at color eInk, the next generation of the technology currently found in just about every eReader on the market. This particular screen (the eInk Triton display) is good for just over 4000 colors, and certainly isn’t the fastest page-turn we’ve seen…but the display is very, very pretty. Great contrast, sharp lines, and the color really adds a lot to the feel of the thing. Check it out:
If I can rip my CD to an MP3, why can’t I scan my book to an EPUB?
I just wanted to step in and say: You can. There is decent case law in place that indicates that format shifting of personal copies is allowable in the United States. There is also strong case law in place for the ability to personally back up media that you legally aquire…both of these indicate that while there may be no clear “Yes you can” statement in copyright law, there is a lot of evidence that it’s perfectly ok for individuals given Fair Use rights in the US.
Moreover, there’s easier and easier ways to digitize books out there. If you haven’t seen the DIY Book Scanner project, go and check it out. This group is doing awesome stuff towards making digitizing books something that isn’t nearly as time-consuming as it once was. Plus, as I often point out in my presentations to libraries and librarians, if you think that digitizing books is going to be difficult forever, well…think again:
The family lives outside Sewanee on the edge of a one-acre pond in a thicket of woods teeming with rabbits, bats and deer. Inside the house signs of Griff, 3, were everywhere: a basket of toys near the wood-burning fireplace, a child-size canvas swing from Ikea hanging from the ceiling and a remote-controlled train set taking up most of Ms. Couch’s office upstairs, where she writes her poetry on a drafting desk in the corner.
I’m thrilled to see Kevin getting such attention…he and his family are amazing, awesome people. I hope that The Family Fang is a massive hit, and that they find the success they deserve. As I said in my last post, if you haven’t bought it, go buy it. It’s an awesome read, and hopefully one of the year’s bestsellers.
Mr. Wilson explores the damage inflicted on children raised in an atmosphere that is intentionally confusing. They have been told that their parents do important things; they have been told that their own feelings do not matter. They have learned the hard way that either of them might be betrayed in an instant by parents who bring a lofty, arty, guilt-free approach to everything they do. So as “The Family Fang” begins, Mr. Wilson shows just how badly the adult Annie and Buster have been damaged by Fang ideas of fun. He also makes it clear that the senior Fangs can be amusing. And then, all of a sudden, they are not.
The Family Fang is something else entirely. It’s a book that stands up to anything on the shelves, a brilliant first novel. I’m in awe of Kevin when it comes to his skill with words, his imagination, and can’t wait for this thing to be a huge hit so that everyone can see how talented he is. And it’s not just that I know the guy…he’s getting reviews from all over: