Tag Archives: libraries

LibraryBox around the ‘net

The LibraryBox project is slowly getting noticed around the ‘net! In the last month or so, there has been two really great writeups of the project.

Hack Education (thanks to Audrey Watters!)

Griffey says the LibraryBox will “take the ‘pirate’ out of PirateBox.” That doesn’t mean exorcising the spirit of the larger PirateBox project, which its creator Darts says was “inspired by the free culture and pirate radio movements” and serves as a “playful remixing of the title of the world’s most resilient bittorrent site, The Pirate Bay.” Rather, replacing “pirate” with “library” makes it more apparent, in Griffey’s case, that this is about open access to information and to books. As he describes some of the inquiries he’s received about the LibraryBox, it’s clear that this device could have enormous potential for boosting literacy and education and for opening access to digital educational materials.

and

Open Book Lab (thanks to John Miedema!)

PirateBox alone is a great idea. LibraryBox, says Griffey, is customized to be friendly to library needs. At first I raised an eyebrow at that. What library needs merit a fork? Then I thought of several:

  • A primary mission of libraries is to increase access to information. LibraryBox could provide access to information resources in conditions where political oppression is preventing it.
  • Sometimes technology is used to block access to information, either through aggressive monitoring, IP blocking, or filtering. LibraryBox is technology that reverses this blocking.
  • One of my current interests is the aggregation of distributed data fragments into a whole, especially as the web grows bigger and more complex. Like libraries, LibraryBox is designed to deliver data in highly localized contexts. It is an instant intranet, a domain of knowledge. Lots to think about here.

Go read both stories, and comment if you’re interested in the project.

In other LibraryBox news, I started a Google Groups listserv for the project, in hopes of getting people who are interested talking to one another about it, and generating ideas about use, as well as sharing implementation issues and challenges.  Come help define where the project heads next!

Heresy and Patron Data

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?

Some librarians have started looking at these value-exchanges in a new way. Toby Greenwalt, a librarian at the Skokie Public Library, started asking what the value was to the publishers of the awards that the American Library Association gives out for childrens and young adult titles, and Andromeda Yelton followed up with a look at how those awards related to the ability for libraries to lend those books electronically. Here’s something that the ALA does, which appears to be significant value to publishers, with no visible complimentary exchange of value going the other direction.

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 be basically 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?

The Future is Already Here

Yesterday I had the pleasure of presenting to the librarians at Western Kentucky University during their 2011 kickoff event. When discussing a topic with the Dean, I was told that they were interested in the future of the academic library, technology, and how to manage the changes that are coming. That’s definitely in the sweet spot of my library interests, so I gave it a shot. Below you’ll find a slideshow with accompanying audio of my presentation, along with the Q/A session at the end. The whole thing is about 1.5 hours, but my presentation is just the first hour or so. I’d love to hear what you think, especially if you disagree with any of my points.

Keynote about the future of libraries, change management, and technology over the next 5 years given to Western Kentucky University Libraries, August 24, 2011 by Jason Griffey

Kindle Library Lending

The online library world is abuzz today with the announcement of Kindle Library Lending, which promises to finally bring the ability for libraries to check ebooks out to patron’s Kindle (or Kindle software-driven devices). The announcement itself is full of promise and light on details, including such gems as:

Customers will be able to check out a Kindle book from their local library and start reading on any Kindle device or free Kindle app for Android, iPad, iPod touch, iPhone, PC, Mac, BlackBerry, or Windows Phone. If a Kindle book is checked out again or that book is purchased from Amazon, all of a customer’s annotations and bookmarks will be preserved.

Translation: Amazon will be maintaining notes and details of the book you read on their servers, and providing a way to purchase said book as a part of the library experience.

Amazon is working with OverDrive, the leading provider of digital content solutions for over 11,000 public and educational libraries in the United States, to bring a seamless library borrowing experience to Kindle customers. “We are excited to be working with Amazon to offer Kindle Library Lending to the millions of customers who read on Kindle and Kindle apps,” said Steve Potash, CEO, OverDrive. “We hear librarians and patrons rave about Kindle, so we are thrilled that we can be part of bringing library books to the unparalleled experience of reading on Kindle.”

This appears to mean that Overdrive will be the library-facing partner in this enterprise, and I’m guessing that the checkout experience and user interface will be Overdrive driven. This is (IMNSHO) a disappointment, as I’d much rather deal with Amazon directly (even though I’m sure they would not rather deal with libraries…thus, Overdrive).

Bobbi Newman, as always, has a thoughtful post up about this, and asks a couple of questions for which I’m going to guess the answers. She asks:

Will libraries be forced to add a third ebook format (which will only spread their already thin money thinner?)

If yes

  • Will I be allowed to borrow library ebooks in epub and pdf format on my Kindle?
  • Will owners of other devices (such as the Nook or Sony) be allowed to read Kindle books on their device? (the press release reads as “no”)

I would find it VERY hard to believe that Amazon is going to convert all of their proprietary files into a new format just for libraries…so yes, I believe strongly that there will be yet another format. I also find it hard to believe that Amazon will suddenly decide to embrace Adobe DRM…which means that there is little chance that library books via Overdrive or another vendor that are in the epub or pdf format will start working on the Kindle.

As to the last question…I believe very strongly that if Barnes & Noble and Sony decided to allow Amazon DRM/filetypes on the nook or Sony reader, Amazon would be thrilled to provide them with books. But that’s probably not going to happen either. For a reminder of all the intricacies of the filetype/DRM issues here, see my post on eBook Filetypes and DRM.

I have requests out currently for answers from Overdrive and Amazon on the following questions…if either of them get back to me, I’ll make sure to post it here.

Will the Kindle Library Lending functionality require the use of the Overdrive Media Center Console?

Will the functionality require a “buy this book” link in the Overdrive catalog?

Will the KLL functionality require the library patron to be physically in the library, or authenticated via IP address, or will they be able to access this remotely? Or some combination of the two?

The press release mentions that Whispersync will be enabled to remember page numbers, which implies that patrons will be able to load Kindle books that they check out onto multiple devices…what will the mechanism for this be? If I check out a book, and then load it onto my Kindle, my Kindle DX, my iPod Touch, and my iPad, will that count as 4 checkouts, or one?

Currently, the Overdrive ebook model works with Adobe Digital Editions and ePub…I am assuming that the Kindle books will remain in the standard .azw format, and use Amazon DRM. Can you confirm this assumption? If so, can you describe the process by which patrons will check out a book using this service?

What will the limitations on the KLL catalog be? How does it compare to the overall Kindle ebook catalog?

Will publishers be able to opt-out of allowing Library lending in the same way that they can currently opt-out of other features of the Kindle?

What is Amazon doing to ensure the privacy/confidentiality of library patrons?

UPDATE


Overdrive finally posted to their blog about the issue, and I just received a callback from Overdrive marketing. While they weren’t able to comment a large number of things, I did get confirmations on a few details. On the Overdrive blog post, they say:

A user will be able to browse for titles on any desktop or mobile operating system, check out a title with a library card, and then select Kindle as the delivery destination.

The exact quote that I got from the Overdrive marketing department was that the books would be “deliverable to Kindle” and that did include any Kindle and Kindle app.

The blog post also says:

Your existing collection of downloadable eBooks will be available to Kindle customers. As you add new eBooks to your collection, those titles will also be available in Kindle format for lending to Kindle and Kindle reading apps. Your library will not need to purchase any additional units to have Kindle compatibility. This will work for your existing copies and units.

When asked about the potential catalog non-overlap (what happens when a book available via Overdrive isn’t available on Amazon), the answer from Overdrive was that they hadn’t looked fully at the catalog overlap yet. But it sounds like the Kindle compatibility is simply going to be there for your existing books as an additional option…well done!

MASSIVE SPECULATION AHEAD:It sounds to me like Overdrive will be providing the ability to checkout a book and click “deliver to Kindle”, much in the same way that Amazon currently does when you purchase a book. If I’d been thinking for half a second, I’d have realized that’s the ONLY way they can do it and support Kindle Apps. None of the Kindle apps that I’m aware of allows for any sort of side-loading of content…all the content that is in them can ONLY come from Amazon directly. CORRECTION: Kindle App for iOS does allow side-loading via emailed or web-linked files of the appropriate filetype (mobi, azw)…but no tethered side-loading. You can obviously plug your Kindle directly into your computer and throw a random PDF on it, but you can’t do that with Kindle Apps. They have to deliver these to you via Whispernet…there’s no other choice.

Back to the blog post!

The Kindle eBook titles borrowed from a library will carry the same rules and policies as all our other eBooks.

One answer that I’d really like from Overdrive is relating to this piece. On the phone call, I asked if a publisher limited the number of times that a book could be downloaded (which some do), whether this would effect the number of devices that I could have said book delivered to. The official statement was that they didn’t have that information right now, but that whatever the solution it would “support publisher’s existing models”.

Last bit of news for now: I tried to get Overdrive to give me anything on a timeframe, and they weren’t even willing to promise/commit to a quarter of the year…all they would say was “in 2011″. So we could have some time to wait for this.

Proactive reference

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking lately about something I’m calling “proactive reference.” The way I’m thinking about it, proactive reference is the monitoring of the real-time web (Twitter, Friendfeed, Seesmic, etc) by librarians who answer questions relating to their area or specialty, whether subject or geographically based. Public librarians who answer questions by searching for mentions of their city, county, or library, and Academic libraries who monitor for mentions of their university are two examples, but are many more possibilities.

I’m doing a bit of it now, just to see how effective it is at marketing the library’s services and such. Is anyone else out there actively monitoring these communication channels right now? My instinct is that this is going to be a HUGE market in a very short time, and that libraries should dive in fast and get used to it.