Tag Archives: library

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!

Libraries go bOING

Boing BoingI am incredibly excited that we’re finally launching Library Boing Boing! From the ALA post:

On the one hand, Library Boing Boing is a collaboration between ALA and the fabulously amazing Boing Boing folks to highlight all of the great new things libraries are doing. The most visible result will be regular posts about those great new things on the Boing Boing site itself.

On the other hand, Library Boing Boing: The Group has its own goals to help happy mutants in local communities connect with their happy mutant librarians to do good, work together on our shared interests, and make the world more better.

What can you do? To start with, head on over to the petition to make us a formally recognized ALA Member Interest Group…we need 100 signatures to get in front of the ALA Committee on Organization. Then at ALA Midwinter, it will go before ALA Council for approval.

We’ve already started a Library Boing Boing group over on ALA Connect, so go join that. It’s where we’ll hash out our plans to take over the world figure out what we can do to promote libraries and generally make some awesome happen.

Boing Boing is one of the most popular websites in the world, and having the opportunity to work with them to connect people to libraries is just about the coolest thing ever. I’ve been lucky enough to be featured on Boing Boing four times (1,2,3,4), mostly because the overlap between what libraries and librarians are interested in (freedom of information, democratization of information, copyright, DRM, technology) and what Boing Boing is about is huge. This is a great match, and I can’t wait to get started.

So, as Jenny said on the announcement post:

Start dreaming big. What could a dedicated, motivated, inspired group of librarians do with both Boing Boing and their own local happy mutants? How can we spread Library Boing Boing goodness throughout the profession?

Thanks to Andrea Davis and Patrick Sweeney for co-convening this thing with me, and special thanks to Jenny Levine for the idea and the wrangling! If you’re coming to ALA Midwinter, we’ll have a meetup on Sunday night (location and time TBA), and we’ll have some swag of some type to help identify other Happy Mutants. Keep your eyes out, go sign the petition, join the Connect group, and be on the lookout for wonderful things!

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.

eBooks, filetype, and DRM

This morning I got a tweet from Bobbi Newman that said:

librarianbyday

Can someone explain to me the tech reasons Kindle doesn’t work with library ebooks, know its DRM, want more specific plz & thnx @griffey

More than you ever wanted to know about filetypes, DRM, and eBooks…here we go.

There are two different things going on when someone tries to open an eBook file on an eReader. One is filetype…how the file itself is organized internally, how the information contained within is encoded. This is analogous to the difference between a Word file saved as a .doc file, a Word file saved as a .docx file, and an Powerpoint file (.ppt). All are different filetypes…the program involved in the creation, editing, and display of those files describes the information contained inside. Right now, there are two main filetypes being used to describe eBook files: the Amazon eBook standard, or .amz file, and the ePub file (.epub) that is used by just about every other eBook vendor.

Amazon  purchased Mobipocket (an early ebook vendor/distributor) way back in 2005, and used their format as the basis for their current proprietary .amz filetype. ePub, on the other hand, is an open, XML based eBook standard, and is used by a huge number of eBook vendors…indeed, it’s easily the standard for current ebook publishing.

But filetype is only half the battle. In addition to the way the file is organized/structured internally, there is also Digital Rights Management to deal with. Think of DRM on an eBook as a lock, with your eReader having the key to open the lock and display the file. Without the lock, the eReader can’t open the file at all…can’t even see what it is. And if it has the key, but can’t read the filetype, that’s no good either…in that case, you can view the contents of the file, but will have no idea how to render it on the screen properly.

Amazon, in addition to using a proprietary filetype, also uses a proprietary DRM mechanism. This means in order to read an Amazon-purchased eBook, you have to have an eReader with the right key, as well as the right interpreter for the file. So far, that means that you have to be using a Kindle, or alternatively, using the Kindle software provided for any number of other devices (Windows, Mac, iOS devices, Android devices). This doesn’t mean that’s the way it has to be. Amazon could choose, tomorrow, to remove all DRM from their files. This would mean that you’d still need a program to interpret the .amz, but you wouldn’t need the key anymore. Conversely, Amazon could license their DRM to other eReaders, in effect handing them the key…but it would still be up to the eReader itself to be able to display the .amz file.

Vendors that use the ePub format have chosen different sorts of DRM to lock up their content. Apple and their iBook app use the ePub format, but wrap it up with their Apple-specific Fairplay DRM. This means that while the file itself would be readable by any device that can interpret an .epub file, without that particular key on their keyring, the eReader can’t do anything. Sony, Barnes & Noble, Overdrive, and other eBook vendors have chosen a shared DRM solution. They license their DRM from Adobe, and run Adobe Content servers that provide the keys to epub files that they sell. This means that if an eReader has the key to one of those stores, it has the key to all of them…think of it as a shared master key for any Adobe DRM’d file.

This illustrates why, although both Apple and B&N use epub as their filetype, you can’t buy a book from the B&N store and then move it over to your iBook app on your iPad. Conversely, you can’t buy something on the iBook store, and then move it to your Nook. Same filetype, different lock.

Overdrive, in supporting Adobe DRM’d epub files, work with Sony eReaders as well as the B&N Nook…same filetype, same DRM key to unlock them.

With all that said: any eReader that will read a given filetype will read said filetype if the file doesn’t have any DRM. So if you convert an existing document to an epub using software like Calibre, Sigil, or InDesign, that file will able to be read on a Nook, Sony Reader, AND the Apple iPad/iPhone/iPod Touch. If you have some text and you convert it to, say, a Mobipocket file (.mobi or .pdb) then it would be readable on the Kindle AND the Apple iBooks app…but not on the Nook. For a complete list of eReaders and their corresponding filetypes, there is no better place than Wikipedia’s Comparison of eBook Formats article.

While a DRM free eBook ecosystem would clearly be the best for the consumer (choice of device, free movement of files from device to device, etc), the second best option is an ecosystem where the DRM is ubiquitous and the patron doesn’t even realize it’s there. This was the case with Apple and the early battles for music sales on the ‘net…they had the store and the distribution network (iTunes) as well as the device used to access the content (iPod). All of the content was, originally, DRM’d, but largely no one noticed since it was completely invisible for the average user.

The biggest issue with eReaders and library patrons is that this chain isn’t seamless. The content providers and their DRM servers are huge headaches for the average eReader user. My hope is that publishing goes the same way that music did, we we find both a common filetype and lose the DRM. But it took digital music years and years to get there…so I’m not holding my breath.

I hope that helped, but if it didn’t and you still have specific questions about your situation with eReaders/eBooks, ask away in the comments and I’ll do my best to answer them.

OCLC Web Scale Management

I am very pleased to finally be able to announce that the Library at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga is scheduled to be the first live implementation of a product that has been talked about for years: a web-based, collaborative, modern library system that does away with silos of data. We are implementing the OCLC Web Scale Management library system even as I type, and will be going live with the system for circulation on August 20, 2010, and with circulation, cataloging, and acquisitions on August 30, 2010. A wiki page documenting the process, working groups, and more is available, and will continue to be updated as the process continues.

I could talk for a long time about how excited I am about the possibilities of this system…and probably will for the next few months at least. I’ve been pursuing Andrew Pace about this product for what feels like years now, and after seeing it and understanding what may come as a result of this…well, I can’t wait.

This is a major shift in the library world, and it’s one where I think the repercussions will take years to really be felt. The simple time-saving that will be immediately felt for libraries in their processes are enormous…the workflow necessary to get something from order to shelf is so straightforward and fast that I feel strongly that we’ll save several person-years of staff time in short order. In addition, there is a shared-plugin architecture for the staff-side that combines with the open API calls that give incredible access for mashups of data that directly interact with the system. One example that I’ve seen is a plugin that combines the New York Times bestseller API with the acquisitions module in Web Scale to allow for single-click ordering from a list of bestsellers that is a live call from the NYT.

Going the other direction, the architecture allows you to pull your own data out and impose it on other pages. An example of this would be a Firefox plugin that shows you realtime budget information while you shop on Amazon.com…complete with recalculation as you add things to your Cart.

This isn’t to say that there aren’t a ton of questions still. We’re the earliest of adopters on the first product of its kind…to say that I am a bit nervous would be an understatement. But the potential and promise of Web Scale is something that make it worth it.

We are literally implementing Web Scale Management in 30 days. To my knowledge, I’ve never heard of another ILS migration even approaching this level of speed…so if I’m a little out-of-touch for the next month, you won’t be terribly surprised.

There's an app for that – OITP Brief on Mobile

The American Library Association Office of Information Technology Policy, better known as ALA-OITP, just released their Policy Brief on Mobile Tech, There’s an App for That! Libraries and Mobile Technology: An Introduction to Public Policy Considerations. Written by Timothy Vollmer, formerly of OITP and now working for Creative Commons, it’s a great “state of the union” brief on Mobile tech, and how it effects the library world in the current and near-future time frame.

I was honored to have been an early reader on this piece, and to have been able to give feedback to Timothy as he worked it up. If you have any interest at all about the future of libraries and the mobile world, this is a must read.

Gadgets & Gizmos

Gadgets & GizmosI am so thrilled that my issue of Library Technology Reports, Gadgets & Gizmos: Personal Electronics and the Library, is now available. Of all of my recent writing projects, this one was the one that I had the most fun with. I also think it has a ton of good information in it to help Libraries and Librarians make some decisions about gadgets that they should be examining. I spend a little time at the beginning talking about why I think that we need to be worrying about personal electronics in the library:

Libraries have always been the democratizers of content. We step in to distribute the economic burden of informa- tion and allow access to those who could not afford to own the information themselves. As our content becomes increasingly digital, these gadgets give us the delivery mechanism for the content. In the traditional library, the content and the delivery device were one and the same: the book, the magazine, the journal. In the digital world, the two are distinct, but that doesn’t give libraries the liberty of continuing to be interested in only one of the two pieces of the access puzzle.

I’m even more thrilled that it’s available electronically through ALA in a ton of formats (PDF, Epub, prc for Kindle). I’m reading through it on my iPad, and the ePub version looks great.

If you are interested, I am also doing a companion webinar on the topic THIS THURSDAY, April 22, at 2pm EST. Register for the webinar, and you’ll get $10 off the print version of the LTR!

As always, I’d love to hear from anyone that has questions or feedback!

Collection distribution by publication date

At my place of work, we’re just beginning a massive weeding project as a part of the larger new library building project. We are hoping to weed the entire collection for, effectively, the first time in the history of the library. Needless to say, it’s kind of going to own our lives for the next 18 months.

As a part of this, my awesome co-worker Andrea created this chart showing the distribution of publication dates for our collection. The massive amount of 1800’s is from our Early English Books Online collection, but the rest of it shows a pretty great distribution of “when did the library have funding” over the decades.

collection by pub date