GoodEreader has reported that a technical bug which prevented Amazon Kindle ebooks being made available on OverDrive has been resolved. Overdrive is currently the only ebook provider which has an agreement with Amazon to provide ebooks in Kindle format.
In December a glitch hit the Overdrive system that prevented the delivery of ebooks in Kindle format. Small press and self-published titles were available, but hundreds of bestsellers from major publishers were not. GoodEreader liased with libraries and patrons and contacted OverDrive to alert them of the problem; who have since resolved the issue attributing it to a technical bug. However there has been some speculation that there may have been a contract dispute between the two corporations, while the terms of the agreement were being renegotiated.
An excellent article at Inside Higher Ed suggests librarians need to exercise some caution when moving from print preferred to digital collections. Librarian Daniel Goldstein touches on many issues previously raised by this blog and the need for “e-book ownership to be more closely equivalent to ownership of a physical book than is currently the case”.
He concludes that “we need to renegotiate the way libraries operate in the e-book marketplace so that they can fulfill their unique and irreplaceable functions while also ensuring that publishers and authors receive their due. It will be expensive, if we can ever get there. Books will cost more and libraries will have to develop the infrastructure needed to host, preserve and deliver the books they acquire”.
A light hearted article from the Lifehacker website ‘Ebooks or Paper Books: Your Best Arguments’ asked readers:
With the advance of phones, tablets, and ereaders, ebooks have become a popular reading standard. Still, there’s something about the feel of an old-fashioned paper book. We ask you which one is better and why
Contributors raised some interesting arguments about accessiblity, portability and content; suggesting that both ebooks and print books will continue to have a place in many readers collections.
Macmillian has made its full list of ebook titles available to public libraries for loan. The decision follows a pilot program which was introduced in March 2013, and currently includes all Macmillian books published twelve or more months ago.
Macmillian frontlist titles will be offered to libraries under the 2 year/52 lend model currently in place for backlist. Titles are available through multiple distributors and frontlist titles will be available from early August.
A full press release is available here, thanks to Digital Book World.
Another interesting article from the Chronicle of Education –College Libraries Push Back as Publishers Raise Some E-Book Prices.
The article explores a number of problems with the current ebook lending model already noted by this blog. This includes the rapidly increasing subscription prices charged by academic ebook vendors – including for short term loans, and limitations placed on interlibrary loans.
It also discusses the efforts of consortium groups such as the Boston Library Consortium, The Oberlin Group and the Orbis Cascade Alliance in negotiating licensing agreements with academic publishers to get a better deal for college libraries.
The Chronicle of Higher Education has published a letter to the editor by Susan Stearns, Executive Director of the Boston Library Consortium, and John Unsworth, President Elect of the Boston Library Consortium. The authors have expressed their frustration over the increased subscription prices for academic ebook titles for the 2015 fiscal year:
“In the BLC program, publishers charge libraries for ebooks based on a model that combines payment for short-term use of a title by a student or researcher with the purchase of the title after a few short-term uses. In this way, libraries pay full price for an ebook that meets the needs of multiple readers, and pay a fractional price for ebooks that are of use to only one or two people. This month the BLC was surprised to learn that a number of the publishers in this program planned immediate, significant, and unexplained increases in price”.
The authors cite the significant price inflation for electronic scientification journals as problematic, as it has far surpassed any increase in library acquisitions funding. BLC fears academic ebook pricing could go the same way, making subscriptions increasingly expensive to retain.
GoodEReader has published a story on the difficulties US libraries have had with ebooks. Jeanette Woodward, author of a number of books including The Transformed Library: E-books, Expertise and Evolution, sums up the problem:
“Trade publishers have always had an unrealistic idea of library circulation… They imagine that library books circulate 50 or more times, causing them to lose 49 sales. This attitude, of course, ignores the many books that circulate rarely and assumes that library readers would purchase every book they borrow. Because the industry is in financial difficulty, it may be even more anxious to lay blame on libraries.”
Woodward notes that individual libraries have limited power when dealing with ebook vendors, stressing the importance of professional organisations such as ALA in negotiating with publishers.
The article also applauds the 3M Cloud Library Service, which recently unveiled new tools that actually allow libraries to sell eBooks and make a commission. This puts money in the pocket of the library, the digital distributor and publisher. The article predicts that libraries as retail, is a trend that will continue to grow in 2014.
The Australian Library and Information Association (ALIA) has released the E-lending Landscape Report 2014. ALIA commissioned Brussels-based Civic Agenda to produce a worldwide elending landscape report, identifying public library-led initatives to secure ebooks for borrowers.
Australian public libraries have experienced great difficulty in obtaining ebooks for elending and finding a platform which will meet the desired criteria:
- A secure, trusted repository that contains ebooks from the big publishers, as well as from authors direct, and from local publishers
- Content procured at a fair price
- Providing access to local history content
- Library branded
- Providing content that can be accessed from all sorts of devices
- With a clever discovery layer
- The options of loan or buy.
The report on elending platform developments internationally is intended to help identify practical solutions for Australian public libraries. It includes a list of conclusions and options available for Australian Public Libraries to consider when purchasing electronic material.
Claire Kelly’s interview with Richard Naylor, Director of the William K. Sanford Town Library in Loundonville New York, is worth a read.
Naylor is encouraging libraries to only purchase ‘fair use’ ebooks, which are bought at retail price and without time limitations. He also expresses concern about overcoming the high cost of building collections of ebooks, where major titles cost 200-300% of retail price and expire after one or two years. His ‘Best of the Small Press’ list contains only well reviewed fair trade books. Like many others, Naylor is hoping the ‘Big 5’ publishers and libraries can eventually agree upon a system ‘that helps meet our mission of education and cultural enrichment without hurting publishers or book stores’.
Two more articles discussing interlibrary loan restrictions and ebooks have been published.
Hilmar Schumundt’s article on SpigelOnline International: The Digital Paradox – How Copyright Laws Keep E-books Locked Up, considers how e-books are being locked up behind ‘digital bars’. Libraries are often not permitted to share e-books via interlibrary loan due to licensing restrictions. Schumundt notes ‘the book doesn’t go to the reader, the reader comes to the book – just like in the 19th century’. The article also discusses how digital protection measures are now sophisticated enough to enable ditigal material to be shared without copyright being infringed.
Timothy Geigner’s article on techdirt: Everything Old Is Unavailable Again: How Copyright Has Ebooks Operating In The 1800s, picks up on this ‘epitimone of inefficiency’. According to Geigner the problem is a combination of governments unwilling to consider change and publishers. Academic publishers are ‘most egregious’ as:
In many cases, it is the readers themselves who, through their taxes, pay the university authors whose studies they are then unable to access. It is also likely that many professors themselves cannot even afford a subscription to the journal in which their work is published.