The Future of Academic Reading: E-books and E-readers Part 2

Welcome to the afternoon session of the Future of Academic Reading!

Our experts today are Sue Polanka from Wright State and Amy Pawlowski from Cleveland Public Library. They’ll respond to comments from this morning and then engage in an open discussion with our attendees.

Amy worked for Overdrive, which offers the platform for most public library e-books. Now handles e-book collections at Cleveland Public.

Sue is a librarian at Wright State. Blogs at No Shelf Required (and edited book of same name about e-books, with a second part to come).

Amy: Will e-books lead to better dialogue between public and academic libraries? Since we’re all about instant gratification, what will the role of the library be when we have a 21-step process to download and read an e-book? Most of this morning’s panel members have Kindles, which don’t have library check-out options.

Sue: Right now, e-readers owners can’t do most of what they want because of publisher fears. Even if your e-reader has a browser, you can’t always get to read content meant for computer browsers rather than e-readers. Concern: e-books are blossoming, but the library is not yet part of the picure; people go elsewhere to find content.

Interactive textbooks formats like Inkling for the iPad and Nook Study are interesting new textbooks concepts, but what about accessibility issues? A lawsuit was filed recently on behalf of the blind against a university trying to replace textbooks with Kindles.

Many textbook publishers are creating a CMS-like environment for web-based textbooks. We also see a push for open access textbooks. Another angle is cheaper e-versions of textbooks as a compromise with publishers, since students would otherwise mostly buy used books and not give many new sales.

Question: Even many librarians seem not to be knowledgeable about the process of getting a library e-book onto a device with Overdrive. I gave up on it and use Adobe Digital Editions. How can we expect consumers to put up with this much hassle when buying e-book is so easy?

Amy: Overdrive uses Adobe Digital Editions itself, but it’s not clearly spelled out. It’s our only advocate for e-book checkouts for library, and publisher dealings are complex. This is our start; we’re still working out the kinks. Librarians need to take responsibility for their own education when it comes to understand how to use Overdrive.

Question: Harper Collins is limiting circulations on e-books at 26. What’s up with that?

Amy: Overdrive is caught in the middle. We have angry, boycotting librarians and desperate publishers trying to increase revenues.

From the audience: The pricing model is the problem for libraries. In the electronic journal arena, it costs less to publish electronically, but prices continue to escalate. If vendors lend libraries books, librarians will be re-buying books repeatedly. OhioLINK has worked by selling vendors on volume, and this should be our approach with vendors.

Amy: OhioLINK focuses on academic titles, which don’t have as much market outside the academic library world. If libraries say to vendors, “We won’t buy your books,” patrons will get them elsewhere.

From the audience: As faculty, most concerned about access. Access to textbooks, research, etc. Switched to open-source Sierf for textbook. Lacks things like quizzes at ends of chapters, but students seem to prefer this.

From the audience: Are e-book users already heavy readers, or are you trying to make converts? It seems most e-book users are already readers who like having an extra option.

Sue: Heard a student recently explaining that he grew up on print textbooks and will go right back to one as soon as any barriers emerge with electronic textbook.

From the audience: What does it mean to say “Turn to page 264” when everyone has a different device? How do I keep them together? Tried using Wikipedia, but it’s in flux, so it’s hard to have a standard test over it.

Sue: Many electronic textbooks don’t correlate easily with their own print versions–may have numbering, may not. Kindle just recently started using page numbes. ePub 3.1 will have page numbers but doesn’t now. Try using vetted electronic books through BGSU library rather than Wikipedia, such as Safari Books.

Amy: How do we let people know we have what they need? How do we make libraries sexy, like the iPad or Kindle?

Question: This morning, we saw two camps: annotaters and non-annotaters. What do you think about this kind of social connection?

From the audience: Sometimes students love an annotated used book, but others want a fresh copy to keep. There’s no one-size-fits-all.

Sue: I think most people don’t react too adversely to other people’s annotations. We have students now who make decisions only after consulting their social networks.

From the audience: Some topics are more “egalitarian” than others. For instance, David Foster Wallace’s works lend themselves to both scholars and regular readers trying to help each other out. Otherwise, I don’t want other people’s annotations interfering with my reading.

Question: Device preferences?

Sue: I own all the e-readers but read on my laptop. I also don’t read fiction now; no time. Like to use the iPad as a single device, rather than carrying around a stack of laptop, tablet, e-reader, phone.

Question: What can an e-reader do that a print book can’t?

Sue: 24/7 anywhere access. They don’t have to come in. Enhanced e-books can have audio, video, games, etc. built-in. iPad has many ehanced children’s book applications. Textbooks can have social elements, quizzes, etc. People always expect e-books to be cheaper, even though all these features cost money. Amazon’s pricing is really devaluing the development money that goes into them.

From the audience: Works because of sheer volume. Loss leader, too–eventually price is bound to rise.

Sue: There is an academic aggregator that, like Haper Collins, caps. But at 250.

Amy: One book, one user means that a large library buys multiple copies. Now we’ll have capping on top of that. It will interesting to see how collection development changes; will they buy fewer copies up front to save purchasing dollars for later? At the end of the day, I don’t think Harper Collins will see much difference in library sales.

Question: People are willing to pay much more for amazing apps, so maybe enhanced books should be marketed more as apps.

Amy: Is it a book anymore? No one knows where this is going. Remember Rocket Books, very early e-books? Very big in public library space for a while, and now no one has heard of them.

Sue: We’ll have completely new devices in five years.

Amy: We should be buying and circulating e-readers, showing people options.

Question: How did you pick what to get for Wright State e-readers?

Sue: Chronicle of Higher Ed publishes what students are reading. I took those, eliminated political books, and bought those. Also, required reading for first years and community read, and some classics. No academic titles. Buy in e-readers in packs of six; Adobe Digital Edition lets you use the license six times for one account.

From the audience: Do you buy the same titles in print?

Sue: No. E-readers circ for seven days and can be renewed if there are no holds. Readers are in catalog, with named of device as title and loaded works in notes field. E-readers are our sexy right now; why not bring them in?

Amy: Remember when we started putting PCs in public libraries, and some librarians were like, we don’t do that? Now that’s one of our mainstays.

Sue: We don’t allow downloading of new titles. Device is connected to your credit card, so you can hook it to a disposable credit card to get around that. Duke University will take requests and download title as you are checking out device. They also do full OCLC cataloging records.

Question: Is checking out Kindles allowed?

Sue: No one has been reprimanded. 🙂 Overdrive has been trying to come up with a certified e-reader for library use that accounts for multiple users. When that comes out, it will probably become the device of choice for public libraries.


Sue: Has anyone charged their mind about e-readers?

From the audience: Should have one just to stay informed, as a librarian.

Amy: The e-ink likely matters more to people older than college students, whose young eyes don’t care. Which is another good reason to let people try them out.

From the audience: I prefer the backlit Nook Color, because I can adjust colors to what is easy on my eyes.

From the audience: Deep readers vs. people who like the hyperlink experience–even among adopters of e-readers, this is a strong divide.

Sue: Quote: “I don’t want my book to tell me I have email.” Quote: “After the 3rd-graders played with the enhanced books on the iPad, they wanted to keep reading.”

From the audience: Do you see publishers releasing enhanced and regular versions of books?

Amy: Some children’s books are. Textbooks could be.

From the audience: Can you choose your dictionary on an ebook?

Sue: Usually come with three or four. You can also buy one and make it your default.

From the audience: Do you see stacks of e-books being handed out in classrooms?

Sue: Already happening!

Amy: One-to-one is the language; one device per student.

From the audience: How do you get the content on every device?

Sue: Power of six! You get six devices per account, and there’s no magic button yet to sync them all up.

From the audience: Vinyl records come with a digital copy; maybe that’s the future of print books.

Sue: Many libraries buy this way from publishers, in bundles.

Amy: Backing up, what do we want these e-books to do? Cater to current users or bring in new ones?

From the audience: I read a lot more, in spare moments. I’m a reader getting more.

Sue: Several times, people have mentioned reading in small bites. Daily Lit sends out a little bit of a book every day for people like you.

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