Peter Brantley TampaInternet Archive FloridaThe Presidio 11.2011
Let’s explore out some of the ramificationsfor libraries of the ebook market explosion.
Let’s assume ebook market penetrationcontinues to grow rather rapidly.
In fact, let’s assume that the ebook marketis around an 80+ percent market in <= 5 yrs.(for trade at least)- via Mike Shatzkin, Idea Logical Co.
Providing access to ebooks requires aplatform based service with an attractivecatalog and technical infrastructure.(‘Cuz you don’t put ebooks on shelves).
Ebook platforms aggregate user data,intentionality, preferences, and socialinformation.(Nothing inherently evil about this; it comeswith the territory).
Overdrive is current de facto national digitallibrary platform for public libraries. 3M andothers might present effective competition.
Overdrive occupies a sweet spot, but itrequires sophisticated contract licensing andnegotiation skills, and well-developedengineering capacity.
Overdrive does not function solely as theintermediary between the library and thepublisher. They are also the intermediarybetween a reading system retailer and thepublisher.
In a manner, they sell rental access to ebooksto nook and Kobo users, via libraries. It’s justthat the libraries pick up the rental fees.
In other words, they are in acting as adistributor of books, just like Ingram.(In fact, in book markets, they operateexactly like Ingram.)
Overdrive’s ability to support EPUB, an openstandard for digital book packaging, reducesits overhead costs and permits it to serve awide number of users and reading systems.
When Overdrive provides access to EPUB-format ebooks with vanilla Adobe ACS DRM,they can gather usage data across consumerswith different reading systems.
This is why Overdrive has been active in thedigital book standards community.With an open standard, they can host booksin a single format to serve multiple channels:B&N nook, Kobo, and other reading systems.
But not everyone uses the open standard,EPUB. Amazon uses its own Kindle format.
In Overdrive’s new agreement with Amazon,it is not permitted to distribute Kindle files;it’s role is deprecated to a “network switch”on catalog metadata.
Amazon provides Kindle ebooks direct to thelibrary user, via the user’s Amazon account.
The privileging of Amazon – retaining itsproprietary ebook platform and the dataaggregation it generates – is prophetic.
Overdrive, 3M, and similar vendors are notunique in having a massive catalog of bookswith a technical infrastructure capable ofserving public libraries.
Both Amazon and Google have massive anddeep catalogs in digital books, internationalin scope. (Both companies are establishingebook stores in other countries).
Google’s catalog encompasses long historicalperiod; Amazon’s includes exclusive offeringsfrom current authors.
In October 2011, Pearson, a very prominentpublisher, announced a partnership withGoogle that provides access to a free LMSbundled with Google Apps for Education.
It is easy to imagine a library systems vendor(III, Sirsi, Ex Libris) partnering with Google toprovide library subscription services to GBS.
(Library subscription was one of the proposedcommercial models in the failed Google BookSearch settlement proposals).
ILS vendors could integrate GBS title accessinto library catalog discovery interfaces viaAPIs. (They do this with the bibliographicAPIs for HathiTrust and IA’s Open Library.)
Amazon has already partnered with a librarysystems vendor (that would be Overdrive).But they now also offer renting of titles, orthe lending of titles on a subscription basis,direct to consumer.
Announced 04/11/2011, Amazon Primecustomers will get “free” borrowing forebooks (i.e., free rental) through theirsubscription, just like they get access tostreaming movies.
It is not mad for libraries to “write off” ebooksand focus on services that will be attractive inthe future.
Longer term trends suggest this. Anincreasing number of things that today wecall “ebooks” will turn into enhancedwebsites.
“As EPUB evolves as a format it seems clear that itwould allow for more and more interactivity, moreand more functionality, and still work within a broadrange of web browsers and/or web-based rendersand readers.”- Brian Sandusky, Kaplan Publishing,2011 IDPF Board candidate statement.
You see it everywhere. Not just in Wikipediaand cookbooks, travel guides, music scores,building codes, and most legal information.
The Push Pop Press*’ Our Choice by Al Gore Jris the most beautifully designed mixed mediaoffering to date.(*now owned by Facebook, interestingly.)
In other words, the market for content willitself diminish the role and importance ofbooks for libraries.
This suggests that direct (e)book provisioningby libraries, in all forms, will diminish over thelong run – even as we see circulation increasetoday.