Today I would like to take you on a journey that goes back nearly 30 years, from when ebooks were first born to where they are today! So put on you’re your seatbelts, sit back, and enjoy the ride!
Many people referred to him as &quot;that crazy guy who wants to put Shakespeare in a computer&quot;
In 1971 an American student by the name of Michael Hart was given an account on the University of Illinois Computer Mainframe - Grateful for all this time he had been given, he decided he needed to do something worthwhile in return for all this computer time He happened to have a copy of the US Declaration of Independence to hand and decided to type it, word for word, into the computer This got him really excited and he decided to found Project Gutenberg, a project to create electronic versions of literary works and distribute them world wide He spent all his time keying in entire books, including The Bible, all of Shakespeare as well as Alice in Wonderland These were all books that were out of copyright - in other words they had fallen into the public domain as their copyright had fallen away
It took Michael 17 years of hard slog to input 313 books. However in 1998 he linked up with the University of Illionos PC User Group and started publicising his project Suddenly he had scores of volunteers and by the end of 1998 1600 books had been keyed in! Initially these books were sent out in the post of stiffies (2 books per stiffy) and later on CD With the advent of the internet, these same books were freely available to the world online Project Gutenberg today has over 10 000 volunteers with projects running worldwide where volunteers are uploading content produced in their own countries. Michael Hart is considered to be the true inventor of ebooks These books were initially referred to as E-texts and later became known as ebooks
The Online Books Page is a list of free ebooks available across the web Mark Ockerbloom, another American student, founded the Online Books Page which was a web version of some of Project Gutenberg's resources as well as links to other books and literature that was freely available on the web for reading but hosted by other people and groups. By 1998 there were 7000 titles indexed and they could all be searched by title, author or subject and spanned diverse areas such as books, media, art and video, and progressed at a later stage to include magazines, serials, newspapers and published journals By 2008, 10 years later, there were 30 000 ebooks indexed
Electronic versions of magazines and newspapers were made available online. By 1997 more than 3600 newspapers were being published online worldwide with about 43% being published outside of the USA South Africa was considered a wired country for newspapers with 53 online newspapers in 1997 with Europe in the lead with 728 online newspaper sites The Internet was, more and more, becoming a vast online encyclopedia of information which the search engines were sorting for us by data, author, title or subject
In the very beginning, the Internet was almost 100% English - it started in the USA and then spread across the world and by the late 1990s 15% of the Internet was in a language other than English More and more people in the USA started realising that even though English would remain the main language for most types of EXCHANGES, people preferred to read in their own language. In the same token, non-English speaking countries started realising the importance of translating their web sites into English More and more organisations started developing their web sites in multiple languages to reach a wider audience and attract more customers. According to the statistics of Global Reach, by 2004, non-English speaking Internet users made up 64% of Internet users
Wikipedia has grown into the largest reference on the Internet. It is run purely on donations with no advertising It is a collaboration of people from all over the world who write under pseudonyms Its web site is a wiki which means that basically anyone can edit, correct and improve the content throughout the encyclopedia By 2007 Wikipedia had 7 million articles spanning 192 languages - 1.8 million of these articles were in English
In 2004 Google launched Google Print which was a partnership with publishers to make excerpts of their books available online, with links to place orders for these books with various nominated online bookstores. This all came to a grinding halt in 2005 when Google was filed with various lawsuits from some associations of authors and publishers claiming copyright infringement In 2006 Google started it all up again under a new name, Google Books. Rumour had it that Google was scanning up to 3000 books a day from numerous university libraries that they had partnered with.
Looking at Project Gutenberg and having cultural works freely available to all, for those of you who don’t know (in other words, those of you who are not librarians!), this is how copyright works: Books published before 1923 were freely available without copyright Books published between 1923 and 1977 could not enter the public domain for 75 years - in other words only in 2019 Books published from 1978 onwards could only enter the public domain 95 years after the date of publication - in other words, only in 2074 This basically means that there is a very limited number of books that can freely be published in the public domain - a sad fact when looking at a largely illiterate world population and a very limited lack of free resources available.
No need for introductions here, Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon.com did some serious research and came to the conclusion that books, CDs, videos, computer software and computer hardware were the most popular items that could be sold online. Books however came out tops due to the sheer number of books available as well as the size of the market they served. And so Amazon was founded. Starting with a complement of 10 staff members and a catalogue of 3 million books, The group had grown to 7500 employees in the year 2000 with 28 million items in their catalogue and as many clients world wide. By 2005 they had 9000 employees and over 41 million clients world wide
In their quest to take over the world of e-commerce, they opened offices in the UK, Germany, France, Japan, China and Canada Internet users could search for books using various search criteria and even read sample chapters and reader reviews before purchasing online They key focus - again - was that everthing was EASY! This is what people were looking for - buying online was just as convenient as driving to the shops, especially when the shopper knew exactly what they were looking for. Everything was discounted and Amazon.com became the model for most online stores world wide and set the trend for an entirely new way of shopping in the future
By 2003 more and more books were being published in both physical and electronic form, starting with bestsellers Ebooks were published across a variety of platforms such as Adobe Acrobat, with Open eBook becoming a standard for ebooks Suddenly online bookstores selling only ebooks were springing up everywhere There was also the establishment of companies called aggregators - what they did at the time was convince publishers that their books needed to be published in print as well as electronically - i.e. print and digital. and these aggregators would then obtain the rights to sell ebooks on to this growing market Ebooks were produced in a variety of different formats so that they could be read on any electronic device, be it a computer, a laptop, a PDA, a mobile phone or an e-reading device such as the Kindle or the Sony E-reader (any many others) Ebooks were increasingly being supported due to their ability to locate chains of text much faster than leafing through an entire publication to find the text you are looking for.
At the same time, in the year 2000, Microsoft launched its Microsoft Reader so that people could read books on their newly launched PDA as well as on the Pocket PC Microsoft partnered with some of the major online bookstores in the USA (Amazon and Barnes and Noble) so that they could offer ebooks to their customers in Microsoft Reader format In addition to this, Mobipocket launched their reader which could be used to read books on almost every PDA and later, in 2002, on any computer. Mobipocket soon became the global standard for ebooks on mobile devices
In the early 2000s most people were reading ebooks on their PDAs, cell phones and smartphones using the various types of e-reading software that was available at the time Fortunately e-readers have improved over time, thanks to advances in technology! But some people were slightly dubious about e-readers when comparing them to the versatility of the regular book For example, Peter Raggett, head of the Central Library at the OECD, wrote &quot;I also hope that electronic books will be waterproof so that I can continue reading in the bath&quot; Or Steven Krauwer, the coordinator of ELSNET, who wrote that &quot;ebooks stil had a long way to go before reading from a screen feels as comfortable as reading a book&quot;
Reading on a Kindle is similar to reading a book. You hold it like a book. You flip the pages like a book. And you do it all with your hands — just like a book. The Kindle has a lot of cool features, such as previews of upcoming books. Nothing like a bit of marketing on the side to convince you to download ANOTHER book! Buying books suddenly becomes a lot more impulsive because you can do it on the go. The Kindle, which operates purely for books and other media such as newspapers has over 450 000 free and paid books
Then of course there is this whole new generation of what is referred to as Tablets. And no, it's not those little things that we swallow every morning! Tablets are fantastic, in fact I have an Ipad on my Christmas wish list. Tablets offer a whole new multimedia experience - including web browsing and email. Added to this is the ability to watch movies and read ebooks. The tablets are making the whole media experience extremely interactive without being limited to using one particular device for one particular function. One of the cool features of the iPad which sets it apart from most other e-readers on the market, is that everything is displayed in full colour Another cool feature is that you can choose how you want to read your book: You can view one page at a time by turning the iPad to its portrait orientation, or, turn it on its side and you can read two pages at once. Another great feature is the function that allows you to touch and hold any word to look it up in the built-in dictionary or Wikipedia, or to search for that particular word throughout the book and even on the web. If your sight is deteriorating and your arms have either become too long or too short, the iPad allows you to change the text size or the font to improve your reading experience. iBooks also works with VoiceOver, the screen reader in iPad, which will read the page to you. The Ipad offers books for free, very similar to the free music they offer on Itunes - there are about 30 000 free titles, all courtesy of Project Gutenberg, with about 60 000 books in total available
In the first terminator movie, Arnold Schwarzenegger tried to extinguish all human life. In 2009, as governor of California, The Terminator decided that he would be able to free up Dollars by getting rid of expensive textbooks in schools and purchasing cheaper, digital versions of these textbooks, giving educators the power to do more with fewer Dollars from the government – taxpayer’s money of course. According to Schwarzenegger, in his own words, &quot;Basically kids are feeling as comfortable with their electronic devices as I was with my pencils and crayons. Textbooks are outdated, in my opinion,“ &quot;For so many years, we've been trying to teach the kids exactly the same way.“ Holding up four large books he joked: &quot;I can use these for the curls,&quot; in a nod to his bodybuilding days before he became one of Hollywood's biggest stars. He ran some tests in early 2010 at the University of Wisconsin for one of their history courses using the Kindle DX, but unfortunately he received anything but a thumbs up from the students. Most students got frustrated within the first couple of weeks and opted to buy the printed books instead. Typical were these observations by some students who “complained they couldn’t scribble notes in the margins, easily highlight passages or fully appreciate colour charts and graphics,” wrote Seattle Times business reporter Amy Martinez. One graduate student commented that “You don’t read textbooks in the same linear way as a novel. You have to flip back and forth between pages, and the Kindle is too slow for that. Also, the bookmarking function is buggy.” The plan was to launch this scheme in August this year, but on doing some digging around on the Internet I was not able to find any concrete evidence of this scheme having been launched. The general consensus from teachers at the schools was that the devices were expensive, most costing in the region of $300, and it would also drain resources by having to train students and teachers on how to use the materials properly. Many teachers also said that out of an average class of 30 students, only 10, or less had a computer or Internet access at home, which would make it difficult for students to use the same materials at home.
Although the current market for digital textbooks is extremely small, especially in South Africa, the trend is expected to grow in the future. In the USA, digital textbook sales account for only 0.5% of the overall textbook market The growth however has been reported to have increased by up to 100% year on year since 2008, which shows a steady move towards purchasing digital textbooks. Digital textbooks in the USA are generally selling for half the price of print textbooks - for example a book published by Pearson - Customer Equity Management - sells for $73.99 in book format but the ebook sells on Coursesmart.com for $36.00 In South Africa we seem to be somewhat immune from the hugely inflated textbook prices that students in the USA have to pay, with special pricing being adapted for our market on certain titles. For example, another book published by Pearson entitled Performance Management sells to the US market for $95 whereas a lower price edition has been made available for $22. The e-book is priced at $47
The first official library web site was created by the Helsinki City Library in Finland in 1994, but by 1998 most libraries had created web sites as virtual windows for their patrons. Patrons were able to browse the library's print collection, and they would often be able to access the full digital text of a literary work without having to go and take the book off the library shelf. This went a long way in preserving the physical book which was now only taken off the shelf when it was absolutely needed
More libraries start giving more priority to expanding their ebook collections But what do libraries REALLY think about eBooks? Are we moving towards the empty library?
Personally I feel that where e-books are really going to add value is in the academic and research market. Where I am not experienced in the use of each and every ebook platform out there, we recently became a distributor of the Ebrary product range in South Africa and have received extensive training on their platform. I can understand why students, researchers and librarians alike would find this model so useful. For example Ebrary offers usage reports where a librarian is able to track documents viewed pages viewed, pages copied, pages printed per day, month or day of the week. It's a sure fire way of knowing exactly how much of what they are purchasing for the library is actually being used. Apart from the highlighting and note taking facilities, the Ebrary platform allows you to transform text into hyperlinks to other online resources, including your OPAC. This is a great feature in terms of extending the use of your ebook collection into the rest of your collection. When text is copied and pasted into Word, HTML or email applications, automatic citations are created that include hyperlinks back to the document source. Books, highlights and notes can be shared with other researchers There is another cool feature which allows you to upload documents, papers and theses from your library's repository onto the platform - a great way of quickly and cost-effectively creating dynamic archives from your content. Another great feature for libraries with limited storage space (and I mean this in the hardware sense) is that the Ebrary model is all online which means that the use of their product is not resource intensive . Certain ebook models require the full book to be downloaded which, when you’re talking about thousands of ebooks being purchased at once, would mean that there is an increased infrastructure cost to the library in terms of storage space and the cost of backing everything up. With an online model such as Ebrary’s, patrons simply log on to their institution’s Ebrary page from wherever they are, and provided they have Internet access they have full functionality of all the ebooks listed.
Highwire Press did a survey amongst academic libraries at the end of 2009 on the attitudes of librarians towards eBooks. There were 138 libraries involved from 13 countries, two of these libraries being in South Africa. The survey was conducted using an online survey by Surveymonkey.com
In terms of choosing an ebook vendor, the following points were noted: One of the key factors in determining where an ebook would be purchased from is simplicity - most librarians seem to lack the time or access to teach all the advanced features to their users - Most college students don't even know how to use Google's &quot;Advanced Search&quot; screen! 13 out of the 67 participants who responded to this part of the survey indicated that the relevance and the quality of the content was important 9 of the participants emphasised the availability of relevant titles A cluster focussed on ease of access and use, quick access and response time, as well as searching Others focussed on digital rights management and being able to view and print entire chapters, as well as being able to download them in PDF format. There were several comments that indicated that librarians were concerned with integrating ebooks into their existing print book acquisition and cataloguing systems Many librarians wanted to be able to purchase ebooks through their print book vendors and to be able to pay for the content in the same way. Some librarians had a preference to purchasing ebooks directly from the publishers, while others preferred using aggregators because of the wide range of titles available from many different publishers, even though there were restrictions placed on use. Several participants valued discoverability, including the availability of MARC records as well as the ability to find the digital version if the print version is known
Some of the challenges mentioned by the librarians who participated in this survey when it came to ebooks were the following: Difficulty in reading content on-screen Some models offering limited users at once, which caused problems during exam and assignment time with multiple students wanting access to the same books at once. The cost of multiple licences (on some models) for heavily used books Slow to move from page to page - the print book was often easier when questions needed to be answered quickly A lack of availability by interlibrary loan Connectivity issues for students without Internet access - I have a feeling that this response came from South Africa! Some platforms do not offer text to speech for visually impaired students Production issues - sometimes e-book production lagged behind the production of the physical book
So, why are Ebooks starting to become more popular? For one, ebooks have reporting features which you wouldn't find with physical books, especially the usage stats - Understanding usage will determine whether a book is worth having in your collection or not Dynamic content New material being added all the time Access to a wide range of handpicked material Low distribution costs - for both publishers and users Content can be accessed remotely by multiple users The e-book format has inherent multimedia possibilities: trailers, background and reference materials, interviews, actors reciting the poems the book contains Being able to highlight quotes and passages and easily find them again is a key feature that eBooks have over paper books The ability to create and then easily display archived notes is a big plus for eBooks. Instead of scribbling in small writing in the margins of a paper book, you can type a clear note in your eReader. Look up of words and terms Search - You can search for topics or keywords inside your eBook, or out on the Web. Similar to the word look-up feature, this is something that augments the reading experience
I personally find this new technology fascinating and exciting Whereas it might take the 25+ sector of the world's population a bit longer to adapt to this new technology, there is definitely no going back. I remember a time not that long ago that I swore that a cellphone was completely unnecessary - now I am lost without it. Being able to check email on the fly, catch up on the latest Twitter posts and download content from the Internet from a device I once thought of as a brick and an inconvenience is now anything but that. In the same token, people are still catching on to the idea of books in digital form Where I definitely believe that books will always have their place for the more focussed reader, ebooks are going to quickly move into the space where smaller snippets of information are required in a short period of time. The only hitch is that we may all start to develop, if we haven't already. a bit of ADHD. With all this information at our fingertips, we might find that we'll be reading an ebook one minute, but then clicking to read a related article on a concept or event contained in the book somewhere else. The Kindle fortunately is exempt from this as it does not offer email facilties - although it does have a Kindle app for the Iphone, so there goes that! The physical book grabs all our attention. Digital books allow room for distraction. It's up to us how we use the resources at our disposal.
The Birth of eBooks A short evolution by Phillipa Mitchell Red Pepper Books