The current issue and full text archive of this journal is available at                                                www...
vs 2009). Now at the one-year anniversary of the iPad and the release of iPad2, I think it       E-books: littleis a good ...
BL     proprietary DRM for “their customers” and the e-books for lending will reside on their       servers. If Amazon doe...
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8.e books- little

  1. 1. The current issue and full text archive of this journal is available at THE ESSENTIAL LIBRARIAN24,2 E-books: little use so far James R. Lund122 Red Wing Public Library, Red Wing, Minnesota, USAAccepted May 2011 Abstract Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to encourage caution when considering plans to migrate from physical materials to e-materials. Design/methodology/approach – The author’s argument to encourage caution when considering plans to migrate from physical materials to e-materials is based on published statistics and personal observation. Findings – When considering current usage of e-books in comparison to physical materials, the usage of e-books is statistically insignificant. Originality/value – Offers statistical evidence that e-books will not supplant, now or in the foreseen future, the demand for physical materials. Keywords E-books, iPad, Electronic publishing, Electronic media Paper type Viewpoint Introduction I am a daily reader of e-book blogs. Although a seemingly trivial confession, I find the drama surrounding the e-book alluring and somewhat surprising. Last year at the March 2010 Public Library Association national conference, the topic of e-books attracted no presentations. Self-service, discovery layouts, developing partnerships, and fundraising dominated the sessions. Yet, I recall bumping into one of my colleagues on the exhibitor floor as she was heading to Overdrive’s booth. I commented about downloadable audio books and she quipped, “e-books is what our patrons want, James.” “Really, I thought?” I could not recall one patron asking for e-books. A month later, that changed. When Apple’s iPad took the computing world by storm in April 2010, e-book readers were mostly beholden to Amazon and its proprietary Kindle e-reader. A few libraries were loaning out the reader loaded with e-books purchased at Amazon, but e-books in the library was a periphery service – something to dabble in with no clear direction. In contrast to the ordinary Kindle, consumers found that the stunning beauty of the iPad offered an entirely different reading and computing experience. The pages turned with the drag of a finger and the book lay on the screen more realistically than the E-ink single page view offered by the Kindle. Oh yes, there were weaknesses with the iPad primarily with the weight of the unit and glare from the glass screen, but clearly the iPad was going to be a hit for Apple. Mr Jobs legions of touch screen usersThe Bottom Line: Managing Library were now introduced to e-books and they liked the experience! Overnight, the silenceFinances broke and library patrons began inquiring about e-book availability for their iPad.Vol. 24 No. 2, 2011pp. 122-124 Libraries found themselves scrambling to subscribe to Apple-friendly Overdrive’sq Emerald Group Publishing Limited e-book lending service in an attempt to not be rolled over by the “inevitable” paradigm0888-045XDOI 10.1108/08880451111169179 shift away from paper (Overdrive reported a 200 percent increase in checkouts in 2010
  2. 2. vs 2009). Now at the one-year anniversary of the iPad and the release of iPad2, I think it E-books: littleis a good time to make a few observations on the impact of e-books on public library use so farusage at this juncture.UsageE-books at our smaller public library account for 1 percent of total monthly circulation.Anticipating higher usage at a large affluent metropolitan library system, Hennepin 123County Library, MN reported total circulation for 2010 at 17.5 million with only 132,000downloads of e-books and related content (a disappointing 0.7 percent), and in the April25, 2011 Publishers Weekly they reported March 2011 e-book checkouts of 17,480 for aprojected 1 percent of 2011 circulation. Certainly, e-book collection sizes pale incomparison to that of physical materials, yet the percentage of use surprises me in lightof the hype and hysteria. In the aforementioned Publishers Weekly article lauding theincrease in e-book circulation, Diane Eidelman, administrator for the SuffolkCooperative Library System in New York’s Long Island, tempers her enthusiasm byadmitting that e-books account for only a small fraction of the 14 million totalcirculations for her library system. To proclaim at this juncture that “libraries arescrewed” as Eli Nieburger pronounced at a recent e-books virtual conference is greatlyoverstating the impact of e-books on public library usage and its future viability.Hassel factorThe number one factor, from my experience, that accounts for low library usage is thecomplexity of setting up e-readers to comply with Adobe’s digital rights management(DRM). The simplicity and convenience of the “1-click” buying experience at onlineretailers is currently winning over e-book readers, and the explosive growth of e-booksales. The Association of American Publishers reports a 169 percent increase in 2010. Itmay be that most e-book readers are book buyers, not library users. Yet, two factorsmay change this – agency pricing and Amazon’s forthcoming Kindle library lending.Agency pricingApple may have done library lending a big favor by introducing agency pricing to thee-book marketplace. Agency pricing differs from wholesale pricing in that thepublisher sets the retail price for their books where under the wholesale model thereseller sets the retail price. Amazon’s initial $9.99 price for e-book best sellers lead to apublisher revolt resulting in agency pricing, higher prices, and potentially softer sales.Will higher retail prices compel e-book readers to reconsider the viability of Adobe’sDRM governed library lending?Kindle library lendingBut the real game changer may be once the retailer becomes the lender. In April 2011,Amazon and Overdrive announced an agreement that will allow Kindle customers toborrow books from Overdrive’s subscribing libraries’ collections. Amazon’s Kindledominates the e-reader market and the prospect of Kindle owners having access tolibrary lended e-books is staggering. This development bears close attention. It seemslikely that Amazon, home of the “1-click” buying experience, will not tolerate themiserable Adobe DRM experience or be willing to pay Adobe to use their DRM. Manyin the e-book blogosphere are already convinced that Amazon will use their own
  3. 3. BL proprietary DRM for “their customers” and the e-books for lending will reside on their servers. If Amazon does succeed in streamlining the experience, lending of e-books24,2 may reach its much hyped potential. Conclusion Certainly, e-book lending is here to stay and the service will continue to grow and124 improve. Yet, the current usage does not justify such dire pronouncements as the “library is screwed” or any subsequent draconian actions. At this time, the impact of e-books on library material usage is statistically inconsequential and we in the library community need to wisely manage our obsession with being “relevant” and do what is right by our patrons and continue to buy what they currently use – physical materials. About the author James R. Lund is Director of the Red Wing Public Library in Red Wing, Minnesota. He obtained a MLIS from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, and a MA in Theology from Westminster Seminary, California. He has provided and managed library services in academic, graduate, and public libraries. James R. Lund can be contacted at To purchase reprints of this article please e-mail: Or visit our web site for further details: