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Ebooks and Libraries

Amy Adams

Amy AdamsJun 06, 2012 04:36 PM

  • 1.  Ebooks and Libraries

    Posted May 26, 2012 04:54 PM

    Hello. I am Alan Inouye, director of ALA’s Office for Information Technology Policy (OITP), based in Washington, D.C.  During this year’s Virtual Membership Meeting, we will be discussing issues identified in an all-member survey as important to libraries and the profession. I’d like to begin the discussion on “Ebooks and Libraries.” What are the three most important or urgent challenges you face in providing ebook services in your library? What are you and other librarians doing to address these challenges? Which challenges would benefit most from action at the collective level (by ALA, a consortium, or other entity with broad reach)?

  • 2.  RE: Ebooks and Libraries

    Posted May 27, 2012 04:50 PM

    What we are doing in Spring Branch ISD is using Ebooks to level the field for all students in our district.  By having the district obtain a district shelf of Ebooks all students and staff have access to them.  This also means they need access to devices 24/7.  We provide devices for student use. 

  • 3.  RE: Ebooks and Libraries

    Posted May 29, 2012 06:23 AM


    That is great and similar to what we are doing here in Plano, but our large concern are those students that DON'T have internet at home.  The digital divide is still alive and well.

    Providing these resources and tools for students at school, or community center, or public library is great, but we are often still missing those that need them the most.

    We have Tumblebooks and a few non fiction titles, but are having difficulty moving forward with more Fiction due to the digital divide.


  • 4.  RE: Ebooks and Libraries

    Posted May 29, 2012 07:07 AM

    Thank you for asking the rarely asked but most relevant question in any forum like this: Which challenges would most benefit from action at the collective level? I have no answer because I do not feel very challenged by offering ebooks, but I appreciate seeing someone asking the right questions!

    Gary Fitsimmons, PhD
    Director of Library Services
    Bryan College

  • 5.  RE: Ebooks and Libraries

    Posted May 29, 2012 09:33 AM

    Hi Alan,

    Good questions, all. Let me give a little feedback from a mid-sized university library.

    In my opinion, the three most important challenges we face at my location include awareness of content, awareness of access procedure, and simultaneous accessibility. To counter the awareness of content/access, another librarian and I are completing a LibGuide that we can use to promote awareness during instruction sessions, presentations, reference situations, and drop in to the online LMS environment.

    Regarding the simultaneous access licenses, I could not say for certain what we are doing other than hoping vendors offer better packages/prices. Users rarely understand the reasoning behind limited online licenses - they assume that since it is electronic all online (approved) users should be able to access it at the same time. Imposing a physical print limitation on an electronic item does seem a bit archaic. My "two cents" regarding collective level efforts would focus on this issue: improving simultaneous user license options from vendors.

    Hope this helps!

    Angela Colmenares
    Instruction Librarian/Assistant Professor
    Sam Houston State University


  • 6.  RE: Ebooks and Libraries

    Posted May 29, 2012 10:25 AM

    The challenges I face regarding eBooks are:

    1. The digital divide...we chech out devices to students and Hot Spots which connect them to the Internet if they do not have access at home.  Because we live in Houston we have access to many towers.  We are very lucky here.

    2. Multiple use model...  K-12 schools need for multiple users to access the same eBook at the same time...  One to many model and vendors are now changing how they sell their ebooks at anytime throughout the year.  

    3. Technology... eBooks need to be read on any type of device which means PC, Mac, iPad, iPhone, Android, etc    We need to appeal to all patrons, which means we need our ebooks to be housed one one platform where everyone can access them.  



  • 7.  RE: Ebooks and Libraries

    Posted May 29, 2012 12:32 PM

    Angela, we're having the simultaneous access problem as well. We currently use Overdrive for our eBook offerings, and only a small percentage of the materials in our e-collection are "always available." It's such a frustrating thing for our customers. We're about to start offering three new eBook platforms, two of which offer simultaneous access.

    I think that this is an issue that should be addressed on a collective level, because it seems to be something that's happening all over the country, and in academic and public libraries alike.

    Beth Medley
    Youth Services Librarian
    Scottsdale Public Library

  • 8.  RE: Ebooks and Libraries

    Posted May 29, 2012 02:23 PM

    Please tell us more about the new eBook platforms you will be adding and which offer simultaneous access.


  • 9.  RE: Ebooks and Libraries

    Posted May 29, 2012 04:20 PM

    We're adding Blio (Axis 360), which is the standard "one copy to one user" model. We're also adding One-Click Digital (Recorded Books) which allows simultaneous access, and Freading. I know less about Freading than I do about the others, but it's the same parent company as Freegal, so I'm assuming simultaneous access will be allowed. Freading allows us to give our users a certain number of "tokens" per week, which they can then spend on ebooks. Newest books require 4 tokens, then after a while they drop to 2 tokens, then 1.

    I'm just hoping that adding so many new platforms so close together won't cause landslides of confusion.

    Beth Medley
    Youth Services Librarian
    Scottsdale Public Library

  • 10.  RE: Ebooks and Libraries

    Posted May 30, 2012 10:47 AM

    We also have OneClick Digital and Freading available through our state-wide consortium. The 3M Cloud product is coming.

  • 11.  RE: Ebooks and Libraries

    Posted Jun 05, 2012 09:10 PM

    I want to agree with previous comments about schools needing multiple access to single titles. The reality of how teachers use some titles reveals entire grade levels or teams needing simultaneous access. Some ebook agreements are difficult to read and decipher. Having a checklist of things to consider when purchasing would help greatly. With the rise of personal devices and netbooks or tablets in schools, having the librarian in a visible leadership role with ebooks helps remind the entire faculty and student body why school libraries are essential to learning. 

  • 12.  RE: Ebooks and Libraries

    Posted Jun 06, 2012 06:29 AM

    I've blogged about this from different angles, but to condense it:

    * Sheer availability: publishers must make titles available for library lending. Holdouts from the major publishers create huge vacuums for access to ebooks. Practitioners understand this as a priority better than other stakeholders. It really doesn't matter if you offer a huge backfile of 19th century material if libraries can't buy or license Hunger Games for their users.

    * Platform neutrality: books are often only available on unique platforms. Sometimes we can get around that through third-party discovery (for example, WorldCat Local "unites" our ebooks), but once users click on links they are plunged into proprietary software.

    * Device neutrality: this isn't simply about the technical obstacles. Look at the whole business with Overdrive and Kindles. I think it's technologically naive to say ebooks should be available on every possible platform, but definitely the obstacles shouldn't be unwillingness to work with partners. I notice Overdrive is coming out with a browser-based reader--interesting development.

    * Accessibility: some large organization can certainly use its clout in this area to lean on device manufacturers and to warn libraries about accessibility limitations for devices they are considering to purchase. But it can't be an ALA committee that spends three years deliberating the issue and then comes out with a lukewarm report -- devices emerge quickly into the spotlight and need immediate analysis. Partnering with organizations such as NFB could be useful.

    * Gov docs: this is a great time to get them all online. DPLA may tackle this one, I think.

    * I would add interlibrary borrowing and lending (aka ILL), one of the bulwarks of library services for the past century, but I fear that's a done deal. Libraries that have been in the ebook space for a long time (academics, primarily) are (unfortunately) resigned to the idea that only last-century "returnables" can be shared. Nobody wandered into this space until the public libraries began doing ebooks in a serious way. Kind of interesting that academics rolled over so early on this issue and with very little noise.

    Basically, because nobody's stopping them, publishers have used new technology to shred fair use to near-death. That big message needs to be drilled home.

  • 13.  RE: Ebooks and Libraries

    Posted Jun 06, 2012 09:32 AM

    I think part of the problem of the whole "e-book" debacle is that we're not all starting from the same definition. For example, in the legal world, we have had e-books for decades on platforms such as Westlaw and Lexis-Nexis. That is, we have "e-books" if you're talking about legal treatises or multi-volume loose-leaf services (which in print are sometimes cataloged as "monographs" or "continually updated resources"). If we limit "e-books" to popular titles that we would buy for our Kindle or Nook...then, sure...we don't have access to those titles. But, for the most part, our library wouldn't buy those titles anyway.

    I agree with some of the other posters that access to e-books is still a problem. Users in my library (a government agency) may already know how to "read on the screen" or use "advanced" features of e-reading software because they use e-journals and information that is contained in various databases already. But that doesn't mean that these e-books that they use are portable or accessible or able to be easily shared (in a fair use sort of way) with others. They are (for the most part) tethered to a continuous online connection on some piece of equipment. That means that there are technical, geographical, economic, and social considerations that normally wouldn't factor into "reading a book".

    Cost is, of course, another issue. I haven't seen a really good cost-benefit analysis of e-books vs. traditional print in various types of libraries. It seems almost as if every e-book publisher has a different pricing model. For print, we buy the container once and pay for the space to store the book & the staff to circulate and dust it off every now and then. For e-books, though, we never seem to really own the container, and we wind-up "leasing" the title & pay for it continuously. It turns out that we may (or may not) pay for: a title (or a group of titles) + one user (or a group of users) + "continuous access" (meaning we can store the e-book on vendor server & access for a set period of time) + "maintenance" (meaning the e-book may be accessible on future platforms & devices) + internet/network access (or at least some way to get the e-book from the vendor to the device) + IT staff/support + hardware (reading devices).

    Anyway, those are my thoughts on the issue.

    Holly Lakatos
    Law Librarian
    Robert K. Puglia Library
    California Court of Appeal, Third Appellate District
    Sacramento, CA

  • 14.  RE: Ebooks and Libraries

    Posted Jun 06, 2012 03:53 PM

    One of topics briefly mentioned in the Virtual Meeting concerned accessibilty to the vision impaired or (VIP) as I like to call them.  Many libraries are faced with tough decisions when forking over a lot of money for screen reading and magnification software. These highend applications are too sophisticated for patrons who just want to come to the library, get on the computer, do email, facebook, read a book or shop.

    I've been working on a project that addresses these issues and satisfies the needs of the libraries and the VIP.

    I've instituted a pilot program for 10 libraries to participate in.  I am available to discuss this work.  For more information, please visit: or contact me


  • 15.  RE: Ebooks and Libraries

    Posted Jun 06, 2012 04:36 PM