Libraries survive the e-book era
Wed, 30 Jan 2013 9:14a.m.
By Tennessee Mansford
The increasing popularity of electronic reading devices, or e-readers, has come at the expense of the humble book. Sales have fallen dramatically.
So amidst this digital revolution, how are our public libraries making sure they stay relevant?
Some would say there's nothing like the feel of a paperback, but traditional books can't compete with the speed, convenience and cost of a book delivered to you wirelessly within seconds of being ordered.
"There's something quite sad about the book not being where you are at the time you want it, at home," says Greg Morgan, Auckland Libraries service development manager.
"The increase in e-materials is huge. If you look at the number of e-downloads in November 2011 against November 2010, the increase is over 150 percent, so it's really on the rise."
In response, public libraries are now transforming themselves in order to stay relevant in the digital age. In the US, they're planning the world's first book-less library. Inside Bibliotech, there will be no rows of books – instead it will look like the interior of an Apple store.
Here in New Zealand, nearly three-quarters of all public libraries now offer digital lending services. Instead of making a trip to the library, members can find and borrow their desired book online.
Once the lending period is over, your book is automatically 'returned' from your tablet or e-book, which means no overdue fines.
The service is proving popular, with the demand for Auckland Library's digital lending service increasing by more than 160 percent between 2011 and 2012.
But while the demand is huge, it seems supply is a problem for those using one of the world's most popular e-readers. Kindle owners aren't able to access any of the country's library services.
Amazon responded with a statement saying, "Public library books for Kindle are currently only available for libraries in the US that offer digital services from digital distributer Overdrive."
But New Zealand public libraries are in fact partnered with Overdrive, and several of the world's largest publishing companies also don't allow libraries access to their books.
And because there are no international or national fair use laws regarding digital books, it's publishers and companies like Amazon who decide what can be lent.
So until it becomes easier for libraries to lend a wide range of e-books physical libraries and their shelves of paperbacks will still have a place in our digital world.
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31/01/2013 1:43:26 p.m.
Tim Gordon wrote:
While I can see how it might seem that way Bruce, but I think it is all to simplistic in this case to blame libraries.
The idea of a digital paper society has been a long time coming; think the photograph of Bill Gates sitting atop large stacks of paper holding a compact disc, or Microsoft's checkered history of tablet computing and reader software. Libraries have been well aware of this and have for some years been making progress, you only have to look at academic publishing (which has its own problems) to see how the digital nature of publications have changed the roles of the library and how patrons use them.
Contarary to what you say, I think it's more likely that the publishing industry and various digital players looked closely at how the digital music revolution played out (a luxury the music industry didn't have) and engineered their distribution models to maximize profits for both their traditional and newly developed digital distrubution strategies.
As was mentioned in this news item, it's clear that publishers and distributors are working in a way that makes it difficult for libraries to fully participate in the provision of quality digital publishing. You only have to look at the HarperCollins decision to limit checkouts of digital books to only 26 times (apparently the average life expectancy for a book on a shelf and despite the eBook having none of the physical limitations) to see that there is more to play here than libraries being simply not in the 'real world'.
The publishing industry is complex--probably more so than its music counterpart--and I don't think it's actually that hard to work that financial gain seems to be an incredibly strong factor in the current state of digital publishing.
30/01/2013 11:07:50 a.m.
Bruce Alpine wrote:
The traditional libraries and publishers (with an empathise on the word, Traditional) missed an opportunity a few years ago, much the same as a mistake the music industry made during the 90s of refusing to have any foresight towards the modern electronic age regarding the easy transfer of music files over the Internet. That was until Apple created the first iTunes stores, allowing the music industry a viable alternative to downloading music legally. It seems the traditional Libraries lacked the same foresight regarding books. Unfortunately, it's takes some time for these "Traditional" industries to modernise with the times. When I published my books, A History Of Life On Earth, Distinctly Human, An Evolutionary Journey and Before The Big Bang, I had no intention in having them published traditionally as, it was clear the traditional libraries and publishing industry were mindlessly plodding along without realising what is actually happening in the Real world. It is great to see that at least the Libraries in NZ are finally realising the future of books.
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