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David Lee King

Ebooks and Econtent Brainstorming in Montana



ebook workshop in MontanaMichael Porter and I recently gave a 3-hour workshop on the econtent landscape at the Montana State Library Fall Workshop. During the workshop, we divided participants into groups, and asked them to do some brainstorming on three questions.

I posted the whole list of responses over at the Library Renewal blog (I’m a board member for Library Renewal), but I’m going to highlight a few responses here:

1. What do you want with ebooks?

  • Pricing: We want ebooks for a fair price, and we want to own what we buy.
  • Content: We want the popular stuff that we currently can’t get! We also want to help our customers create their own content.
  • Access issues: We want a “one copy/multiple users” model – not the old “one ebook/one patron” model.
  • Interface: We want an easy-to-use interface and standard, open ebook reader formats, so we can read all ebook file formats on any device. It should work with social tools like Facebook or Twitter, so we can share bookmarks and notes socially.
  • Marketing: We want customers to actually know we have ebooks!

DLK’s commentary: Honestly, we aren’t asking for much, and it’s all do-able. For example – Hachette’s recent price hike? At least they didn’t cut access. In the business world, that means they want to play – now, we just need to settle on a fair price. Now we just need Hachette’s frontlist titles, and we need Penguin, MacMillan, and Simon & Schuster to play along, too. Interface stuff – the fairly standard ePub format is out there … we just need Amazon to add it to the Kindle.

Marketing – that’s 100% us, guys. Want your customers to know you have ebooks? You HAVE TO TELL THEM. If Pew Internet is reporting that 58% of our library card holders don’t know if we have ebooks, then we either didn’t tell them, or we made a poor attempt at telling them. Let’s get this one right, ok?

2. What is realistic for your organization?

  • Consortiums: Start something with the state, set them up regionally. Partner with other organizations, like Califa.
  • Marketing: Share what’s happening in the ebook world with Montana citizens.
  • Education: Help people with ebook reader devices, and teach leaders higher-up why funding for econtent is necessary.
  • DIY: Build our own platform, and go directly to publishers and authors for the access.
  • Pricing: Start working with publishers to get ebooks costing the same price as print books.

DLK’s Commentary: Lots of good ideas here. One good way to tackle pricing, especially for all the small, rural libraries in Montana, is via some type of consortium pricing model. And again, we can do something about marketing and about education. These are all definitely very do-able and realistic.

3. What can you do to make what’s realistic actually happen?

  • Find a Leader: Set up a central clearinghouse or coordinator. State Library could take the lead on this.
  • Government: Talk to local representatives and get them involved. Make the ebook case at the local, regional, and state levels. Make sure that local ALA Council reps actually represent what Montana wants to do.
  • Funding: Find it! Change priorities at a local level so there’s money in the library budget.
  • Education: Educate public and staff about the issues, formats, and potential problems. Confirm the importance of econtent at the local level.
  • Adaptability: Enhance what the local library does. Start conversations with local publishers.

DLK’s Commentary: I love the idea of getting  local and state reps educated and involved in our current econtent access and funding issues. We might not be able to do much nationally, but I wonder if we could start something locally or statewide, and then get that moved up to a national level?

Also, working locally with small, local publishers, or even authors, is a great way to start, too.

What’s missing here?

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Heather

    One whole category missing from your session. “What do the patrons want from ebooks?” It isn’t about us ultimately and it may very well be that many if not most of our patrons don’t really give a rip if we own our own content. Which I am not actually taking as a position (just to be clear) but I think we have to stop speaking for ourselves and start finding out what our patrons want!

  • Kathryn

    I have wondered about a hybrid model where libraries would pay a fee per download (50 cents to 1 dollar) up to a buying point (say $80) at which point they will permanently own the titles. During the period of time where the publisher is being paid per download the title would be offered one to many but once the library owns the title it would revert to a 1 to 1 model. If there is still high demand the library could buy a second copy after going through the initial pay to buy process again. The plus side for libraries is having always available copies of the hot new materials and they end up with a self-selecting permanent collection of the most popular stuff plus a wide range of titles available at a charge per download. To me this process would benefit publishers too because many more people would use ebook services but they would still be only allowed a 2 or 3 week check out and so many purchase a title they start on their own. There would have to be a limit set to protect library budgets such as only 5 downloads per card a month at which point perhaps card holders could pay the dollar download themselves or have an option to buy.