Relaunching Ebooks for Libraries website

My library created EbooksforLibraries.com earlier this year as an online petition to the Big Six publishers (read more here, here, and here).

We finished phase one of our project, so we sat back and thought … “hmm. What should we do with ebooksforlibraries next?”

Watch the video in this post to find out the answer to that! And then go visit our first post on the relaunched ebooksforlibraries website (and make sure to subscribe, too).

Our goal is pretty simple. There are a lot of really great blogs and news sites devoted to ebooks and the publishing industry, and we don’t want to try to mimic those. But as we’ve been following those sites, and all the many stories surrounding ebooks and libraries, we realized something: no one’s telling libraries what any of these changes actually MEAN for libraries. No one’s saying “great – big-name publisher #1 says you own your ebook files. What changes tomorrow for our public library because of that announcement? What’s that mean next week, or even next year”

So our goal is to try and answer those practical questions surrounding ebooks for libraries.

Fingers crossed!

Tell your Customers that you have Ebooks

ebookRecently, the Pew Internet & American Life folks released this about ebook lending at public libraries. It’s part of their Libraries, patrons, and E-books report.

Here’s the pull-out quote: “Most Americans are unaware of e-book lending at their local public library.” Then it goes on to the stats: 76% of public libraries lend ebooks … and most Americans really don’t know if their library has them.

I know. There’s a lot in the current ebook/publisher/distributor landscape that you can’t really change at the moment. Yes, yes, together we can and probably will create some ebook changes.

But for now, your single library can’t change the price of an ebook to a fairer price; you can’t get 27 checkouts from HarperCollins books; and you can’t call up Penguin and beg them to sell you ebooks, even though they don’t sell to libraries … and have them cave in and make an exception in your case (well, unless you happen to be a large NYC library, perhaps).

But there is one thing … One Thing! One thing that you CAN do, and we apparently AREN’T DOING IT. And that’s actually telling people that you have ebooks that can be checked out. What’s up with that?

Guys, this is simple stuff … and putting up a link to Overdrive on your website does not count.

What can you do to tell your customers that your library has ebooks? Here are some starter ideas:

  • link on your website
  • big, bold ad on the main page of your site, above the fold
  • a large sign in your library
  • a couple of large signs in your library
  • a billboard on a major road in town
  • mention it in your events newsletter
  • mention it in your enewsletter … with a link
  • mention it in Twitter and Facebook. More than once.
  • Send out a press release
  • Get an interview in the newspaper, at local radio stations, and on the local TV news station.

Then rinse and repeat. You generally have to tell people more than once to make it “stick.”

So – those are some starter ideas. How about you? How have you successfully told your customers that you do, in fact, have ebooks? let’s share, and turn this silly pew statistic – this horribly pathetic Pew statistic – around.

photo by Nikkorsnapper

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?

Consumer Attitudes Toward E-Book Reading #BEA

BEAPresenters – Len Vlahos, Executive Director of BISG

October 2010 – ebook sales exploded.

hardcovers, paperbacks, etc – taking a huge dive at the same time

last year, the ebook curve flattened out quite a lot – it’s more incremental.

But – think of it more like a bowling average – it’s still fluctuating. Adult fiction is huge in ebook formats, other types of books not so much.

“Power buyers” are the ones buying ebooks – they buy 4 books a month, have a good income, and are younger.

What keeps people from buying ebooks?

  • lack of a good eroding device – some
  • difficult downloading process – some
  • biggest – prefer print, and difficult to share with others

He thinks the market is maturing and becoming more predictable

Value of power buyers – 53% of books purchased, 60% of ebooks purchased

trying to compare music to books – he’s missing the point. me here – can’t really compare. There’s one format in music. There are a ton of ebook formats and devices.

Kept mentioning a maturing market – again, he’s only thinking of sales. Format-wise, ebooks is still int he betamax/8-track phase. Me here

Excellent – just said that 57% of people who borrow from the library then go out and buy – same author, same genre. So sharing does drive sales.

Next presenter – Kelly Gallagher at Bowker Market Research

What about the global ebook experience

Comment from second speaker – definitely NOT a mature market – mentioned devices. Thank you!

Gave a global view of ebook sales

Lots of people globally like free content. Go figure!

US – 59% still have no interest in digital content.

In US and other anglo countries, fiction and leisure reading is driving sales. On other countries, like Brazil or India, the professional/business genre is HUGE. They have a growing middle class, etc.

Doing Your Part in the Library Ebook Wars

ebookWhen talking to librarians about ebooks and econtent, I often hear things like this: “we can’t do anything – we’re just a small public library going up against Amazon/Apple/Barnes & Noble/fill in the blank.” Or “we don’t have the right connections” or maybe “we don’t have the resources we’d need to do something.” Etc.

I think we CAN do something. Many somethings. From my library alone, here’s what we’re currently doing:

  • Our Ebooks for Libraries campaign – going for 10,000 signatures on a petition that will be mailed to the big six publishers, asking for books in all formats for libraries.
  • Our community novel project – our community is writing a serialized novel, and we plan to publish the finished novel in print and in ebook formats. This is a small step in teaching our community that they can “do it themselves.”
  • We have two staff members on the Library Renewal board – we’re giving time and expertise to organizations that are trying to make a difference.
  • We have staff members on ALA boards – this one is indirectly related, but it gives us a say at the table when ebook-related issues get raised. And again, it’s giving time and expertise to organizations that have the potential to make a difference for libraries.

Other libraries and organizations that are trying to make a difference?

  • Douglas County Libraries – you might have read about they are purchasing ebooks directly from publishers, and serving them back out to customers? Here’s an article with more info on that.
  • Califa, a California-based library consortium, is doing a similar thing.

And those are just six examples – I’m guessing there are many others out there (and please – if I missed a major one, share the details in the comments!). My point? You CAN do something about it. Whatever “it” is to you and your organization, there are definitely ways to start successfully tackling the issue.

Why tackle this particular issue? Read Jason Griffey’s recent post about Amazon’s Lending Library. Amazon wants your customers to borrow from THEM. For free (well, after the purchase of a Kindle and an Amazon Prime subscription, anyway).

Sound like a challenge to you? Let’s meet that challenge head-on, folks!

ebook pic by nikkorsnapper