Nice Chicago Tribune article about Using the Digital Library

I was recently interviewed by Greg Karp at the Chicago Tribune about digital libraries – ebooks, streaming videos, downloadable music, websites, etc.

Karp’s angle with the story is that a modern library can save people money. Why buy when you can borrow?

It’s an interesting read, and could have a couple of uses for you:

  • Different marketing angle (saving money, using free stuff, etc)
  • Showcasing the different types of offerings at a modern library (3D printers, ebooks, downloadable music, and … cakepans!)

Best part of the article? At the end, Karp mentions the value of librarians:

Perhaps the most valuable resource in any library is a librarian, who can help you find what you need. Nowadays, you might get that help electronically, via email, chat, text message and, increasingly, social media, such as Twitter and Facebook.

Anyway – enjoy!

Logo from the Chicago Tribune

Using Business Cards to Promote econtent

My library has a bunch of econtent – services like Freegal, OneClick Digital, Hoopla, OverDrive, Zinio, Treehouse, and Mango Languages.

Each of these tools point to real content – movies, music, books, magazines, and classes – but they live on the digital branch.

Our marketing department created a fun way to promote these econtent services by using business cards.

Each card has a word and an image on the front, and a brief description and a URL to the service on the back of the card.

We are using these cards to promote a bunch of services:

  • Music – promotes Freegal
  • Audiobooks – promotes OneClick Digital
  • Video – promotes Hoopla
  • Ebooks – promotes Overdrive
  • Language – promotes Mango
  • Magazines – promotes Zinio
  • Design & Program – promotes Treehouse

The idea? Place these cards around the building, hand them out at events, etc. Basically – give them to customers, so customers know about all this cool content we have. It’s one way of getting content that lives on the digital branch “out of the building.”

You can see the other cards we created over on my Flickr account.

Update: And here’s the back of the Music card, as an example of the info we provide.

Amazon, Overdrive, Ebooks … and YOU.

You all read Sarah’s blog, right? (if you’re not, you should be). For those of you that don’t – check out her video rant about Amazon, Overdrive, Kindles, and ebooks (embedded above). There’s a bit of “language” in it … so you have been warned if that bothers you.

Great video, great content. And here’s the deal – Overdrive has basically allowed Amazon to sell their books on YOUR PATRON’S KINDLE. Via the Overdrive Kindle ebooks deal. And you and your library’s tax dollars are … paying for that privilege.

Did Overdrive tell us about that? Nope. Is that cool? Nope. Watch Sarah’s video for the details. And this is besides all the user data/privacy issues that I haven’t seen addressed yet (also discussed in Sarah’s video).

I’m not pointing the finger at Amazon – it’s not their fault. I’d guess they have been planning that functionality for months. Overdrive surely knew about this (I’m guessing here, but we’re talking about normal business practice too). Why didn’t they mention that?

What can you do about this?

  1. For starters – read your contracts/licenses, etc. You don’t have to automatically agree to everything written there – you can actually change things. Or you can try, anyway.
  2. More importantly – if you don’t like what Overdrive “allowed” Amazon to slip in (ie., direct selling and marketing to YOUR PATRONS without your permission) – let them know!
  3. Or … simply don’t buy it.

Overdrive – no more secrets, please! Or if you DID share that and we somehow missed it – could you kindly point out where? Thanks!

Ebook Vendors at #ALA11

I took some time to visit the vendor booths at ALA11 (the annual conference of the American Library Association – over 20,000 librarians descended on New Orleans this year!), and made sure to visit most of the ebook vendors out there – and let me tell you, they are a growing bunch! Here are my observations on the companies and the products I saw.


3M Cloud3M? Why is a company that makes sticky notes and self-check machines getting into the ebook business? Weird, right? It might be weird, but they also have an interesting-looking product. What are they doing?

  • First off, they are making their own 3M-branded ebook reader. It’s pretty basic, but it works – e-ink and all.
  • They also have a variety of apps for mobile devices and computers.
  • 3M is calling their new service the Cloud Library System because ebooks are stored in two places – on the device and on cloud storage systems. This is handy – you can start reading at your PC, then get on the bus and continue reading via your iPhone, for example – you just have to log into your account, which remembers what page you’re on across hardware devices.
  • What’s it not work on? The Kindle (though they’re in talks with Amazon to change this). It does work on Nooks and iPads, though.
  • 3M also has some pretty cool touch interface kiosks for ebook discovery.
  • Interestingly enough, they’re using one of my blog posts in their presentations! Cool.
  • Find out more…


Baker & Taylor is a pretty familiar company to librarians – they’re a book distributor, and many libraries work with them. They have partnered with Blio, a new ebook service. Here’s what I know:

  • Blio is a creation of Ray Kurzweil (yes, THAT Ray Kurzweil) and the National Federation of the Blind, of all things. Baker & Taylor partnered with them to provide content.
  • Blio will read out loud to you (I assume by a computer-generated voice) and lets you take notes, highlight text, etc.
  • Blio’s big selling point is that they are full-color and provide the same graphically-rich experience you’d have reading a print book with pictures. But when I played with their iPad app at their booth,  guess what? The two children’s books I looked at were text-only. Picture Curious George as a text-only book. Not nearly as much fun. I tried to ask their booth people about it, but they were all  busy with other people at the time, so I moved on.
  • I also tried to attend their quick sit-down presentation at the booth – but the exhibit hall was noisy, and the Baker & Taylor people didn’t turn up the speaker’s microphone. I had trouble hearing them, and eventually left the presentation to poke around on my own. Other attendees had the same problem, so I know it wasn’t just me. Guys – it’s a volume knob. Turn it up next time please!
  • Here’s an article on Blio and here’s their website.


Freading is the weirdly-named ebook product from Library Ideas, LLC (Freegal is another product of theirs).

  • OK. Can I just say this – they REALLY need to get their web act together. Right now, Library Ideas, LLC has a one-page website that stretches horizontally – sorta odd, if you ask me. They only useful info? An email address. No links, nothing. They could at least install WordPress and put some information out about who they are and what they do – it’s not that hard. Just sayin. [update – Just spoke with Jim Peterson at Library Ideas, and he told me they plan to have a new, marketing-oriented website up in 2-3 weeks. Much needed, so good for them]
  • Freading is an interesting product that’s very different from other models, just like Freegal. They offer patron-driven purchasing of ebooks – a patron picks a book, then the library is charged (the library can set a fee cap).
  • Freading uses a “token” metaphor for patron checkout. The patron gets five tokens a week to “spend” on ebooks. Popular books might “cost” more than one token, and less popular books might be just one token each. That’s all the patron gets to use for that week. I’m not convinced patrons will pick up on the “token” model very fast – we don’t really use tokens for anything else, so not sure how that model will connect with patrons … [update – the library determines the number of tokens their patrons get for the week]
  • Books are checked out for two weeks, then can be renewed once. Who decided two weeks? Not sure.
  • They’re in talks with larger publishers, but right now have some smaller publishers on board.
  • Glad to see a newer company trying to be innovative in a market that’s growing fast!

Overdrive WIN:

Overdrive has overhauled their interface, and their service … and named it Overdrive WIN. Here are some of the changes they’ve made:

  • They have streamlined the Overdrive product – I didn’t’ really play with it, but it’s supposed to be MUCH easier to use
  • They’re offering support for Kindles starting later this year
  • You’ll have immediate access to the first 10% of many ebooks – even if someone else has it checked out. That’s cool.
  • They’ll have patron-driven acquisitions, and a Want it Now feature that goes to online booksellers like Amazon. Just add a library Amazon Affiliates account, and you’ll make a little money every time a patron buys a book for themselves using that link.
  • There are some ebooks with simultaneous access, so no waiting in a virtual line for these titles.
  • Overdrive is also working to get ebook titles and links into library catalogs, so there aren’t two different places patrons have to go for content, which is a much-needed feature.

I didn’t get to eBrary or Recorded Books. There were probably a few other ebook vendors I missed, too!

So – four very different models of library-friendly ebooks out there. Any one model better than another? I don’t really think so. It really depends on the most-needed features your patrons have been requesting, and which of the different pricing models work best for your institution. And remember – the ebook market is growing like gangbusters – next year, it will look very different from what we have now.

Questions that Need Answers

So, I’ve been reading the tweets, and talking to some people about the OverDrive/HarperCollins fiasco with ebooks – and it looks like there are quite a few questions that need to be answered. Here they are (please add the ones I’m missing):

  • HarperCollins: Why 26 checkouts/uses?
  • HarperCollins: Did you talk to libraries to come up worn that number? If so, which ones?
  • HarperCollins: Did you talk to any of your authors about this change? What did they say?
  • OverDrive: Why the secrecy in your letter? Why were you hiding HarperCollins’ name?
  • OverDrive: are there other publishers jumping at the bit to do this? If so, when will that hit?
  • OverDrive: Did you argue against this? Because you surely knew that libraries wouldn’t be fond of this idea.
  • OverDrive: My understanding is that this announcement went out as a PDF file to OverDrive partners. How come you didn’t publish this as a press release on your website? Again – shy the secrecy?

So – what other questions need answers here?