The Big Six – where we stand at the moment

I’m headed to BEA next week (I’m on the conference advisory board for the BEA Bloggers part of the conference), and will have a good three days of listening to publishers talk about ebooks (and hopefully libraries).

So I thought it would be a good idea to see where we stand right now with ebooks, the Big Six, and some of our current ebook vendors.

Here’s a list of the major ebook vendors, and what they offer in relation to the Big Six publishers:

3M, Baker & Taylor Axis 360:

  • Hachette
  • Simon & Schuster (but only if you’re a large NYC-area library – they’re still in pilot project mode)
  • Macmillan
  • Penguin
  • HarperCollins
  • Random House
  • … and No Kindle formats.

OverDrive:

  • Hachette
  • Macmillan
  • HarperCollins
  • Random House
  • doesn’t have Penguin or Simon & Schuster
  • … OverDrive has Kindle versions of some titles (and that’s probably why they don’t have Penguin).

What does each publisher offer?

  • Hachette: Full catalog, released simultaneously with print, ebooks will cost 300% more than the print book. Unlimited number of checkouts, one copy per user model.
  • Simon & Schuster: started a 1-year pilot project on April 30 with New York Public Library, Brooklyn Public Library, and the Queens Library. Full catalog, a one year purchase/lease, unlimited checkouts, one copy per user model.
  • Macmillan: 1,200 backlist ebooks from its Minotaur Books imprint. Two year, 52-lends lease model. Ebooks cost $25. I’d say they’re still in pilot project mode too.
  • Random House: Our ebook friends, for a price – entire catalogue available for “perpetual access” at a higher price to libraries (upwards of 300% over the print book cost).
  • Penguin: all titles available, one-year licenses. Except if you’re OverDrive.
  • HarperCollins: 26 checkouts per title lease model.

So – at this point, we have all Big Six publishers willing and able to sell [at least some] ebooks to [at least some] libraries. With wildly varying models and price points:

  • Checkout models include: unlimited use, 26 checkouts per book, or 52 checkouts per book.
  • Time limits include: No year limits, one year limits, and two year limits per book
  • Title availability includes: All titles available, some titles available, hardly any title available.
  • Pricing: an even $25, a variety of more normal pricing. And two publishers who markup ebooks by 300%. If this was gasoline, we’d call it price gouging.

Pic by pazca

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!

ALA President’s Open Letter on Ebooks and Publishers doesn’t get us very far

Maureen Sullivan, ALA president, just posted an Open Letter to America’s Publishers. Go read it, then come back and discuss.

On the one hand, it’s a fine letter, addressing all the appropriate stuff. On the other hand … I think I’m confused. Here’s why:

The letter doesn’t really seem to be addressed to America’s Publishers. Instead, it seems to be addressed to libraries and librarians. Most of the letter gives the normal “aren’t libraries awesome” stuff.

And then, in the last two paragraphs, that’s when the letter actually gets to the point. Here’s our big call to action:

“We librarians cannot stand by and do nothing while some publishers deepen the digital divide. We cannot wait passively while some publishers deny access to our cultural record. We must speak out on behalf of today’s — and tomorrow’s — readers.The library community demands meaningful change and creative solutions that serve libraries and our readers who rightfully expect the same access to e-books as they have to printed books.”

“So, which side will you be on? Will you join us in a future of liberating literature for all? Libraries stand with readers, thinkers, writers, dreamers and inventors. Books and knowledge — in all their forms — are essential. Access to them must not be denied.”

Did I miss something? Our big directive from ALA is this:

  • Librarians cannot stand by and do nothing
  • We can’t wait passively
  • We must speak out
  • Library community demands change

??? All Maureen/ALA is asking libraries to do is to … “speak out???” Nothing about the issues, nothing about results, nothing about concerted efforts…

So really – I’m glad maureen is ALA president, and I’m glad ALA is starting to do something about ebooks. But I’m not sure that simply asking libraries to randomly “speak out” about the issue is useful.

Why not something more concrete, like “everyone call Penguin on October 1 at 2pm, and ask for the same thing”? And then provide some some talking points to use during the phone call?

How about something more specific saying what ALA is doing about the issue, and giving us something to take back to our library boards?

Help me out here – what could we as libraries and librarians do that is more than just “speaking out?” Let’s create some better, more specific next steps for ALA. I think we can do better than this!

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?

Ebooks for Libraries Update – mailing the petitions to publishers!

Remember the Ebooks for Libraries campaign that my library and Library Renewal are running? Here’s our final video installment (for now). On Wednesday, we mailed the names of all our petition signers – on HUGE rolls of paper – to the big six publishers. Library Journal even mentioned it!

Next goal (already started via Gina Millsap and the wonders of email) – make initial contact with each publisher and hopefully start some conversations about ebooks, readers, and libraries.

Missed our first two videos? Here are some links to them (and a little more info, too):

Stay tuned for more info as I have it!