Monday, September 15, 2014

Reading Arizona | Biblioboard

A bit of technology I find fascinating is the ability to locate people based on the location of the device they're using.  So you can, for example, make collections just for people in a location that would be interested in them.  Which is what Arizona did with Reading Arizona.

The earliest posts on the Reading Arizona Wordpress blog are from March 2014, and talk about how, in 2012, a group of librarians formed a working group to try to meet the growing demand for eContent.

By May, they had announced that the State Library had signed an agreement with Bibliolabs to launch an Arizona-specific collection of eBooks.  Both the State Library and Biblioboard would work to collect materials (from the state archives, and a self publishing module), which the State Library will own, and Biblioboard will host.  The service is available through the State Library website, with geolocation access allowing registration from within Arizona.

One of the very cool things I love about their program is the literacy map which shows highlights of Arizona culture and history, ready and waiting to be explored through recommended books.   They also have a book list of titles about Arizona.  I could see something like this really taking off if schools used it for recommended reading in history classes, etc.  All of the content is available for unlimited multiuser access, and patrons may have up to three titles in an off line bookshelf at one time.

I really like what Biblioboard is doing here (and with Massachusetts and North Carolina).  One of my frustrations from the beginning of our eBook project has been how much publishers want to recreate the print world.  I mean, seriously, it's a FILE.  You don't need to have holds lists and checkouts etc etc.  This is exciting - you don't have the same limitations that you would with a physical book.  There's a lot you can do with the technology that you can't do with physical books.  There's still room for licensing (for example, you don't/shouldn't need to "own" 700 copies of 50 Shades of Grey forever. License it while it's hot - no pun intended - and then keep a few copies for archival purposes once everyone's moved on).

But this is scary for publishers, who are still figuring out how to adapt a business model that hasn't fundamentally changed since - well - the printing press?  Inexpensive paperbacks in the 30's?  That's a lot of adapting that needs to happen, and while I applaud Biblioboard for being forward thinking, and I hope that more libraries sign on and support them, I think it's going to be a while before the majority of publishers are happy to give unlimited simultaneous usage to a library.

That being said, I need to take my own advice with this - if enough libraries can show publishers that it's a model that works, and the files are protected and they're getting fairly paid, then in five years they could really be a successful and viable alternative to the services that seem to serve mainly as library outlets for the Big 5 Publishers.

This Publisher's Weekly article about Reading Arizona has some great quotes by Mitchell Davis, one of the founders and Chief Business Officer of Biblioboard.  After each one, I want to go "Yes!  Somebody gets it!"  I just hope enough other people, the people who can spend money, get it too.  Reading Arizona is a great example of a group that does get it, and I wish them lots of success.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Community Self Publishing

Sometimes I feel like a zeitgeist.  When I was 11 I started putting granola in my yogurt.  Suddenly in a few years Dannon is selling little prepackaged granola pots stuck on top of plain yogurt.  My 14 year old self thought I should have patented the idea.

I'm feeling a little vindicated (read: smug) at the sudden interest in self publishing from libraries.  From enki's inception, I didn't want to woo the Big 5, arguing that there were tons of amazing titles we could have from publishers who wanted to work with us.  There were already plenty of national organizations in talks with the big publishers.  It wasn't my fight.  So we made a strategic decision to really pursue the great independent and small presses.  

I also first met Mark Coker, founder of Smashwords, in 2012.  I was so excited to meet him, because he's been such a visionary in making self publishing work for individuals.  He has a style guide, he provides resources on getting great covers made; in short, he wants to support people in telling their awesome stories.  And he talks a lot about libraries being able to support building a "community of authorship."  Being a NaNoWriMo geek (National Novel Writing Month - write a 50,000 word novel in a month) since 2008, this excites me.  In fact, I'm personally going to be putting some of my edited NaNoWriMo novels up on Smashwords soon (it was a New Year's Resolution).

Ok, so I'm totally biased towards Smashwords - full disclosure.  And mostly I'm biased because they will provide publishing portals for libraries for free.  Freeeeeeeee!  Los Gatos Library has been using it for a year or so now - you can see how they implement the platform (did I mention that it's free?) on their site.  

But even beyond that, I'm really biased towards empowering people to write their stories, and supporting them in that.  I can't tell you how many people, when we were first building enki, said things like, "oh, that's going to be a collection of self-published one's going to want to be part of that."  Seriously, people (you know who you are) said that to me.  

Oh what a difference two years makes!  At BookExpo I first heard about the Library Journal/BiblioLabs self publishing partnership, Self-e, in which libraries can put up a portal and have their patrons submit their works.  If the works are chosen (by a team at LJ) they will be included in a collection that is hosted on BiblioBoard.  So then of course the library can subscribe to the collection on Biblioboard - which is unlimited simultaneous user access.  

Another partnership that seems to be making news is the Recorded Books partnership with FastPencil.  FastPencil is a competitor to Smashwords, but from what I can tell they have services like designing cover art, editing, and other ways to make a book look and feel a bit more professional. I'm a little confused by their entry into the library market, because back in 2012 they announced a partnership with AutoGraphics.  Recorded Books has a habit of finding great products to sell (like Zinio, their magazines product) and I applaud them for being so forward thinking.

While it doesn't directly relate to libraries pursuing relationships with publishers, which is what most of this blog is about, I think it's relevant to the discussion because self-published/indie books are only going to get bigger in the next couple of years (especially once I add mine to the mix) (that was a joke) (sort of) and the whole point of projects like enki are for libraries to take ownership of the eBook process, and the relationships with the publishers.  When the authors and publishers are your patrons already, there's a great opportunity to have a great relationship with them.

For example you can:
- build local collections of novels by local authors
- have workshops where successful self published authors teach others about the process
- support NaNoWriMo and other writing events by having write-ins at your library, and then putting on editing workshops after the events, providing self publishing tools, and finally having a collection of books by the local authors - like the My Town National Novel Writing Month Winners! collection.  I'd read that stuff.

The success of story sharing sites like wattpad are all the evidence I need that people will read self published stories, and they'll love them.  Sure, there's a lot of stuff on Smashwords that doesn't meet the standards of a library's collection development policy.  But they have like 300,000 titles.  Of course there's going to be some work involved with separating the wheat from the chaff (is that how that saying goes?).  There's some really great stuff there, and it's just getting better.

You know, back during the days when Eastman Kodak was first starting with their inexpensive cameras, photographers and artists freaked out about laymen taking pictures.   In 1899 Alfred Stieglitz wrote,

"The placing in the hands of the general public a means of making pictures with but little labor and requiring less knowledge has of necessity been followed by the production of millions of photographs.  It is due to this fatal facility that photography as a picture-making medium has fallen into disrepute."

I look at that quote now and call it snobbery.  It's great that we all have cameras on our cell phones!  It doesn't take away from the amazing artwork that the world has seen since then.  It just means more pictures in my instagram feed!  More cute cats and more cute babies and more pretty sunsets.  Sure, there's a lot of junk, but that doesn't mean that people shouldn't have cameras.

The same goes for self publishing.  And it's my contention that the libraries should jump in and support their local authors - who are writing and publishing already, and want to do things like donate ebooks to their library and get support from the library.  And I'm glad that there are more and more libraries and vendors who are jumping on board.

Monday, September 8, 2014

The State of Connecticut

Connecticut is joining the DIY eBook Platform movement in order to ensure better pricing on eBooks.  Back on June 3, Governor Daniel P. Malloy signed into law P.A.14-82, An Act Concerning a State-wide Platform for the Distribution of Electronic Books, which authorizes the State Library to build an eBook platform, with $2.2 million in funding.  The law was in response to a Department of Consumer Protection study to see how libraries could get fairer access to eBooks.

One of the conclusions of the DCP study was:
“The most forward-thinking and sustainable option the legislature could pursue to increase ebook availability at public libraries is to make a significant statewide investment in the creation of an ebook distribution platform that could be shared by libraries in the state.”

I couldn't agree more!

The $2.2 million allocated for the platform is meant to be split up as follows:
$1.1 million for building the platform
$1 million for the initial opening day collection
The library board is expected to absorb annual costs for staff and maintenance, estimated to be $100,000.

I'm trying to find out more about where they are in their process, what plans they have to research and choose the software they'll need, and what their timeline is like.  I'll report back here on them when I can find all of that out, but as the law just went into effect on July 1, I'm sure they aren't ready to make any big announcements yet.  I wish them well as they start to research and study the dizzying amount of information they'll need to absorb before making decisions.   

(Just for fun, I should say, a white paper report on eBooks in libraries from 2012 mentions Douglas County and Califa.)

Back in June when the bill was first signed into law, James LaRue wrote:
"The point is this: There is a trend. State libraries and regional library cooperatives are pooling their technical expertise and resources to directly address public libraries’ e-business problems, which include not only market embargoes and price hikes, but the lack of access to emerging e-content. This should be good news for publishers, too, who will have a new distribution path to give their works the wider exposure that we have repeatedly demonstrated generate sales."