Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Update and the need for a single repository

So guess what world, I'm back.  Well, sort of.  Remember ALA Midwinter?  Chicago?  The blizzard?  Yeah, well, I'm a (sort of) casualty of that fun experience, having slipped on ice at my hotel, and broken my shoulder.  Spent the night in Northwestern University, flew home the next day, had surgery a few days later, and then spent months in rehab.  I'm still not sure that I won't need yet another surgery because things aren't healing the way they should be, but I won't know that for sure until the end of August.  So in the meantime, I'm trying to pick this blog back up.  I also actually started a fresh wordpress site for my posts, and will be moving things over there in the next little while, so stay tuned.

So let's get back to it.  Things have been happening, even though I've been convalescing (I'm not the center of the universe!  Imagine that!).  I actually left my job at Califa at the end of May, so I have lots of freedom now to speak my mind on things (as if my opinion on OverDrive wasn't already pretty obvious - ahem) since I don't officially represent any vendors or projects in a professional way anymore.  Nope, my job with this blog will be to report on what libraries are doing in an honest way; what the challenges are, what projects are working, which ones are having a tough time, in the hopes that the knowledge will benefit all the libraries who are trying to start their own projects, or are thinking about things from a different angle.

DPLAFest this past April had a track on ebooks, which was, according to those who attended, pretty much standing room only.  Lots of different projects were represented, including NYPL and the Library Simplified project and Califa with enki.

The consensus of all the meetings was that there needs to be a marketplace for the libraries who have built a platform to purchase content.  For those of you who don't know, the self hosted platforms right now all use spreadsheets to buy content.  ebooksareforever is stepping in with a great acquisitions module, but they don't have a platform per se, and plus, they're still a vendor (even though I love them - really, I do).  The library owned projects are still sending emails back and forth, uploading spreadsheets into gdocs (if they have a group working on collection development) and emailing PO's back to publishers with spreadsheet requests for metadata.  Well, at least that's how it was at Califa.  Honestly, you guys, this is a royal Pain In The Ass.  Plus there is a ton of room for human error to enter into the equation.

An additional part of this is that you have lots of libraries all working out deals with publishers on their own.  Talk about reinventing the wheel.  We know that Smashwords wants to work with libraries, right?  Why do they have to sign agreements with Califa and with Harris County and with Douglas County and everyone else and their mother to do so?  Wouldn't it make it easier for everyone involved (including the libraries) if there was some kind of central repository where all the publishers who want to work with libraries could sign up?

Yeah, that's what vendors do.  I get it.  But vendors do not have any inherent self interest in making sure that the libraries have the best deal possible.  Vendors want to sign up publishers, period.  They won't say to a large publisher, "I'm sorry, this looks more like a lease than an ownership agreement" the way Califa did two years ago.

Maybe there would be some libraries who would be ok for leasing content.  I still maintain that leased content has a really important role to play, especially with bestsellers.  So what if there was some kind of national repository where libraries could sign up.  Say I was, I don't know, Lancaster Public Library (because I'm currently in Lancaster Pennsylvania) and they want to build a platform.  They sign up with the Digital Repository and put in their wishlist of publishers, the terms they'd take (ie leasing if it's a Big 5, leasing for bestsellers, etc., with ways of defining what a "bestseller" is), and other information like that.  Then a publisher, say Smashwords, can sign up.  There would be a person who worked for the Repository (probably more than one person) who would negotiate on behalf with the libraries, knowing what all their members want (because they've seen the signup forms).  So the Digital Repository employee can say to Smashwords, "look,  your content is desirable, but we need to own it, and not pay retail" (these are, incidentally, the terms they already offer, thanks to their authors who are very supportive of libraries).   They go back and forth a few times, finally a contract is signed and uploaded for all the members to see, the pertinent information is highlighted and easily accessible and searchable, and an email is sent out to every member saying that Smashwords content is going to be available.  Smashwords uploads their title lists and metadata into one place, and boom, the libraries who want to buy Smashwords can easily buy it.

This sounds a bit utopian, I know (things are never as easy in real life as they are in my head) but it's doable, and it's exactly what one of the main conversations at DPLAFest was about, and one aspect of the Library Simplified project aims to do.  DPLA has set up a working group for those who are interested in moving this goal forward, and I think it's important that every library who is interested in doing a project like this be part of it.  You don't have to do things on your own; you don't have to keep reinventing the wheel.  If you all put your heads together and focus on the end goal of getting a project like this done, it is eminently doable.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Seattle Public Library and "eBooks Now!"

I had been planning to have this blog be simply a list of all the libraries and groups that were doing self-hosted platforms, or pursuing direct relationships with publishers, even if it was on a vendor hosted platform.  But there just don't seem to be enough projects going on that would justify a regular blog, and anyway, the point has been to highlight library-driven innovation, which can take a lot of different forms.

So I'm going to expand it a bit more to cover a lot more library-driven development in the eBook sphere.  That means more stuff to post about!  But, seeing as how they're a pet project of mine, self-hosted projects will still be highlighted more often.  Because it's my blog, and I make executive decisions like that.

I've been noticing Seattle Public Library in the news a lot lately.  Back in August they partnered with Smashwords to have a self-publishing contest where they invited patrons to write a book, create an account on Smashwords, and then enter the contest.  Up to three winners would be added to the library's eBook collection.  The winners will be announced on November 15.  They have a very complete Seattle Writes section of their website with tools and support for self publishing, as well as the Smashwords portal.

Something else that caught my eye was the article on October 25 about their new project eBooks Now! which allows patrons to see eBooks which do not have a waiting list. We all know how holds lists are a pain in the ass for patrons.  Patrons can browse the digital collection and find items currently available.  The list repopulates every hour with newly available books.

According to Jim Loter, the Director of Information Technology at Seattle Public, they are using the OverDrive API to query the holdings from OverDrive and sorting out the items that have at least one copy available.  That information is populated into a website that patrons may browse by format, or search.  Then they took the interface elements from Bibliocommons so the page looked more like their website.

This is yet another project that shows how, if you combined the brains of all the amazing librarians out there working on the issues around eBooks, you can really create some awesome solutions.

After browsing a little bit more on their site, I found their collection of photographs of the history of the Pike Place market.  Totally worth a look if you ever have some spare time.


In enki news, we just signed a deal with Kensington, which I am extremely pleased about.  They have amazing romance and mystery titles, and the files are currently being ingested into our system so the patrons will be able to read the titles soon.  I'm going to do another Happy Dance after I post this.

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 works...no 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."

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

ebooks are forever

So I've become fascinated by the ebooksareforever people.  It apparently started with JA Konrath was approached by the Harris County library about buying an ebook.  He started learning about the whole ebooks in libraries issue, and now has a business which I think is fascinating because it comes at solving the problem from the Author side as opposed to the librarians or vendors.  If this issue is ever going to get worked out (and obviously I want it to) it will have to be with pieces taken from each interest area.  ebooksarefoever is one way to look at it.

Here's the blurb they sent me for this blog:

August Wainwright
Co-Founder and CEO

Quick Blurb:

eBooksAreForever was built in pursuit of the elusive acquisition platform. Currently, every purchase between a library and a publisher or author has to be handled individually, each involving spreadsheets, a plethora of copying and pasting, manual labor, and unnecessary errors that both sides are open to. 

At eBooksAreForever, we are simplifying this process. We negotiate with and distribute on behalf of publishers and independent authors so you don't have to. And purchasing is as simple as any other consumer ecommerce site online. Want our entire collection? It's just one click. Want everything in one genre, or from a single author? Again, we offer one-click purchasing. Once you've selected and purchased the titles you want, we'll deliver all your files in one download. 

Our collection is still in its infancy, but we've already added titles from great authors like Hugh Howey, Barry Eisler, HM Ward, JA Konrath, Barbara Freethy, Melissa Foster and many more. Growing our catalog is very important, but never at the expense of quality. That means we're heavily focused on curating all new additions with the help of librarians and readers. If you'd like to add a specific author to your collection, just let us know. We'll do the legwork of acquiring those titles so you don't have to. Curating our collection with the help of librarians allows us to stand behind each and every title we offer, and guarantees you'll always get a standard level of quality to go with the easy purchasing. 

For more information, or to learn more about our current features and future goals, visit us athttp://ebooksareforever.com. Or you can reach out directly to August Wainwright ataugust@ebooksareforever.com

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

eRead Illinois!

I met the wonderful Veronda Pitchford (who is my new BFF) at ALA Midwinter in January when there was a meeting of lots of different ebook projects.  We then shared a booth at BEA (with three other groups), and so I've been learning a lot about her project, eRead Illinois.

Here's her summary of her project for this blog:

1. Is this an owned-content model? The eRead Illinois projects works with Baker & Taylor’s Axis 360 and 3M Cloud platforms. Under these platform, eRead Illinois does own the material in the shared collection. The Axis 360 shared collection is open to RAILS and IHLS non-SHARE public, school, academic, and nonprofit special libraries. (www.railslibraires.info) Only IHLS SHARE members are eligible to participate in the 3M Cloud Library. (www.illinoisheartland.org/)

 2. Is the platform/hosting owned, or are you using a vendor? Axis 360 and the 3M Cloud are both vendor created platforms.

 3. If you're using a vendor, who is it? We have two vendors. Baker & Taylor and 3M.

 4. Do you negotiate directly with publishers? Baker & Taylor negotiates with publishers with feedback and input from the eRead Illinois project staff.

 5. Do you have a shared collection? Yes, all participating libraries have access to the shared collection. Individual libraries may also purchase a local collection on either platform if they wish. 6. When did you go live? Both platforms went live in December 2013.

 More information about the eRead Illinois project can be found on our website(www.ereadillinois.com) and through our Twitter(@eReadIllinois).