Thursday, March 21, 2013

An eBook Primer for libraries


Sue Polanka is one of the leading thinkers on eBooks and libraries (In 2011 Library Journal named her a "LJ Mover and Shaker.")  If you are thinking of  expanding your church library collection to include eBooks but are unsure where to start, her article from last year's Library Journal (published online at  The Digital Shift) is a good place to start.  To whet your appetite I'll include a few quotes here:

The Chief Officers of State Library Agencies believes that ebooks will be the preferred format for reading materials in the future. As a result, it has set a goal for all U.S. public libraries to offer eBooks and downloadable media by 2015. 
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That said, ebooks have just as many reasons not to be purchased. They are more expensive than print, and their use is restricted with digital rights management (DRM). Content is often leased rather than owned owing to vendor license agreements. Moreover, annual fees are often required to guarantee perpetual access to content. The business models are much different from print models. Often, they are unsustainable for public library budgets.
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Before you decide to purchase ebooks for your library, consider surveying your community about their needs. Are your patrons asking for ebooks? If so, what type of content do they desire—best-selling fiction, children’s books, reference materials, or perhaps classic literature? What type of reading devices are they using—Amazon Kindles, Barnes & Noble Nooks, or Apple iPads, smartphones, or personal computers? This information will guide decisions about content and format, as well as keep the community involved in shaping a digital collection.
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For libraries with limited budgets, locating free ebook content is essential. The good news is that you have options. The bad news is that they are not the titles on the New York Times’s best sellers list. Nonetheless, there are thousands of sources for free ebooks available online. Just be certain you aren’t downloading pirated content, which is often found on large peer-to-peer file-sharing sites.
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When the time does come to purchase ebook content, public libraries have a variety of choices. It’s important to evaluate all of the vendors, determine the expense and licensing of each, and calculate ongoing costs to determine if the model selected is sustainable. A few options are discussed briefly here and interviews with some of the executives can be found online.
Polanka goes on to summarize option and costs. Some tidbits:
(Each bullet refers to an individual company's  business model)
  • ­Ebook programs start for as little as $500 per year. This low cost of entry allows for an individual library to have a personalized collection for its community. 
  • After a small start-up fee, libraries pay for content as it is selected and used by patrons. Prices range from 50¢ to $2 per use, depending on the copyright date of the book.
  • Libraries with limited budgets are strongly encouraged to create larger purchasing groups
  • Small public libraries in a consortial group can be easily accommodated by the 3M service. 
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When purchasing ebooks and other downloadable media, it is crucial to evaluate each vendor. Many libraries have created spreadsheets or matrixes to compare features quickly. Some things that should be compared include content/titles available, format of files, business models and costs, licensing terms (ownership or access), ongoing fees, MARC record availability and cost, download options, printing, interface features, customer support and training, and use data. Several libraries have posted sample evaluation charts online.
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If you plan to provide downloadable ebooks as a service, you need to offer training and support for your staff. In turn, the staff will need to provide training and support to their patrons.
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Demand for ebooks in public libraries is present, growing, and not likely to stop anytime soon, and 2015 is just around the corner. If you aren’t on the bus, it’s time to buy your ticket. Just grab a rail and hang on, because it’s going to be a wild ride.
 OK, that's Brouwer's Notes on Polanka's Primer - now you need to read her whole article here.

Are you thinking about adding ebooks to your collection? What are your concerns?
Are ebooks part of your church library? How's that working out?
Use the comment box to share your ideas. 

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