IL2011: E-Book Issues

Ebooks: Putting the Issues on the Table
Bobbi L. Newman, Consultant; Sarah Houghton, San Rafael Public Library; Amy Affelt, Compass Lexecon; Faith Ward, Garrison Forest School


Lee Raine’s statistic – only 12% of the US population has an e-reader. So this is a small audience, but an important issue. Been working with Overdrive and patrons to get what they want to read on their device. B&N was failing to tell people that you need a home computer with high-speed internet access that can run Adobe Digital Editions – it’s not just about having the device. (Bobbi had a patron whose computer was so old it couldn’t run the software.) 2,000 titles is not a good collection – especially since the percentage any given patron is interested in is lower than that.

Amazon, yay you can read Overdrive books now! Much easier to get Overdrive books onto Kindle – seamless experience. Amazon has access to a lot of stats that we should be getting! Amazon now knows exactly how many Kindle users are library users and they know how many of those folks go on to purchase from Amazon. We don’t have access to this!


We don’t read the fine print because we just want the digital content. We’ll take whatever they’ll give us, and this is a problem. Need to look at what we’re signing up for. Average librarian still thinks they own the books in their collection. No! They’re leased. Go Kansas City! Did you know — Terms of Service override copyright law. (Example: Netflix terms of service says you won’t conduct yourself in a “vulgar manner” while watching!)

People now end their checkout process on Amazon’s website. People’s library borrowing history is now kept remotely by a corporation. This violates our privacy policies! They also try to sell you stuff when you’re done checking out, then they ask you to buy the book when the due date is coming up.

Overdrive bent over and took it from Amazon, and we bent over and took it from Overdrive. “We’re at the end of a very bad chain there.”


Researcher at a law/consultancy firm. Hardly ever wants to buy an entire book – chapter, page, even just the verso. Always forced into buying the entire thing. Also can’t get it to the people who need the info “only read on this computer.” Often buying these things for others and wants to give it to them in the format they want. Can’t buy something and have it downloaded to someone else’s Kindle. Wants to be able to provide whatever it is to someone else – conduit to provide it seamlessly. “I want to pay a license fee and be able to read the item across all platforms.” Wind up paying for each device they want to read it on.


Elementary school librarian at a girls’ school. Five first graders she worked with made more mistakes in their reading when using an ebook vs print. But super motivated to read on a tablet!

Serves as an advocate and ambassador to teachers – fun to use ebooks on the smartboard, gives them devices to use in the class. Teaches a fifth grade reading group – had them bring in their own device to read on. 8 of 10 came in with a device – iPads, nooks, Kindles. Three periods of class time negotiating problems with the devices but moving forward. Will not teach a book that isn’t in those formats.

Educating students to know how to conduct themselves in online, hybrid, educational environment. There’s not really a place for print books here.


Q: Another corporate librarian also has problems just being able to pass the content along to the person who wants it. Maybe she sometimes makes a PDF copy of things to facilitate! Publishers don’t understand what third-party ILL vendors are trying to do. A: DRM does not work.

Q: Cost/benefit of ebook vs print. Ebook is super expensive. A: Depends on what you’re lending, to whom, which books you’re getting, your population. We don’t get the discounts on digital that we get on books. Often we pay more than the consumer does for digital content. Library’s in Sarah’s area do better with ebooks, until you take into account the platform cost. We need to provide this, but maybe not this way. Open Library?

Q: Kids make more mistakes reading on ebooks? Huh? Implications for adult readers? A: Worked with first graders because their mistakes would be obvious. Thinks they were just preoccupied with the screen, distracting to be on a color device. Maybe a black and white device wouldn’t have had the same effect?

Q: You said you only pick titles that are available electronically? Doesn’t that leave out a lot? A: Yes. Classics are available in all the formats. When parents start to complain she might have to rethink, but supported right now. Other teachers probably making the same decision.

Q: Assn. of Independent Information Professionals negotiated arrangements with vendors so members can have access to content, with an understanding that it will be passed on. Hard-won but managed it. A: There isn’t really a unified voice for libraries. ALA but not really – they’re not negotiating with publishers and vendors. We chose to operate as individuals and this isn’t working anymore. We need a solution.

Q: Comment on state of lending devices and current developments of lending content independent of readers? Issues? A: Bobbi knows about Buffy Hamilton’s project in GA, Amazon allowed to put titles on six devices. She did a LibGuide on this and got a “shame on you this isn’t ok” and they aren’t loaning the Kindles. Changed to nook. Cost associated with device? What if lost? Really going to change them to recoup full cost? Sarah – difference between container and content. Often wedded. Stuck with Amazon if you want books on your Kindle. Kindle as container is GREAT. Sarah’s done illegal things with hers. We like the container so we’re willing to take some shady terms for the content? Take a step back and think about what we’ve agreed to. Bobbi – if you’re loaning Kindles, you’re saying “this is the best, this is what you should buy.”

Comment: No Kindle deal yet in Canada. Maybe we can make a different deal.

Comment: Works with with engineers. Not many ebooks in what they need. They prefer books on the shelf anyway. She buys books, then chapters, then full ebook if ever produced.

Comment: Running ebook project in WA state. Amazon – one book, one kindle. Tested it out. Called Amazon, they say “oh no, you can load on six devices.” Got a written statement that this was OK. They don’t quite know what they’re doing yet either.

Q: Academic law librarian – major publishers are also major vendors. Historically print-based. Ebooks/digital content is working into the convo. Suggestions to better advocate for what we want to meet needs of our users? A: Sarah – content with no DRM (allows to convert to other formats for device agnosticism). Don’t settle for less than that. Hard battle to fight but worth it. Reasonable pricing comparable with how pricing is handled with other versions of same title. Own the content so it can go with you to another platform.

Comment: Re: Amazon’s confusion. Library Renewal is working on these issues, making lots of phone calls. Amazon is working on Amazon’s interest. They know exactly what they’re doing. They want our market.

Q: 3M cloud product. What are they doing? Beta testing starting soon. They’re not here. They have a deal – sign up by 11/1, $5k fee first year, $10k fee second & third. Buy $20k books/year. Supposedly available for all devices. A: Haven’t created a pricing structure for all sizes of libraries. Sarah doesn’t like false time limits, most vendors will still give you the same deal later. Worth watching.

Q: Studies on savings to libraries based on lack of processing, shelving, loss for ebooks? A: No one’s heard anything. Complete loss when you can’t add new titles or afford to renew next year.

Q: Douglas County Library successful in getting those three principles met? They went around Overdrive directly to vendors. A: Still DRM on books. Publishers like to hear that things will be single-seat if there’s no DRM. Likes to ask “we don’t sign contracts with paper book vendors, why sign them with ebook vendors?” Better to work together.

Bobbi: Michael Porter and David Lee King are here, board members for Library Renewal, check it out.

Q: Public library. Was looking at Baker & Taylor product Access 360. Anyone know about it? A: Sarah finds it clunky to use. Another way of doing it. Glad to see that there are investments being made in trying different ways. Sarah’s saying no to all ebook vendors right now! Bobbi – good that some libraries can afford to experiment and try this stuff out but small libraries can’t necessarily participate while this is all being sorted out.