IL2011: E-Books' Future

Ebooks & the Future of Publishing, Lending, Learning
David Bowers, Oxford University Press; Stephen Abram, Gale Cengage Learning

David – Oxford University Press

The heart of this from every perspective (publisher, librarian, tech) is the individual.

Libraries are the original Google – people who want to know something go there. Doesn’t matter who you are, coming there to learn. Budgets. How do librarians have the resources to pay for all of this?

OUP – we’re a not-for-profit. Been around since King James gave the university the right to publish the KJ Bible. Only shareholder is the university. Mission to further excellence in scholarship, disseminate information around the world. Products built for library community: Oxford Scholarship Online. Loads of online services. Oxford Index — project to tag all their information.

Contract with aggregators because they can’t do it all. They package OUP data into more sophisticated products. Oxford has spent 5-6 years working with major e-reader hardware. Have plenty of titles that aren’t yet available.

Recent article: Overdrive saying 16 million downloads in the US this year. Huge increase. OUP has seen this, too. Yes, there are problems. We have our own issues with these major companies.

Coming soon to libraries — Ability to rent applications that publishers are creating? [Huh?]

Steven – Gale Cengage Learning

People think I’m motivated by profit? What are we building? Stuff that helps people learn. 800 librarians on staff! How are we building this stuff? Here’s a project: $100 million investment to invent the future – what it the textbook going to look like? What will children’s books look like? What’s going to happen with large print?

What do we care about for the future of textbooks? Format agnostic, device agnostic. Browser independent. LMS independent. ADA compliant. Learning-style independent.

Boomers say Oh, teenagers are dumb they can’t even spell. Abrams: Yes, totally stupid, they collaboratively and independently invented a new language that allows them to use their phones to communicate quickly & efficiently. What did you do last week?

80% of class buys a textbook, some buy it used, some don’t buy it. Would it improve learning if the prof could see who read the chapter & when? What about privacy? Is society subsidizing your education? Shouldn’t the prof know that 80% of the class missed the two most important questions on the test?

What does it like when people learn together? How do we embed collaboration into the textbook? How do we remove the hard line between the library and the classroom?

Children’s books – first experiments in children’s books just coming out. Held off. Who wants a b&w children’s book? That would suck. Now that there are more tablets it’ll be awesome. Product developers freaked out when he said “why are you using pages?” Go back to the scroll, like a video game. What’s the right form factor? Challenge assumptions on this. Does the ending always have to be the same?

Large print – paper hybrid environment. Not just for old people – kids with ADD, need to have things that don’t project light into their faces. Tablets don’t work well to get kids to be calm enough to read.

Reference, nonfiction – not necessarily meant to be read cover-to-cover every single time. “We use nonfiction asynchronously.” How do we pull all the stuff out of the encyclopedias and assemble it in another way? Abe Lincoln is in 12 of their encyclopedias. He can pull that all out and get it all in whatever format he wants, assembled on the fly as a separate book.  This is coming in a few weeks!


Q: Copyright. Please comment on how this is intertwined with all of this in the future. A: Stephen – Copyright tells you what you have to ask permission for. Example, permalinks – always use this and we pay the content owner the fee. This simplifies how you work with copyright. Oxford – Authors, sales, licensing. Various agreements. Loads of new opportunities, should this be a sale or a license? Stephen: licenses longer and more complex as the law changes.

Q: Micropayments based on circ or use. Willingness in publishing & vendor community to look at this? A: Stephen: Have looked at this, issue is having humans involved is that no body makes it affordable. Bigger critical mass or simpler ways of doing this. Larger universities have Copyright Clearance Center software that can help. But small branches not open much? It’s beyond them right now. David: Editor might have a royalty agreement, writers of entries might have been work-for-hire. Stephen: Any given article might have 8 different right owners. How do you do that? It’s getting really complicated and getting in the way of effective learning, progress, creativity.

Q: Rising IQs, millennials, digital learners. Cross cultural, educational, racial? A: Stephen: Lead is gone, asbestos is gone. First generation to grow up with complicated TVs, video games. Not a problem of attention – video games take 30-40 hours to complete and you have to remember what you did previously to beat the new boss.

Q: Transferring things we got. When my kids outgrow cool new Goodnight Moon can I give it to my brother’s kids? A: Stephen – up to the owner of the copyright. Lending libraries and subscription-based publishing moving into a new space. Overdrive runs Pottermore. Baker & Taylor runs back office of Bookish. Dynamics are shifting. 24 symbols – $5.99 / month have unlimited access. How many people can get to and from your library for less than that in gas?