Publishers Weekly reports that Ingram Digital, an academic and library wholesaler, will make its 185,000-title MyiLibrary catalog of e-books available through Blackwell‘s Digital Collection Manager. It will make ordering and management of e-books in libraries and at schools easier by supporting standard indexing systems such as MARC, during the acquisition process.
TeleRead points to a new white paper, “Streamlining Book Metadata Workflow,” from the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), which discusses how to make the collection, curation and dissemination of book metadata more efficient. Its an interesting paper, but one that demonstrates a glaring problem with most of the technical discussions surrounding e-books: Readers are not described as “stakeholders” in the metadata process, even though “enabl[ing] readers to identify and acquire books online” is the focus of the paper.
Readers will be the creators of the most important metadata describing books. Period, there is no second-guessing that conclusion, which has been proved again and again in every hypertext environment in human history. Defining the problem of book metadata without treating the reader as the fulcrum of the process is missing the point, which is a common problem in technical discussions of semantic and intellectual work. The problem of coding and building a system is daunting, but made much easier by assuming the final user of the technology will be passive consumers.
The paper is interesting as a discussion of the various existing bibliographical metadata systems used to move books around and inventory them within bookstores and libraries. It is even useful within the publishing and distribution value chain. However, it misses the mark in the most fundamental way possible, by defining the reader out of the metadata workflow.
Follett Digital Resources, book distributor and developer of a desktop e-reader application for the K-12 and library markets, announced the signing of 10 new publisher partners who will offer books through the company’s Titlewave and Titletales commerce sites. The deals bring the total number of e-book titles for K-12 and libraries available from Follett to more than 52,500. The Follett Digital Resources technology allows e-books to be checked out to individual readers, and is integrated with the company’s library management software.
The publishers joining the network, which include Macmillan US and Perseus, are:
Citing the move from library mobiles, the bus and van services that delivered books to remote users in the past, the University of Cambridge Arcadia Programme explains the challenges facing the development of “m-libraries,” library access via mobile phone.
Author Keren Mills reports that her surveys of university library users discovered that many user experience and cultural barriers remain to universal use of of library collections on mobile devices. Despite having new and advanced multimedia mobile handsets, the vast majority of library users surveyed have never read an e-book, listened to an audio book or played music or video on their handsets.
The survey also found that fewer than 16 percent of Cambridge students use their phones to access Web sites more than once a week. Mills writes: “one obvious inference to be drawn from this is that it is not worth libraries putting time and effort into developing dedicated mobile websites. Rather, if they want their sites to be mobile-friendly they are better advised to use either (Cascading Style Sheets) CSS or Auto-Detect and Reformat software (ADR).” Moreover, she also reports that libraries should not invest in creating iPhone applications, as only 21 percent of survey respondents have downloaded applications to their phone and would choose to do it again.
A good deal of the report focuses on the touchscreen and Web presentation features of the iPhone and how they will facilitate new library services. This, however, does not make the problem of educating people about and acclimating them to the use of mobile handsets when confronted with a research problem for a class or work. But the real meat of the findings is that, at this point, students are still primarily interested in finding out if the library is open or whether it will be open and the information they are seeking accessible when they need it.
My thought is that the libraries may need to rethink their engagement with mobile phone users completely. If the emphasis of a library Web site is to provide information about hours and the availability of a text, the logical next step is to find a way to provide the text without requiring a visit to the library. Then, it becomes a relatively short step from inquiry to fulfillment of the need for information.
Imagine libraries that stock themselves organically based on what patrons decide to print. Wright State University librarian Sue Polanka writes that Springer Science+Business Media will bring its MyCopy on-demand book production service to North American libraries beginning next week. She has posted a June 22-dated press release from the company.
This is an intriguing program, because it turns the library into a potential retail distribution point for on-demand books from the Springer 11,000-titles strong e-book library (and, potentially, titles from other publishers that join the initiative through Springer’s MyCopy service). A library visitor can order a soft cover copy of any book in the MyCopy database and receive it with a color copy and black-and-white text for $24.95. The same price applies for all on-demand books provided by MyCopy.
There is no specific discussion of the pricing of on-demand journals from Springer’s 2,000-plus scientific and other journals catalog.
Libraries, of course, could shoulder the cost of creating a copy of an e-book for a patron, but it is more likely that, having paid for access to the e-book collection libraries will let patrons pay for personal paper copies themselves and, perhaps, provide some subsidies for low-income patrons.
The potential, too, exists for self-organizing groups of patrons to pay for a printed copy that remains in the library after they are done with it.
Thirty libraries in the U.S. and Canada participated in the trial phase of the MyCopy service and will be able to offer it immediately to patrons as of the date of the press release.
The Financial Times‘ Lex column (registration at site required, but free) makes the rhetorical point:
Imagine that in the 19th century the company furthest advanced laying US railroads was given the right to build all future rail lines. The public might have gained from the new services, but ultimately been left at the whim of a powerful monopoly. Now take the deal between Google and the publishing industry to create a digital market for out-of-print books – some 40 per cent of all those ever published. However laudable such a goal that may be, it raises anticompetitive issues too.
The article lays out clearly and simply why the Google Books deal with libraries is flawed. Rather than creating and exception to existing copyright and intellectual property restrictions, the outcome of the legal confrontation should be a general and open system for any company that wishes to scan books under terms acceptable to authors or other rights holders.
The deal is based on a scenario that is too good to be true. Google is only here to help, the company says, yet is it sweeping up rights that could be abused. Readers face a potential future where, because it is impractical to compete with Google, other e-book providers simply don’t try, giving Google free reign to raise prices on access to books, whether one at a time or through an all-you-can-read subscription service. It could choke off libraries’ access to these books, because Google circumvents their relationship with the reader or raises institutional prices too high.
For free culture activists, it should be clear that the settlement in effect grants Google a degree of control over access to library collections it has scanned that is functionally similar to holding a renewed and extended copyright on the works.
It is also questionable whether the potential for advertising in library-accessed books is a good idea, since it commercializes what had been a public good and, potentially, creates a commercial filter based on advertisers preferences for certain ideas and information. If faced with reading an uncontroversial history of, say, the Iraq War, which is free at the library through Google Books and one that, because it has no ad revenue support carries a fee, the least-privileged in society would probably opt for the free choice. That’s a kind of commercial Big Brotherism we need to engineer out of e-libraries.
The takeaway: Google is being granted a cartel position in the intellectual marketplace, which the FT believes is bad for competition. “Google’s ingenuity does not give it the right to surround itself with an impregnable digital moat,” the column concludes.