Tag eBooks

Talent Imitates

Is it just me or is Borders invoking our Five Laws? This ruffles my feathers a little. Also? What’s with the guy in the background?

more convenient content news, response

The Roku digitial video player, an AppleTV-like device that allows for easy streaming of NetFlix content to a TV, now supports streaming from Amazon’s Video on Demand. It costs $100.

Some people passionately disagreed with me in the comments on last week’s “libraries might not provide content in the future & it’s okay.” I remain unconvinced that it won’t be okay. An ideal future? Maybe not. The way we’d like to envision our future? No way. We’d love to be delivering content to people in convenient ways. A nevertheless viable and perhaps more meaningful future? Could be.

Of the comments questioning a future without digital library content there was only one real articulation of why such a future wouldn’t work.

Why would I want to go to a library to exchange thoughts and ideas about materials that I have found and (using the examples you have cited in the first six paragraphs) paid for outside of the library?

… I don’t need a library to do this this kind of thing.

It simply does not make sense to think that people who use the web for materials provision will then travel to the library to “share their experiences about those materials.”

My experiences with the hundreds of people I’ve hosted film discussion groups, book discussions, gaming events and tech training classes for tell a different story. Hearing about playing miniature golf and ninja tag in their library tells a different story. The restaurant on the top of OBA tells a different story.

While it is certainly true that people don’t *need* a library to do the above things, they still chose the library. So it makes perfect sense to me that people will congregate at the library even if there isn’t an eBook to check out. Even increasingly so if libraries concentrate on becoming excellent public spaces that help people navigate their personal content consumption and create stories. (And let’s be a bit real here. Like Nate Hill said in his comment, this isn’t likely going to be an all or nothing situation.)

There’s another take on why people might increasingly use public spaces instead of private ones. They might not have a choice. In a Kunstler-esque future everyone will be forced to go back to using local public spaces because there won’t be a Starbucks on the corner in which to gather. Libraries are sustainable in this sense.

One more thing. In a comment Tony Tallent wrote:

Libraries–in all formats including electronic, can be a place where we ‘do’ not simply talk about what we did from home.

I agree and if it’s okay with him I think one of my new mottos will be: Libraries are places of doing.

How to enjoy library audiobooks on the go

Eric Gwinn, the gadgets editor for the Chicago Tribune wrote a (slightly overly) nice and non-judgmental article about digital audiobooks from libraries. My quick read didn’t find any errors or misinformation, which seems to be a rarity when it comes to library technology issues in newspapers and magazines. The article spends a decent amount of time addressing some negative things about the digital audiobooks we offer but it never gets negative on the service:

The process of downloading a library audiobook to your computer and transferring it to a portable media player doesn’t always go smoothly. [ha!] Even if you follow the directions, files may seem to disappear. Don’t panic. Review the step-by-step instructions on your library’s Web site. [Does he mean actual library website or the website linked from the library site? Do patrons differentiate or care?]

You can put a “hold” on a checked-out audiobook, telling the library, “I want to check this out when it is returned,” but if you are the fourth person to place a hold, you could be waiting as long as 84 days — nearly three months! — before listening to that book.

Library audiobooks don’t work with Macs, iPods or iPhones. Audiobooks downloaded from libraries use copy-protection technology that Mac computers and Mac devices don’t support. This is librarians’ answer to the frequently asked question, “Why won’t this audiobook show up in my iPod?”

Big ups to Gwinn for “How to enjoy library audiobooks on the go” and spreading the word. Libraries could probably use the article as a promotion for their digital audiobook service.

new blog: No Shelf Required

Do you have a list of people you wish would blog about what they’re doing in their libraries? Sue Polenka, Head of Reference at Wright State University’s Paul Laurence Dunbar Library was on my such list. She emailed to tell me I can erase her name. She’s started a blog called No Shelf Required. She calls it a “moderated discussion of the issues surrounding eBooks, for librarians and publishers.”

I hope that Sue fills us in on the eBook scene at her library because I understand that she’s transformed their reference collection and increased library usage. I also wouldn’t mind if she got a bit off topic and told us about how the library has been called a “hero” by students because of their gaming events. And they’re way into IM. Yay.

Thanks, Sue!

click-a-story two

UPDATE: A few people said that the video crashed their browsers. I’ve taken it out of this post and put it on a separate page. I’ll have to sort it out. Any reports would be appreciated!

Way back in the day at the TFML some YS librarians recorded stories, I put them online and since the site is (soon to be was, I understand), blog based, the stories were being podcast. Yay. As neat as it was to have a podcast, the interface for listening to stories online was not ideal. As you’ve likely experienced before, clicking on an mp3 takes you to a grey page with a simple controller. Not very pretty, and not good for usability.

I want to provide a better interface for listening to stories the second time I implement a “listen to stories online” program. Considering how easy it is to add artwork to audio by exporting AAC files from Garageband, I thought I’d start there.

This is fine and dandy but makes iTunes the only way to see the artwork while listening to the audio. Why? I can’t find any online tools that will let me embed .m4a files in a website. Do you know of one?

Compressor is one of the most versatile file encoding tools and I guessed that if anything could convert an .m4a file into something useful (like a QuickTime file to embed!) that would be it. It did, but with only slightly satisfactory results. Something like this will appear on the NPPL’s Click-A-Story page (yes, that’s the same name, but give me a break, the libraries are across the country). If this embedded video doesn’t appear in your RSS aggregator, you’ll have to click through:

The offending video was here. To see it, though for some reason it might crash your browser, here it is on a seperate page.

iTunes artwork is 300×300 pixels, but Compressor keeps turning the files into 160×160 pixels for some reason. I’ve not yet been able to find the right setting that spits out proper images. Scrolling is unsatisfactory too. I thought I’d put this out regardless as a quick proof of concept, and to see if anyone has suggestions.

Recently, Joshua M. Neff posted about his library’s Johnson County Library Online Storytime. You know, the title of their project is pretty straightforward and I like it. Another part of the project that I like and that I’m planning on replicating is having CDs of the stories for distribution. That’s a good way to get content to do more work.

I’ll be sure to let you know when the project is live and what the response is like!

all afire for the kindle

Have you seen all of the links pointing to The Future of Reading, a “Newsweek” article by Steven Levey? Well, there’s one if you haven’t. What the excitement? Amazon.com releases their ebook reader, called the Kindle, tomorrow. Along with it comes a wireless content purchasing system. The article is worth a read and it claims that the print book will be a thing of the past in 50 years. Gasp! I’ve heard that one before, but to be honest, the more time goes on, the more I think it could be true.

O’Reilly thinks the device is somewhat irrelevant and finds the wireless book purchasing/download aspect more interesting. This makes sense coming from a publisher, and probably librarians too. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: anywhere on demand delivery is a potentially strong threat to public libraries.

Speaking of libraries, they’re mentioned once in the article and not in the typical doom-and-gloom-the-sky-is-falling-on-them way. In fact, it kind of makes it seem like we’re a step ahead of Bezos and the Kindle.

Bezos explains that it’s only fair to charge less for e-books because you can’t give them as gifts, and due to restrictive antipiracy software, you can’t lend them out or resell them. (Libraries, though, have developed lending procedures for previous versions of e-books—like the tape in “Mission: Impossible,” they evaporate after the loan period—and Bezos says that he’s open to the idea of eventually doing that with the Kindle.)

Of course, this statement isn’t accurate. Libraries haven’t “developed lending procedures,” have we? No. Vendors and publishers have. In a pretty crumby way. The article makes our ebooks seem pretty cool though with a comparison to Mission: Impossible. Librarians reading the article will find the Mission: Impossible comparison apt but for entirely different reasons.

Mystery novelist James Patterson (did you know he came up with the slogan “Toys ‘R Us Kid?”) thinks ebooks will supplant paper books soon and reasons:

“The baby boomers have a love affair with paper,” he says. “But the next-gen people, in their 20s and below, do everything on a screen.”

Kids these days, I tell ya!

Other good bits from the article include thinking of ebooks as potentially social documents. Authors could update content easily. Users could comment, or even hold book discussions within a book. I like the idea of having different layers of a book that can be turned on and off at will.

So, the Kindle. Funny/sad footnote in the history of gadgets, or world changing device? I dunno, but I’m interested to see!

again with the eBooks

The (much deserved) hype surrounding the iPhone has spread to the publishing world. HarperCollins has released 14 Books for the iPhone. This lame attempt is unlikely to finally get ebooks right (an impossible task in our highly DRMed world), and might get people excited for only a limited amount of time. I do see the iPhone as an interesting piece of the eBook puzzle, though, considering it is the first high PPI device that people are carrying around on a daily basis.

I read about this right before I read Jessamyn’s post (with comments worth reading) about Overdrive, audiobooks, and the iPod. I love her attitude about making the most of a crappy DRM situation and using the inevitable patron iPod denial as a teachable moment about free audiobooks online.

Similarly, I doubt libraries will be circing titles to patron iPhones anytime soon. Instead we can tell them about Project Gutenberg and iPhone formatted PDFs from manybooks.net.

sad walkman!

Today Apple announced that after 5 years of selling ipods, they’ve sold 100 million on them. The ipod has dethroned Sony’s Walkman as “the fastest selling music player in history.” Poor Walkman.

I realize it isn’t 100% the fault of libraries, but it is a bit telling that libraries haven’t responded with more vigor to the ipod by attempting to integrate them into library services. If more libraries would have copied the homegrown ipod audiobook program of the South Huntington Public Library instead of throwing money at vendors for inferior (in some ways, and to be fair, better in a few ways) products, maybe this would have exerted pressure on vendors to work something out.

My hopes of ipods in libraries has been somewhat renewed with Apple and EMI’s announcement of DRM free music and Microsoft’s announcement that their floundering Zune will follow suit. Could the tide be turning? I’m not holding my breath but I’m afraid that reasonably DRMed content is the only way libraries will be a relevant digital content provider in the coming years.

stanford and iTunes, thoughts on education

I’m not going to lie, I’ve had a troublesome time accepting podcasting as the new hotness, especially for my personal information input and output. However, as a librarian who wants to meet users on their terms, I see the value in having engaging non-text content for those with different tastes. We might not have many people subscribing to our YA review podcast, but that will likely change. And for now, people listen on the web. The same will hold true about our “Click-A-Story” program from the YS department, in which the librarians will record public domain fairy tales.

The number of articles that have come out recently about podcasting in education aren’t being published (just) because of hype^1^. We’re seeing an effort to meet the information gathering/processing habits of digital natives.

Prescriptivists say that this is the breakdown of the educational system, that we’re kowtowing to people who don’t know any better, and that the sky is falling. Isn’t it funny that these naysayers (including our own M. Gorman in the below article from The Chronicle) think that the Absolute High Standard of pedagogy is very similar to the system to the one in which they were educated? I’d really like to know why the evolution of education from, say, the 1800s to the present wasn’t a bad thing. Why aren’t these people advocating the use of slide rules, no, excuse me, abaci, to teach mathematics. Or maybe just a pile or rocks. Me? I think our “Today’s students are no longer the people our educational system was designed to teach.”^2^

Take a look at itunes.standford.edu which is an entrance into Stanford produced and branded content in the iTunes Music Store. It is a fine example of an institution not being static, but rather being user-centered, and getting great PR in the process. Not only is there content for non-Stanford people to download and enjoy, but there’s an entire private section for students and faculty.

I know that libraries have hours and hours of of stuff to which people would love to listen. Now if only we can get Apple to give us libraries.itunes.com…

^1^For example, The Net Generation Goes to College from The Chronicle of Higher Education and the front page “Missed class? Try a podcast ” from the October 20th Chicago Tribune

^2^Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants By Marc Prensky

that’s the idea

I came home from getting my hairs cut yesterday and saw the ListenIllinois website on displayed on my monitor. After adding 2 and 2, I figured that my father-in-law, who was crashing at our place for a few days, was looking at which books are available. He has recently retired, but before he did he was an avid audiobook listener when he traveled for work. Evidently he’s listened to nearly 1,000 books on tape and CD. (!) Now that he’s traveling for fun full-time, he needs some sort of audiobook solution that doesn’t include having to return materials on time. That’s what the new 60GB iPod sitting on the desk is for. He really must trust me, leaving that thing around. I won’t be able to put any library audio eBook content on his iPod. ListenIllinois runs on authorized-only Audible compatible players. And if you’ve read any of the audio eBook conversation going on, you know that content from OverDrive and Recorded Books – soon to be integrated into ListenIllinois’ catalog – won’t work on iPods because they are Windows Media Audio files.

Ok, I know that libraries shouldn’t alienate iPod users (it is kinda sad that the state librarian of Hawaii had to apologize to iPod users) and I know that libraries
should still be circulating players and books to patrons but I don’t want to get into that discussion here.*

What interested me about all of this was his assumption about how audio ebooks from a library would work. Moments like these are insights into how people think libraries operate and are valuable.

One very simple way to manufacture these moments of insight is to listen to your users. When they ask something about the library, or have an incorrect assumption, it isn’t because they’re stupid, its because they have different expectations of the library. If one person thinks that, for instance, your public computers ought to have WordPerfect as well as Word, maybe more people feel the same way. And maybe this is because Dell, one of the top (quantity-wise) producers of PCs in the world stopped providing as many pre-installed copied of MS Office on computers, and rather includes WordPerfect (true story). Take these expectations seriously, because they just might be logical, employ the path of least resistance, or save the time of the reader.

*Okay, maybe I want to have that conversation here. Much like J.K. Rowling’s piracy-begging refusal to release a HP6 eBook (HP6 scanned, proofread, and online in 12 hours after being released) and her piracy-begging exorbitant price for a HP6 audio eBook (bootlegs HP6 audiobook available) all of this audio eBook DRM madness is going to force me to, guess what? To meet the audiobooks needs of my father-in-law, I’ll either rip books from CD to MP3, download from people who have already done this, or, if I’m really desperate, burn Overdrive content to CD, then rip to MP3.

The thing that really, really gets to me about this situation (and our OPAC situation) is how we’re pretty much forced to endure the whimsy of the industry (and deal with many institutionalized hurdles). Let’s not let this impotence lead to apathy, pretty please?