Ebooks, ebooks everywhere, nor a thing to read

With apologies to Coleridge, I wanted to take some time to summarize the flurry of news about ebooks, ibooks, etc. that happened at the beginning of the new year and talk a little bit about the impact on libraries.

Social Reading

Back in 2010, news started bubbling to the surface that seemed to imply that now that we had all of these ebooks, we needed something to do with them. So several projects for ‘social reading’ were launched.

In 2010, Bob Stein created a ‘taxonomy of social reading’ that is well worth reading.

Several project/companies have emerged in this space, but I have yet to see one take off and become heavily used.

Libraries Struggle with How to Handle EBooks

The Washington Post reported at the beginning of this year about the struggle between libraries and publishers to come up with a business model to make both sides happy. This doesn’t seem to be moving forward, unfortunately.

Because publishers are failing to come up with a business model, they are being replaced—Amazon and Apple are the new publishers.  (Although some disagree with the latter). There is also arguments on both sides about the rise and fall of self publishing. Are we in a self-publishing bubble?

Either way, if the ‘traditional’ publishers are being replaced because they can’t keep up with new delivery systems and formats, who is taking the place of the libraries? Are the social reading initiatives aiming to fulfill some of the role traditionally held by public libraries?

I can’t help but think that both sides — libraries and publishers are both missing a trick. Both are still trying to fit the old things into the new form.

Marshall McLuhan 1960 from bob stein on Vimeo.



Books are going, but are libraries still places to read?

After a piece in the New York Times about a school library trading in its books for a “digital center,” they gathered up some of the responses from students. Some were (for me anyway) quite heartening. I was happy to see that students have thought about the usability of digital textbooks, the difference between reading online and in print, and the different and nuanced purposes that libraries do and might serve. On one of my more critical days I might say they have thought about it more than many librarians.

The library is a place. A learning place. The Kindle, Nook, or iPad won’t change the library as long as things are learned.