Takeaways from Trendspotting Ebooks Symposium

Highlights from CLC’s Trendspotting Symposium, Ebooks: Collections at the Crossroads, included a fiery, funny, and provoking talk by keynote speaker and library super geek, Eli Neiburger, and continued with a fascinating panel discussion that included Mr. Neiburger, the remarkable Barbara Genco, Harper Collins President of Sales Josh Marwell, and an exec from Overdrive, Mike Shontz (moderated by Kate Sheehan aka the Loose Cannon Librarian.)

Some takeaways:

  • Josh Marwell from Harper Collins said that the 26 checkout limit is NOT set in stone.  It is “a work in progress.”  (Also, bravo and major props to an HC man stepping into a roomful of wary librarians. That’s bravery.)
  • Dedicated ereaders (black and white devices whose sole purpose is to read ebooks) will be obsolete in a few years.  The future is in multifunction devices.
  • For libraries to adapt successfully in this brave new world of digital content, we need to Geek Up.  Libraries need to hire more geeks and train existing staff to be more geeky. That is, we must be comfortable navigating, creating, storing, archiving, and curating digital content.  And, we need to be able to confidently help our patrons do so as well.
  • It’s impossible to know what libraries and the ebook market will look like in 5, 10, 15 years.  But, as Barbara Genco put it, “we are beyond the tipping point.”  Ebooks and digital content are here to stay- and growing exponentially.  We need to dig in, learn, and experiment now- even if it’s scary and we aren’t exactly sure where we are going.
  • Librarians are really good at what we do- helping patrons, building collections, fostering community.  We are not so hot at marketing those value-added services and skills.  Even in the midst of being cut out of some of the digital community (ie, Kindle and Apple’s App Store) we can nevertheless put our awesome librarian skills to work.  We can be the learning labs in which our users play with content creation.  We can be the Genius Bar-like staff that assist them in creating their own stories, videos, apps, and photo collections.  We can be the storehouse, archive, and curators of this unique content.

In case you’d like to browse through the day’s tweets, there were two hashtags (one official, one grassroots): #clcebks and #clctrendspotting.

photo courtesy of Flickr user Pen Waggener
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Highlights from the EJK Discussion Panel

I was surprised to find that yesterday’s Ezra Jack Keats event at the New York Public Library was not the announcement of the 2011 award winners (that will be May 10th), but a discussion about the award, its history, and the current state of picture books.  Although I was initially pumped up to hear the award winners announced, it turned out to be a rather pleasant surprise, as the conversation was smart, illuminating, and directed by some of the most interesting and well-read women in the biz.

The discussion ranged from the frustration in finding quality picture books about and by people of color, to the importance of arts education in shaping and encouraging future writers and illustrators, to the explosion of ebooks and children’s book apps and the place of picture books in this brave new world.

Although some of the arguments and predictions reiterated points that I have heard before, it was nevertheless refreshing to hear a panel of experts talk so passionately and confidently about the future of the picture book.  This was no doom and gloom affair, but rather a confirmation of what all savvy librarians and teachers already know to be true: the picture book is alive and well, thank you very much.

One point, made by Lisa Von Drasek, that really stuck with me was that librarians and teachers have a responsibility to spread the gospel of the picture book as a medium for all ages (not just babies and toddlers) to the parents in our communities.  It’s all well and good to attend panel discussions, conferences, and participate in the kidlit blogosphere, but that’s a little like preaching to the choir.  The places we really need to reach are the mommy, daddy, and caregiver networks.  This has really got me thinking about how to use this blog to reach out farther and better to parents and caregivers.  Hmmm….  Definitely some very good food for thought.

Many thanks to the amazing and brilliant panelists, and to NYPL and the Ezra Jack Keats Foundation for organizing and hosting the event.

NYPL lion photo courtesy of Flickr user Mike_fleming; picture book photo courtesy of Flickr user Enokson.

A New eBook Challenge: Can Publishers and Libraries Find Compromise?

Mere hours after posting some eBook buying guidelines for children’s librarians over on the ALSC blog, news broke that HarperCollins is renegotiating their lending terms with Overdrive to limit the total number of times an eBook can circulate.  Their proposal: 26 circs.

And people are pissed.  With good reason.

Before I heard the actual cap, I was not completely surprised.  After all, publishers have to pay authors, illustrators, designers, editors, and yes, even themselves.  The truth is, physical books do eventually fall apart.  And libraries often replace those copies.  Looked at from that perspective, I didn’t think it entirely unreasonable for publishers to be a little wary of a medium that never, ever needs replacing.

Then, I heard the terms.  26 circs.  Yowza.  And now I’m having a harder time justifying this in the name of paying hard-working authors and illustrators.  That’s just downright unreasonable, almost laughable in it’s absurdity, and frankly, a digital slap in the face to readers and libraries.

But I’m a peace-loving, middle-ground-seeking kinda gal.  I think the way through this current eBook crisis will be by finding better, smarter solutions that offer a compromise for all parties involved.

What’s this grand solution?  Well, let’s start brainstorming.

To start, Liz Rea has some innovative ideas.

What about a tiered lending model?

Think about how libraries purchase print books. For flash-in-the-pan hits, we might buy multiple paperback copies.  The idea being that they will get a lot of circ now and then die out, fall apart, and be weeded.  For works with staying power, we might invest in a library-binding edition that costs a little more, but will last better over time.

What if an eBook was available with limited digital shelf-life?  Rather than capping the number of times checked out, say they expired from our catalog after 1 year, or 3, or 5, or 10, depending on the price.  We could decide which type to purchase for our collections.  When the expiration date approaches, we would be given the option to “renew” it or we could let it die.

Some have suggested a boycott of HarperCollins books- digital and otherwise- until they relent.  I’m much more hopeful that HarperCollins, and other publishers about to make similar decisions, will come to the table and realize the importance of working with libraries.  Developing a fair lending model for libraries is in the interest of both parties.

photo courtesy of Flickr user Pen Waggener