Friday, March 16, 2012

Libraries & ebooks: Don’t count us out yet!


I’ve had a few days to think about the ideas presented in a library lecture I recently attended about ebooks. Mary Minow, this year’s Follett Chair at Dominican University presented “Ebooks and the Reader.” She holds a law degree among many other accolades. Her focus was on how best to serve the reader, something that publishers and maybe even libraries overlook in the anxiety over licensing agreements (libraries) and profit (publishers). These issues are of course biggies and must be dealt with, but within all the uncertainty lies the fact that both libraries and publishers depend on customer demand for their livelihood. What does the customer what? Above all, they want to be able to use the product. So, ebooks and all e-content has to be easy to use and not too expensive. Sounds simple, right? Not by a long-shot. Downloads from libraries include many steps before people can use what they checked out. The steps change depending on the device customers use. Customers often have to wait to get popular titles. Publishers limit the number of times a library's patrons cn check out titles. The list goes on. Here’s the upshot: if libraries can offer customers pre-loaded devices, then their customers would be a lot happier. As e-readers get cheaper and more durable, I think this will happen.