Thursday, December 2, 2010

How Will the World of eBooks Influence Libraries?

The world of eBooks has opened my realm of access to books in a whole new way. I have read more books on my iPad in the past few months on a whim, than I have purchased in traditional print format. I have to admit, while I was intrigued with the technology, I was not prepared to love eBooks as much as I do. I will certainly continue reading the traditional way most of the time, including when I read books to my children, read on the beach (although who has time for that these days as a working mother!), or early dawn reading in bed. However, professional reading, research, and last minute book club crams all fit into the eBook “must” category for me! Now, the next step, is to determine what role “library world” is going to take in shaping their interface with the cultural eBook phenomenon.

Library Journal’s Mover & Shaker, Stephanie Chase, reports:

“If the publishing industry and the makers of the devices can work together and continue to improve the reader experience with ebooks, particularly with how to access the titles and download them, it will be an exciting time for readers, print or electronic! So very much gets printed these days (I believe I read it was over one million books last year?!), publishers have the opportunity to again focus on the cream of the crop, and give us readers well-written, beautifully formatted books.”

I agree. Perhaps the real issue is to figure out a way for libraries to prove to publishers, and distributors that we can provide direct access to customers. Libraries offer opportunities for potential customers to taste just enough to want to purchase it for their own collections. As libraries, we do a fantastic job as selling ourselves as the “peoples university, providing free access for all, creating opportunities and reducing divides.” However, many times, we miss the critical economic development piece.

Libraries are vehicles for economic development. We have over 120 thousand libraries in the United States with over 2 billion items borrowed in public libraries alone. That is 7.7 items per capita. Imagine if each of those individuals bought just one eBook after borrowing an eBook, game, or music from the library as a test.

Imagine if libraries and publishers worked together to meet both of their needs. Perhaps it is time to take the “advanced reader” concept a bit further. According to The State of America’s Libraries, ALA, About 5,400 public libraries now offer e-books, as well as digitally downloadable audiobooks. But circulation is expanding quickly. The number of checkouts had grown to more than 1 million by October 2009 from 607,275 in all of 2007.”

Both Chase and I attended BookExpo America for the first time last year, in 2009. We both liked the programming geared towards librarians. Chase noted “the "speed dating" program where publishers quickly highlighted their Fall picks, and the chance to have an extra visit with my favorite library marketing team from Macmillan. I also enjoyed hearing authors speak, in a smaller setting, about their work -- particularly if the event was geared towards librarians. Library Journal's programming track is a good example of this, as well as the programs the library marketing teams from the publishing houses hold. Having a Librarian Networking event, where we can meet fellow librarians we may only know online, would be a wonderful experience -- last year, at the Random House breakfast, I sat next to a librarian whose blog I follow, and we struck up a friendship. This alone made BEA a most worthwhile experience.”

Personally, I would love to have a moderated session where publishers, distributors, and librarians came together to discuss ways work together in the future to create the next generation of readers in a mutually beneficial way, using the latest technology to enhance the amazing talent of the writers who share their stories. Readers - what do you think? Perhaps the question ought to be "How Will the World of Libraries Influence eBooks?"