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Thursday, September 22, 2011

Rock, Paper, Ebook: The Next Evolution of Reading is Here



School Library Journal had an article yesterday on how Overdrive now is compatible with the Kindle. Overdrive is a popular ebook "check out" service used by many public and some progressive school libraries. As I checked the prices, I found that a license for a US school of up to a certain size is around $4,000 and it includes $2,000 towards 150-200 ebooks a year to add to your collection and you can add more. (This is only available for US schools presently.)

The fascinating thing is that you can have a 24/7 online library for students to check out with a customized book collection set up for just your students.

Rock, Paper, Ebook
Cavemen wrote on rocks in caves. Then, with Egyptian papyrus, paper was born. Now, with Kindles, Ipads and the like, electronic paper is in its infancy.

There are things not perfect about ebooks right now. Earlier this year, Overdrive received quite a bit of negative press for their "use limit" for some books. (Read the Librarian in Black for more information.) The bottom line is that publishers have no idea how the pricing will look for this new model and librarians aren't happy and perhaps cannot afford to pay for each person who reads a title if that is a model that moves ahead.

Many ebooks are check one out only. For example, if you check out a book, you don't return it. It expires and is returned to the library and then next person can check it out. The person who checked it can recheck it if it is available in the library. You can buy multiple copies of a book and let multiple copies be checked out. Textbooks are currently not available through this program from what I'm reading. 

But there is room for progressive authors and publishers who want to open up new markets to create "unlimited" check out books, so that possibility exists.

Are there other ways paper is better?
In fact, I had this conversation with my teenage daughter who has my old Kindle (which I gave up unhappily as I do prefer reading on it to my ipad but she does love it.) I asked her why she didn't want all of her novels on Kindle and her answer was,
The Skiff ebook reader was announced at CES 2010 and looks more like paper.

"Mom, when I have a book and the teacher has me underline and take notes, it is just a lot easier to take those notes and make those underlines in the book so I can have it to study for easily. I keep it on a shelf so when I'm a senior it will be easier to review for AP Literature."

OK, valid point. Since we had that discussion, I'm finding this to be true.

A Lesson from Cell Phone Days
I remember when cell phones first came out and I got in the business in 1992. Everyone said,
"NO one is going to use cell phones, they are too big and bulky and we will never want to have a bag on our hip."

Yes, they were right. Cell phones as they WERE didn't have mass market appeal. (Anyone remember "bag phones" and "brick phones?")

The problem was that people didn't see the cell phone as what it would become.

The same with ebooks.

Do you realize that we are sitting upon the biggest innovation in the MEDIA upon which we read since Egyptian papyrus. Sure, Guttenberg's printing press made a big difference in the mass scalability of paper. Take a look at the youtube video from Cairo showing the making of papyrus paper in 4,000 BC.



But paper was paper.

We are literally evolving: Rock, Paper, eBook

There are librarians digging in to defend their media. They think they are about paper. Really, a good library isn't about paper: it is about learning. Whether a student reads on a rock, paper, or ebook, I don't think a librarian should really care as long as that student is reading.

I'm not a librarian (obviously) but have a tremendous amount of respect for librarians. (See Librarians Teach us to Swim; Social media Builds Islands and Bandwidth is the Library Card of the Modern Age.)

In the ebook model we still need librarians as curators. Instead of teaching the card catalog system or electronic look up system, you'll teach people how to navigate a website. Instead of teaching students how to find it on a shelf, we'll teach them how to find it on a website and download it into their ebook reader.

Tired and Retire?
You have an opportunity, librarian. Some of you are close to retirement and you might choose to say:

"This is too much, I'm just going to go how it is for now and let the next person worry about this."

Well, they aren't building any more libraries in the physical world but in the online world, they are just beginning. You have a legacy. Your legacy is built in a generation of learners who came to you for advice that you have helped. You've poured your life into these walls and these learners. Open the walls and reach new learners.

Look at the chairs that surround you now. Think of the hundreds and maybe even thousands that have sat in those chairs studying or taking wild adventures that took them beyond the world in which they live. You've been opening a frontier to these students for your entire life.

If your heart is still beating and you still have a desk in your current library, you have the opportunity to make a difference and leave a legacy. Others are looking at you and if you decide that you're going to learn something new and try it, then you are setting the stage for everyone younger than you. They can say:

"If Mrs. Librarian-Close-To-Retirement can do it. So can I."

In fact, your behavior is setting the stage for the new person who will replace you. It is hard for new people to innovate because they aren't trusted (yet) and they don't have the asking power. You do. You know that you can ask for the money for an ebook lending system (I'm sure there are some besides Overdrive out there) and you could get it.

Why put off for someone else to do what is clearly your opportunity to do?

The question is: are you willing to learn so you can leave a legacy of learning?

Picture this: the library chairs are no longer chairs in your library but beds, floors, recliners, couches, car seats and even the fields around the world. Wherever your students are, you can be too.

There are obvious benefits:
  • check in is automated, 
  • students can find and download what they want, 
  • no heavy backpacks
  • wear and tear on books,
  • eventually you can perhaps even see how many pages they read and how they interacted with the book - things we can't even imagine yet. 

There are drawbacks:
  • something new to learn, 
  • publishers bumbling through the process of trying to make this happen,
  • you can't write in the book (is that really a drawback for libraries?), 
  • can you save the notes even when you don't have the book?

The point is that this evolution is happening. Some will always like paper and no one is making you get rid of your  paper books. No one is asking anyone to read on something that they don't want to read upon.

The only thing that is being asked is by students and people like me who want the opportunity to be able to read in the media that we prefer: the ebook.

I get 10-15 books to review a month. NONE of the publishers will send it to me via ebook. How crazy is that? Publishers don't want this to happen - at least those who have warehouses full of printing presses, paper, and personnell who do nothing but print books.

Remember all of those people who used to stamp CD's? Albums? They just aren't there because people wanted to download music.

Change
Change happens whether we like it or not. Change can be done by us to or us. We have a choice. With your many years of experience, the future library will be better if our most seasoned veterans are involved. I think we should look at libraries like the King County Library System (which won the busiest and Best Library of the Year.)

We need our veteran librarians more than ever
I'm just reaching out and asking the heroes among us to continue to be our heroes. We need our librarian leaders to help us move into the next evolution of paper. And with Kindle now on Overdrive, the evolution of books and libraries has just moved into overdrive. Expect major disruption to happen to the publishing industry - it has begun and now libraries are feeling the nudge along the path to our electronic future.

Remember your noble calling, librarian. Same to you, parent and teacher. We've got a new generation to reach and teach. Let's get started.


When we launched Kindle Kids Corner with Stephen Windwalker and I saw just how our students love the ebook format, I realized that it was time. Let's move ahead.
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