Instant Ideas and Collaboration

Summary – Thursday 4th August 2011 – eBooks Discussion

#UKLibChat got off to a quiet start this week, but it soon picked up and turned into a lively debate. We also received a special mention from an LIS practitioner who shall be using the chat as an example of librarians’ use of social media. Keep an eye out for it if you are in Finland on August 25th 2011!

Q1) Does your library purchase e-books? If so do they lend them?

  • There was a noticeable split between academic and public libraries here. Librarians from public libraries noted that e-books were starting to be purchased on a larger scale, and lent out. Academic libraries tended to subscribe to e-books, but they are accessed through portals and rarely available for download or lending due to licensing agreements.
  • Several libraries did not subscribe to e-books due to budget restrictions and concerns about Digital Rights Management (DRM).

Q2) Do you think libraries should offer e-readers alongside e-books?

  • One respondent indicated that lending e-readers would be beneficial as it would increase interest in e-books. The majority of library users are currently unable to make use of them due to not owning an e-reader, or having one which reads e-books in a different format. This was echoed by others, and it was felt if the majority of library budget was spent on e-books, then it would put those without e-readers at a disadvantage.
  •  The differences between socio-economic areas was highlighted. E-books generally seemed to receive more use in more affluent areas.
  • The prohibitive costs of trialling a service were mentioned, as were fears of losing the e-readers, or fixing damage to them.
  • One library had an e-reader, but does not lend it out.

Q3) What is uptake like?

  • There appeared to be mixed reactions to uptake. Some felt that those with e-readers would purchase their own material, rather than make use of a library to download books. This was countered by positive uptake statistics from Essex and Newcastle libraries’ successes with e-books.
  • Hospital libraries were discussed, and it was felt that potential uses were not being capitalised upon, potentially due to interface issues, and restrictions for staffs’ access to a computer or Smartphone.
  • Difficulties of training staff to use e-books and promote them effectively appeared to be a wide spread issue and something that needs to be addressed. The majority of librarians who felt comfortable using e-books were self taught, not formally trained.
  • The competition between the Kindle and other e-readers appears to cause problems. Many readers have Kindles, and therefore cannot loan e-books within the UK. It was hoped that this would change in the future.
  • Several libraries required you to visit in person and sign up for a PIN number to download the e-books remotely.
  • Overdrive was frequently mentioned as a provider for e-book loans.
  • Surrey has 1700 e-books, 1.8m items in stock. e-books issue much better than paper stock.

Q4) What have your e-book experiences been like? Positive/negative feedback?

  • Broadly positive, in some areas there has been great interest for the format.
  • Negative experiences included feeling that the Kindle already has too much of the market to make loaning e-books effective. Hopes that Amazon change their format to enable lending.
  • A further divide between public and academic libraries. Public libraries appear to receive interest and excitement regarding e-books. The same was not true of academic libraries.
  • Several replies indicated that e-books had been used successfully. E-readers were especially  popular for holidays!
  • Attention was drawn to music books and their potential to include music as midi (or other) file types.
  • In Surrey, it was noted that e-books “go like hot cakes”.
  • The ability to read a book ‘anonymously’ without being judged was lauded as a benefit (as it is not possible for others to see the cover).
  • The auto-deletion of books from e-readers was viewed as a benefit – no late fees!

Q5) What would your ideal e-book model be? Price, mechanics etc.

  • Not locking e-books to a specific device, no DRM (e-pub format best?).
  • Lower price than the same title in print to encourage the format to grow.
  • Readable across a wide range of formats (iPad, laptop and Kindle were specifically mentioned).
  • An ‘Amazon-esque’ interface with which to download books.

Q6) Should libraries be forming consortiums for purchasing e-books?

  • Caused interest due to people being able to borrow e-books across local authority borders with greater ease due to remote downloads.
  • It was expected that some are, but participants were unsure.
  • A national digital library proved to be a very popular idea.

Q7) What do you see as the barriers to libraries providing e-books?

  • The speed of the internet within NHS hospitals has proved problematic with accessing materials.
  • Publishers restrictions.
  • Poor interfaces.
  • A preference among users for hard copy items (especially in the academic environment).
  • Advanced technological skills needed to access some materials.

Q8) Is there a gap between what the user wants and what the publisher thinks they want?

  • General feeling that the publishers are focussing on turning a profit and not meeting the client’s needs.

Q9) Are publishers scared of e-books? Does this explain the poor interfaces?

  • A marked difference between US and UK publishers was noted. US publishers appear to be happier with lending books. This may be due to a more mature market than the UK currently has.
  • A comparison was drawn with e-journals. It was noted that their format is generally easy to use and access. There was confusion as to why the same could not be done for monographs. Splitting chapters into downloadable PDFs was mentioned.
  • Publishers are possibly unsure about how to make the most of the possible interactivity e-books provide. The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr Morris Lessmore was cited as a good example of the possibilities of e-books – http://morrislessmore.com/

Q10) Have you had management issues? Use of Library management systems with e-books?


Q11 What are your experiences with integration with OPAC?

  • Issues accessing items via a library’s OPAC seemed common.
  • Some problems integrating e-books to the library catalogue.

Q12) Does anyone know about full text searching for non-fiction?

  • No one was aware if full text searching for non-fiction was available.

Q13) What are everyone’s experiences of training? Do library staff know how to download e-books via their libraries?

  • Little training appears to be available. The onus is placed upon the individual to become familiar with the formatting to effectively aid and promote e-books.
  • The lack of e-readers in public libraries meant training was limited, and staff are often relied upon to make use of their own.
  • Where training was received, its impact appears to have been limited, or provided too late

The next topic will be on increasing awareness across sectors and breaking down barriers inside the profession. There will also be a chance for reflection on what has been discussed since #UKLibChat started approximately 2 months ago.

For a further discussion of this #UKLibChat, have a look at “eBooks in Libraries” on Information Today Europe.

About Sam (LibWig)

Chartered London law librarian

3 comments on “Summary – Thursday 4th August 2011 – eBooks Discussion

  1. David
    August 8, 2011

    The major obstacle to the future development of ebooks in public libraries is the tiny number of major publishers (Penguin, Random House, Bloomsbury) who “allow” their books onto Overdrive or Askews and Holts platform. This has resulted in their being very few new UK ebooks available for purchase each month.
    The much vaunted Harper Collins approach is also immaterial in the UK as Harper Collins UK do not put ANY content on the platforms any more. This is true of a number of other publishers whose back titles we have but have withdrawn from providing any new titles.
    In a year of providing an ebook service my library service has been unable to satisfy a single customer request for an ebook title, all have been unavailable as loanable library ebooks. Its very frustrating!

  2. Ken Chad (@KenChad)
    August 11, 2011

    There are a lot useful resources and comment about ebooks on the Local Government Library Technology (LGLibTech) wiki. The ebooks page is at https://lglibtech.wikispaces.com/E-Books

  3. Pingback: Feature #29: Ebook ecology – managing digital collections amid the publishing war | #uklibchat

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: