TeleRead is unhappy with LISNews

bentley writes "On Nov. 21, in response to the LISNews thread "Shhh! People are trying to compute," David Rothman posted this on his TeleRead blog: "LISNews lives up to its name--as a newsy Slashdot-style site. That aside, this virtual salon for librarians is a chilling example of the resistance and even hatred that e-bookers will encounter in the library world from its many Luddites. LISNews also shows the weaknesses of the Slashdot-modelled bulletin-board system, under which bigoted, ornery moderators can act more as if they're in a saloon than a salon." [More]"

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Presumed Luddite Responds

I'm not a Luddite by any stretch of the imagination. I am an everyday practicing librarian in a library with declining resources who still has to drag people kicking and screaming to the OPAC, and many times ends up doing the searches myself. We're struggling to get patrons to embrace this established technology as is. Where I work, we've had the e-book on our discussion lists for years, and it's always at the bottom of the list for discussion AND in priority. Most librarians are not trailblazers and change is slow in coming. I know this and am frustrated by it daily. Libraries are sort of like the Midwest--everything needs to be tested and proven elsewhere before it becomes part of how we do business. As libraries become more populated with tech-savvy folks, hopefully there will be a shift in the coming decade.

I have no anti-e-book agenda and in fact, have moderated Rothman and Teleread posts favorably. Knee-jerking all around, I guess.

What a whiner!

Honestly, some people think they can get away with being downright petty just because the forum is online. The guy needs to stop name-calling - I disagreed with him on that thread, and did so respectfully. He, however, thinks his way is the only way and isn't interested in even listening politely to any other view. And as for the complaints about moderators on that board - go back to the post. His post is rated at 5... so he can stop whining now!

Chicken vs. the Egg

> E-book advocate bullied into anonymityWhich came first, the chicken or the egg? Let's point out that anonymous patrons (or cowards on Slashdot) have chosen anonymity, they are not bullied into it. The argument that a job could be at stake is legitimate, although highly unlikely. I freely post with my name, links to my business, even personal information about my life. Yes, retribution could be dished out for my views, but take it like the proverbial man. If you have convictions, stick to them, speak your mind, and be prepared for those who hold views counter to your own. Or stay anonymous and let people question your convictions.> I doubt the visitor will take up with so many bullies lurking around the bend.Please. The same logic was used by that poor ostrich that kept its head in the ground...something bad will happen if I don't continue doing what I do.I agree with many things that Mr. Rothman discusses on his website, but he has taken his 'journalistic' blog a little far here. Let's clearly label this as your perspective. I think that, as a whole, slashcode style site do provide an honest sampling of opinions, but clearly the opinions of a select few that choose to express it online.Everyone who posts at LISNews, any slashcode, or even listservs get flamed back at times, sometimes offensive responses. It is quite possible that it is not the message that you are attempting to deliver that is not well received (concerning e-books), but the way that the message is being delivered. The use of 'Luds', 'fossils', 'bigoted, ornery moderators'...your attitude even bothers me when I agree with you. Maybe if you want your organization to succeed with the stalwarts and 'older librarians', you should consider getting a volunteer to do some PR work and review your public postings before turning the moderate librarians against your cause.

Re:Chicken vs. the Egg (On Moderation)

I'd also point out that David has moderation points (5pts issued 2003-10-31) that he can use to quiet or promote discussions that he considers worthy, therefore lessening the point in his blog that moderation is reserved for the 'dobermans'. Everyone who has an account and contributes will get a chance(s) to moderate. I've been active on LISNews since October and I've been granted 50 mod points in that timespan since I contribute regularly. I bet even the anonymous patron, if they came out of the closet', would get mod points. If you play, go can also referee. It you don't, you can't change or improve the game.BTW...I read through quite a few additional pages of the teleread website, including some of the outside articles and presentations, and I do believe the cause is good. I still have another 50% to browse through. I'd recommend anyone who is against or on the fence regarding e-books should really take some time to read through the materials that David has assembled and organized.

Re: Chicken vs. the Egg

Thanks, mcbride, you have nailed my POV on all of this. I only want to add that the original comments were posted in response to the Philly Weekly story itself, not to TeleRead's take on it. The Philly Weekly piece was, IMHO, an unfunny rendering of an ugly, dystopic, and (unfortunately) plausible future. Mr. Rothman is right that we should be worried about it, and so we are. Hence our responses.I also happen to think Rothman's stance against the centralized "library palace" and in favor of neighborhood branches has plenty of merit. I'd be interested in further discussion of this, here on LISNews and elsewhere.

how easy is outspokenness?

Do you really believe that political differences in the general sense aren't a factor when some librarians evaluate a peer or subordinate? As far as taking the blowback like a man, that's a luxury for those who are comfortably middle-class. How brave would the posters on this board be if the cost of speaking up may be to fall out of the middle class due to being blackballed?

Re:how easy is outspokenness?

> Do you really believe that political differences in the general sense aren't a factor when some librarians evaluate a peer or subordinate?Let's put this in perspective. In EVERY profession this is the case. Lawyers, doctors, scientists, accountants, musicians (Dixie Chicks?), politicians, even spouses. Librarians are no different. 'Comfortably middle-class' makes it sound like some privledged class that was attained by fitting in with the Kennedys. Rather, maybe one stands out among the masses by their individuality. And that individuality will gain fans and make enemies. Give David Rothman credit for one thing that sets him apart from the anon crowd: people know him, read about his efforts, many respect him, some dislike him, but his name and pursuits are known. I respect him immensely for that.> How brave would the posters on this board be if the cost of speaking up may be to fall out of the middle class due to being blackballed?Strange, I think posters with accounts are brave, as they speak their mind (the slash way). And, yes, they must accept any response from anons, peers, managers and subordinates that disagree with them. Also strange....you can register for a LISNews account without actually disclosing your true identity, so there is no excuse not to participate by moderating. Get a new Yahoo email address and signup here.On the other hand, let's just live and post as if this were a dictatorship or some Stalin-era website...sit back, don't speak out, conform, and nobody will bother you. First they came for...and I didn't say anything. Sound familiar?

How easy is anonymity?

Anonymity is pretty easy. I'm an early member and regular poster, but if you can figure out who I am and where I work from this post -- well, if you can make more than an educated guess, I'll be a monkey's uncle.

Nonetheless, if I come back tomorrow with this same login, and post an article about how eBooks present opportunities I think libraries are missing out on, and regardless of whether or not I make reference to Ned "General" Ludd, you'll have some context for it. You'll be able to say, for example, oh, that's Whoami, who used the phrase "monkey's uncle" yesterday.

And no matter how much you and my boss conspire to hate eBooks, you'll never be able to do a damn thing about it.

Re:how easy is outspokenness?

If you can say that you were laid off twice in the past 10 years as I have, and that you're unafraid of possibly endangering a new career as a librarian, then, sir, my hat's off to you.

Re:How easy is anonymity?

whoami brings up some good points. Ebooks present opportunities that many libraries (corporate, academic, public) and librarians are missing out on big time. They provide advantages that David covers quite well on his site. Everyone should check out his information to make an informed decision, one way or the other, on the topic.And anonymity is very easy, as I suggested in another thread. Just get a random Yahoo email address and use it to get a LISNews account. And make certain to hide your email from public viewing in the preferences page. Then anons get the best of both worlds: anonymity outside LISNews and moderation opportunities.Just remember that authors, metamoderators and admins can see hidden email addesses that you used to register, so if you are really concerned, don't use your work email. Without that access level, there's no way regular users could know your identity. But I know you know me...I helped you get an article on IPL History earlier in the year. :)

Serious error

There's one point made in the that appears to be a misrepresentation:

One LISnews moderator, perhaps self-chosen, flamed TeleRead as nothing but a commericial marketing scheme.

I don't know how Slashdot sites enforce the policy, but if you can either moderate or post but not do both, then he misused the term moderator. I imagine he meant adversary.

a polite invitation that, alas, I doubt the visitor will take up with so many bullies lurking around the bend.

Oh, right. No bias in that rant then, is there, lads? Couldn't possibly be running down dissidents just because they hold opinions which don't conform to his prejudices, now, could he?

Re:Presumed Luddite Responds

If Rochelle has "no anti-e-book agenda," then I trust she'll refrain from making future posts such the one where she totally mispresented TeleRead's genuine intentions. That's just one example of the prejudice I've encountered from some people. As for the issue of moderator neutrality, an LISNews reader raised the point--and along the way explained the use of the protective "Anonymous Patron" label, in terms of career prudence.

Anyway I'll repeat a friendly suggestion I made this weekend in the TeleRead Web Log. Perhaps Blake can "invite Tom Peters, Lori Bell, Jenny Levine and other clueful librarians to co-moderate an e-book section within LISNews, an expanded version of EPublications. At the same time, within reason, those interested in the topic should be able to post elsewhere within LISNews boards, just so their comments fit the natural flow of the discussion. From time to time, for example--not constantly--it seems only right to mention e-books when LISNews folks discuss book-starved communities."

What do you think, dear LISNews readers? We could go on forever in the "she said, he said" mode, but I'd rather look ahead to the future--and hope that Blake can follow through on the above suggestion. I'd love to see the e-pub section of LISNews turned into a little think tank on relevant issues, large and small. As I see it, the library model would be one way to address the legal complexities of e-books by at least reducing the incentive for piracy--and also the need for such reader-hostile measures as the DMCA. Similarly the area could discuss "here and now" topics such as libraries' use of public domain e-books of the Gutenberg variety. It could also follow through on e-book usability topics of the kind that Tom Peters and colleagues raised in their super-useful LITA book. And as for Rochelle? I'd love to see her commenting on the problems that patrons and others had with e-books--you can bet she'd be on target much and even most of the time, thanks to the greed and stupidity of so many e-book-related vendors. She and others could offer solutions or at least help identify the issues. What's more, to return to Project Gutenberg, perhaps I could encourage some PG volunteers to participate to learn why librarians aren't making wider use of this resource-stretching approach (interesting tidbits: PG has been upgrading its proofing standards and also expects to be able to distribute public-domain books in a number of formats). Now, those are the kind of links I'd love to make to LISnews from the TeleRead blog.

Thanks,
David Rothman | dr@teleread.org | 703-370-6540

ebook loans

if libraries are so anti- ebooks, why is so much effort being spent devising ways of 'issuing' them to one patron at a time?

The ebooks libraries can make available to people are not restricted to the 'Gutenburg' type- plenty of commercial texts are available- but the licence only allows one person at a time to view them.

Most academic libraries have selections of e-textx- and plenty of public libraries are experimenting with ways of making them available.

The other part of this debate I'm not really interested in.....

Wet dream

This from the TeleRead blog: "The DMCA is a greedy IP lawyer's wet dream." So it's full circle back to my original point on the conversion of libraries to computer palaces: the profit motive prevents this conversion. The e-book business model for current, high-demand content still isn't there, and DMCA will keep e-book squelched to a fringe niche for some time to come.

Re:How easy is anonymity?

(throws aside her disguise and waves enthusiastically!)

Re:How easy is anonymity?

Oh no....watch out...retribution and thugs will probably be lurking around the corner.Abigail's obviously confortable with both herself and her opinions, why can't others? She's shown the anons that want to moderate that you can register for a LISNews ID with any email address and start contributing as a full member.BTW...like the site and the pics, much more friendly than my B&W one.

Re:how easy is outspokenness?

You are ignoring a key point here. It is quite possible to obtain a user account at LISNews completely anonymously. The only information required is a username and an e-mail address. Said e-mail address is also obtainable anonymously and free of charge via Yahoo, Hotmail, and a host of others. Do you have another argument, because there's a big hole in this one.

Re:Presumed Luddite Responds

I'm still reading through everything David has assembled, but I still encourage everyone to read his website. Get informed, then take a position for or with him. However, I have a few problems with the points posted above.1. It is quite possible for an individual to have a negative or skeptical view of e-books without having an anti e-book agenda. 'Prejudice' is not always the case with those that disagree with your approach or rational, although it may be present with some comments from some posters. Prejudice is defined as 'partiality that prevents objective consideration of an issue'. I'm open to the issue, yet I may not agree with every point concerning the positive outlook that you have on the e-book issue.2. On the suggestion for a separate forum with 'clueful librarians to co-moderate', we all co-moderate. Everyone. Clueful librarians (and non-librarians) are welcome. Even the clueless are welcome. Get an account, post, and you'll get a chance to moderate. David, you are included in that group. You've got moderator points sitting in your account waiting to be used. Use them.If you are looking for an exclusive, moderated discussion group where the average user cannot submit comments that may be deemed negative or counter to your views, that's for another place. This is not an elite 'think tank', it's a place for your average person to express their opinions. Moderators can moderate those posts up or down. Your definition of 'clueful' is seen by many posters to be 'not counter to the pro e-book agenda'. Your organization gets stories posted here and elsewhere, discussions are started, people express their views, and you're dissatisfied that some people don't like the pro e-book agenda? Too bad, because even if we do have a National E-Book Library someday, there will be doubters, skeptics and naysayers.I guess I don't see where you are coming from by suggesting Blake change the site, when free-speech is already available here for everyone. The ultimate think-tank is a forum that is not limited to those with views on one side only. Poodles, dobermans, for/against, every color, whether they have an MLS, a PhD, a high school degree, you name it. Even anons. It's as if you see this as some 'clueless librarian agenda' rather than an accurate reflection of the population (at least the population that frequents this site).Open up your idea of a moderated discussion list to those that are on the fence (not just pro people), and I'll be the first 'fence' person to offer my time to moderate or help you with getting some external project started (a slash-type server somewhere, or maybe moveable type). But you can't ignore the doubters, otherwise they will be against you and ignore your logic.

Misconceptions

This guy makes just as many assumptions, false ones at that, as the librarians he is complaining about. Just because one doesn't like e-books they are luddites? I hate to tell Rothman but there's more than one type of technology out there. I am wary of e-books. I fail to see the benefit for the vast majority of communities out there. The comment about children's books on PDAs is laughable, "it's a bit messy". Yes, even more so, when a kid throws up on it.

I love technology as much as the next person, but I think there's some parts of our lives that need to remain free from technology. There needs to be harmony between the digital and analog parts of our world. That's why I will happily carry around my laptop, mobile phone, and an old paper dayrunner.

We used to dream of the paperless office in the 80s and 90s, we now use more paper than ever. There must be a reason. People want tangiable things.

If Rothman wants to make more information available, he should work with the Gutenberg, Internet Archive, and Public Domain organisations to reduce the onerous duration of copyright. There are many willing volunteers out there who will digitise information when it is freely available to all.

Re:Presumed Luddite Responds

People disagreeing with you does not mean they have an agenda against what you stand for. Some of us just see a lot of problems with e-books and think that new technology is not necessarily better just because it's new. You need to examine the opinions for their own worth, rather than assuming that people are somehow out to get you just because they question.

The E-Book Clinic [was:Presumed Luddite Responds]

Hello, Matthew. Thanks to you and April for further comments. I'll reply to you both in this one note, which, incidentally, will not revisit the definition of a Luddite. Let's save time and agree to disagree over that one.

Similarly, while I'm interested in seeing improvements in the existing Slashdot moderation system for LISNews, I care more about the issues themselves--The Big Picture. After reading your reply, I'm starting to think more than ever that LISNews could actually benefit from two e-book related areas even though my original idea was an improved version of present ePubs. One area would be ePubs and would be devoted to news and comment without anything changed except perhaps for the moderation tweaks that Bake may have in mind. Believers and doubters could still debate in the usual Slashdot context and under the present rules. No censorship!

The other area would be called The E-Book Clinic and would be for discussing something else--how best to make the technology work. It's really a different topic. E-book haters, for example, couldn't care less about the DRM issues of PalmDigitalMedia e-books vs. those of the Microsoft Reader variety. B-o-r-i-n-g...to them! Skeptics could still drop by the Clinic, just so they realized that the discussion was about the "hows" rather than, "Do we want e-books, period?"

The E-Book Clinic would be a way through which the library-oriented among e-bookers could exchange tips. It would be for librarians and friends rather than vendors even though they could participate. The Clinic's regulars might include the already-mentioned librarians, if they were interested, as well as one I should have mentioned earlier, Chris Rippel. The Clinic would not use the Slashdot rating system, so that newbies wouldn't be afraid to post dumb questions and so everyone could share crazy ideas without constantly worrying about The Numbers.

While dealing with nuts-and-bolts, here-and-now issues, The Clinic would also discuss matters at the cosmic level--such as how to prevent the dismal Philadelphia scenario from becoming reality.

I myself love the Slashdot system, but even Blake admits its limitations for smaller sites, and I think that the system's flaws are magnified when we're talking about a forum of the kind I've proposed. Let's worry less about Slashdot purity and more about libraries and the people who use and love them--or who work in them (overlapping categories, I'd hope).

One more idea: As you can tell, I'm still keen on this actually being a part of LISNews, as opposed to something independent. Blake could team up with sites like The Handheld Librarian, TeleRead, Gutenberg and Chris Rippel's to do "branded" versions of the generic E-Book Clinic--with customized links back to Lori Bell's home page, TeleRead's, PG's or Chris's, in addition to LISNews'. Or maybe the links of all the participating sites would be given without the branded approach used.

This cooperation would result in more people posting questions and answers to The Clinic and could spread around Blake’s board-customizaton talents, while promoting LISNews and bringing e-books into the mainstream--which is where they're headed in the commercial world.

Under those circumstances, with The Clinic blended in with the TeleRead site, yes, I'd indeed be interested in participation. And ideally you'd be there, too.

With library resources stretched so thin nowadays, there is a real need for (1) e-books, especially the public domain variety, to help reduce costs and (2) true innovation that can draw the attention of the public and media and send more tax dollars in the direction of libraries. Simply put, librarians need to be more action-oriented and more nurturing of innovation, as opposed to letting the vendors call all the shots and DRM public domain books to their hearts’ content. I've just laid out some specifics and hope that you'll be open to this new approach and encourage Blake to be likewise. Again--libraries ahead of Slashdot purity!

Thanks,
David

David Rothman | dr@teleread.org | 703-370-6540
TeleRead: Bring the E-Books Home

Re:Misconceptions [WHOSE?]

Fiona, please read my LISNews posts more carefully before doing a Ludrant. Even librarans with Web sites can come across as Luds if the mindset is there.

You're a great example of why LISNews urgently needs a separate area for people seriously interested in e-book technology for libraries. I doubt that discussions of Palms vs. Pocket PCs in an e-book DRM context would interest you.

Now--on to your rant. Um, I've said that TeleRead isn't a plan to replace all p-books tomorrow with e-books--and I've even promised eternal enthusiasm for the fold-out variety of the former. I have also pointed out that PDAs were just one form factor to be considered.

As for whether I've joined Gutenberg in pushing for a repeal of Bono, I can't get over your statement: "If Rothman wants to make more information available, he should work with the Gutenberg, Internet Archive, and Public Domain organisations to reduce the onerous duration of copyright." TeleRead has carried oodles of anti-extension items, the latest of which appeared earlier today. (Bono would mean higher costs for TeleRead--beyond the other damage from Washington's greed and cluelessness.) I've even run an item headlined Yanks seek to Hollywoodize Aussie law with longer copyright terms. Plus, I've begun lobbying campaign donors to ask bought pols to undo a law that's sleazy even by Hollywood and Washington standards.

But, look, do you really think copyright terms are going to be reduced to 0 years? Not likely. And that means providing for a way to pay copyright-holders--ideally through a national digital library fund to reduce the "savage inequalities" among library districts. As much as I love Project Gutenberg, for which I've done volunteer work, and whose books I enjoy, it is not a total solution. Even TeleRead isn't.

As for tangible vs. otherwise, more and more people are becoming e-oriented and want access to a wide variety of titles despite the greedster-bought copyright laws that have held the industry back. Amazon and Google are getting more heavily into e-books. Why can't libraries? Are you keen on their becoming obsolete?

I guess the good news is that you're so obviously uninformed. Perhaps, facts in hand, you would be a little more open minded, especially Down Under, where the distances between well-stocked p-libraries can be in the hundreds of miles.

And now the kicker. What makes this dialogue totally surrealistic is that some months ago, noticing you'd had a Net-based radio show, I invited you to check out the TeleRead site. You obviously didn't, or you'd have noticed, at the very least, all the anti-Bono postings there.

David Rothman | dr@teleread.org

P.S. Actually let me be charitable and think you're trolling rather than serious. Perhaps you read of my desire to go beyond the Lud issue and decided to test me. OK: you've succeeded. I really doubt you're as moronic as your post suggests.

Re:Misconceptions

Sorry, Fiona, but via the magic of the Bloomba program, I've found our past TeleRead-related correspondence--complete with your May 28 promise to "check out that site, sounds great!"

In my note I mentioned "I'm endlessly jealous" of Aussies for being able to read The Great Gatsby on the Net in the public domain. Had you truly checked out the TeleRead site, you would have seen my share of pro-Gutenberg words on Bono.

Oh, well. Methinks you're trolling and surely don't believe the bilge you've just posted.

To consider another possibility, that you're pandering to an e-book Luddite on a university faculty, I hope your post earns you a better grade if that's the case. This is the other side of the coin--from the plight of the pro-e-book person who posted anonymously out of career-related fears.

Cheers,
David Rothman

Econ 101

We all agree that a market must be made for e-books. So far, that market has been lukewarm at best. Why?IMHO e-books are much better suited for reference material rather than full-blown "regular" books. I've tried reading e-books from vendors such as netLibrary and they are simply too klunky. Login, password, 2-hour check-out, printing barriers, back strain, hard seats, migraines from reading War and Peace on a crummy VGA monitor, etc..If folks can't read it in less than 30 minutes then they are not going to use it.There is also the other mega issue of ownership versus access. Many libraries are reluctant to add 856 links for fear of losing their access and having to do a *&#@!load of cataloging maintenance.Our library has roughly 5000 netLibrary titles and our usage statistics indicate that our patrons feel the same as I do.I have a few close academic library colleagues that are really pushing e-books. In fact, I have seen their dog and pony show on more than one occasion. It's very interesting but again, too klunky for reading a "regular" book. The same for circulating PDA's for reading e-books. Nice, but is it really practical for most libraries?My recommendation to the e-bookers out there from this academic library director would be to revisit your marketing strategy. Focus on reference titles with good indexing and search capabilities. Stay away from the other stuff for now.E-books are just another tool, not a panacea. We all remember the hype with the pocket fisherman.The reality is nothing will ever replace the perfect technology of the printed book.

Re:The E-Book Clinic [was:Presumed Luddite Respond

David, thanks for the clarification, which makes your position on another forum not only more clear, but better justified as well. I agree that some discussions would not be of interest to many people, but I'm not certain if it would fit as well here as on a new platform/forum. Even a PHPbb system would do fine. Or at the least a standard listserv setup.Either way, I'd be willing to help in any capacity, because 1) it needs to be discussed, and 2) it needs individuals that are pro, moderate and skeptics to challenge and provide insight (not skeptics that are prejudiced). As I said before, I'm moderate on the topic, skeptical at times, but it is a useful discussion.

Re:The E-Book Clinic [was:Presumed Luddite Respond

Dropped by your Web site, Matthew, and can see you'd be a real asset to a multi-site E-Book Clinic of the kind I have in mind. A scientific approach, which is what you're used to, would nicely complement people's actual experiences. You could share your own thoughts on the research and also acquaint yourself first-hand with the technology.

Right now is a bad time for me to act, but I really would like to pursue this idea if it can be done right and I can find the time and get others to do the same.

As for skepticism, it's essential since people need solutions that work. All I'd ask is that the board focus on the basic "how" rather than the "whether"--and that the critics not just flame away for the joy of it, which is what some of the people here seem to be doing without the least regard for the facts.

I still like the idea of an association with LISNews, but, hey, it's Blake's site and his call (along perhaps with others'). I hope the answer from is, "Yes."

Thanks, Matthew, and happy holidays. David

David Rothman | dr@teleread.org | 703-370-6540

Re:Misconceptions

I find it offensive that you assume the only reason why I post my opinion is to get props at work.So sorry that I didn't recall your site. I read through thousands of websites a year. I guess it wasn't that memorable.As for a separate part of LISnews for ebooks, have you considered that there are many other forums for such discussion? LISnews is a general, blog type site for daily news. It's not intended as authoritative comment. There are groups such as LITA, listservs such as web4lib, and dozens of specific ebook listservs that already exist.In your other reply you say "Amazon and Google are getting more heavily into e-books. Why can't libraries? Are you keen on their becoming obsolete?"That's a ridiculous statement, and ignores the many thousands of other kinds of information and services that libraries make available.Libraries are not bookstores. They are community resources. Information in the form of books, whether electronic or printed, are a miniscule part of the services that we provide.

Worthwhile Read

David - Interesting article worth looking at.E-Books: It's About Evolution, Not Revolution.Library Journal; Fall2003 Net Connect, Vol. 128 Issue 17, p8Karen Coyle assesses both the e-book industry and library e-book experimentsThis June, Gemstar announced that it would no longer produce e-books for the Rocket eBook Reader and would withdraw support for that device in 2006. While this decision signals the end of an era for e-books--and the demise of what was a darned good e-book reading device--it does not, by any means, mark the end of the e-book itself.At some future date, the Rocket Reader may be looked upon as the Apple Newton of e-book readers. The Newton was the first handheld personal information manager, and although it had a small number of loyal users, most people asked, "Who wants a computer you can hold in your hand?" Today tens of millions of people keep their lives organized in computing devices the size of cigarette packs. Others surf the web and read email on the even smaller screens of their cell phones. The Newton, however flawed, was ahead of its time.Similarly, criticisms of the Rocket Reader showed our discomfort with the e-book concept. A common statement, usually voiced by someone who would not dream of leaving the house without a book in hand, was, "Who wants to carry around a special device to read books on?" Another was, "Who wants to read on a screen?" Yet we all read on screens, probably more than we acknowledge, as we get more and more news and much of our professional reading from the web.The Rocket made the e-book obvious. Although it was about the size and weight of a hardback book , it seemed like more of a "device" than ink on bound paper, also a text delivery technology. The Rocket had the audacity to call itself a book, but it lacked "bookness" for most devoted readers.Rocket represents the first phase of e-books. The e-book hype of the 1990s, promising huge libraries of electronic books available to everyone, everywhere, all the time, burst along with the rest of the dot-com bubble. Nevertheless, the Rocket story reminds us that we are still in the experimental stages of presenting and consuming lengthy texts in digital format. There is no question that we aren't there yet, wherever "there" may turn out to be.E-books: a growing nicheE-book sales were counted separately for the first time in 2002, and although it is a small portion of trade publishing's $26 billion sales revenue, e-books accounted for $3.3 million in sales. While only a small percentage of what publishers earn on such categories as religious books or standardized tests, e-book sales is one of the few growth areas in publishing. After peak sales in the late 1990s, book sales have been dropping in most sectors. The American Association of Publishers (AAP), leading off an otherwise glum report for April 2003, announced that sales of e-books for that month were up 268.3 percent, with a sales total of $900,000.This figure doesn't include those e-book solutions that present open collections of books for unlimited access, such as ebrary or Books 24x7 offer. It also doesn't include all of the public domain titles that exist at sites like Project Gutenberg or the University of Virginia Electronic Text project. Nor do we have any aggregated accounting of the number of e-books that were borrowed from libraries, either on those now-orphaned Rocket devices or through netLibrary. The Open e-Book Forum, the main industry group for e-books, is making an effort to produce both sales and usage statistics for e-books, although the emphasis will be on trade publications.E-books are only a small revenue stream for its members, but AAP has put significant effort into understanding the legal, economic, and technology issues from the publishing industry's point of view through its "Digital Policy/E-book Project." With diminishing sales of hardcover books, AAP recognizes that the development of a new market for digital books can benefit its members. AAP also understands that an immature product and a chaotic marketplace are not ideal for the health of the publishing industry. Admittedly, some of the interest is defensive--the publishing industry has a healthy fear of the problems that have plagued the music industry, like Napster. The hope is to move into the digital age with a good business plan.The Association of American University Presses also recognizes electronic publishing as a potential future direction. Columbia University, University of California, MIT, National Academies Press, and others are experimenting with offering all or part of their active book lists online. An early report that free online access to the full text of their e-books actually increased sales raised hopes within that highly specialized community that the online collection was a new marketing technique.Integrating the e-bookA good test of a new technology is whether it integrates with more established technology or whether its newness sets it apart from the day-to-day in our lives. The Rocket Reader seems to have suffered the "like a sore thumb" syndrome, but other e-book technologies are beginning to play well with others in the technical ecology.One example is the Glassbook Reader software, which Adobe acquired in 2000 and rewrote as the Adobe E-book Reader in 2001. Early this year, the ubiquitous Adobe Acrobat Reader was updated to a new version (6.0), which replaces both the original Acrobat Reader and the Adobe E-book Reader. Version 6.0 incorporates many of the features of the e-book reader such as a bookshelf, annotating capabilities, and copyright protection for commercial e-books. The distinction between a PDF file that is an e-book and a PDF file that is, well, any other kind of document, will be less obvious to users of Acrobat Reader 6.0. This essentially "mainstreams" the e-book , making it a product line that most of us consider part of the basic tool kit of online document delivery--a significant development from a company as influential as Adobe.The device dilemmaJust what to use to read an e-book is still an issue. There is near universal agreement that reading an e-book on a standard computer screen while connected to the Internet is not the reading experience users seek. In 2002, computer makers announced the tablet PC, a laptop computer with a screen that acts like a virtual piece of paper. The tablet screen can be held like a notepad and can be used to take hand-written notes. It was also presented as an e-book reading device. So far, however, tablet PCs do not seem to have captured the market; it appears that a two- to three-pound, $2000 machine is not what people want as an e-book reader.People want to have their e-book on a portable device, preferably one that they have with them anyway. For many, that device is a handheld computer that fits easily into a coat pocket. About 60 percent of the e-books sold today are in Palm Reader format, which exists for Windows, Macintosh (8.6 and up), Palm OS, and Pocket PC. Another large percentage is in MS Reader format, which runs on handheld devices with the Windows CE operating system.These files can also be read on full-sized computers, but, clearly, people gravitate to a digital book they can easily carry with them. Still, the ideal portable device has eluded the computer industry.Serving library users--offlineCompanies in the e-book market focus on libraries because libraries buy books and services and because they are where the reading public gathers. For companies that already have an e-commerce solution for the sales of e-books, providing library lending is a logical next step.An online book sale requires the exchange of a "token" (credit card number) that can be verified as valid. The book is then transferred to the user's computer with certain protections in place that prevent the user from providing a usable copy to others. Change the credit card number to a library card number, add an expiration date to the protections that exist, and you have the beginnings of a library lending system.Two e-book technology companies, Adobe and OverDrive, have recently announced solutions for libraries. The Adobe Content Server allows libraries to lend books to their patrons via Adobe PDF format on personal computers and handhelds. These books are in the same format as the ones sold through online bookstores. The Adobe technology is behind both netLibrary and Baker & Taylor's (B&T) e-book lending functions.If OverDrive is not a household name it is because the company's technology generally powers other brand names. OverDrive provides the functionality behind the window dressing of many e-book sales sites on the web, including Yahoo! and Barnes & Noble. OverDrive's technology allows the sale and transfer of e-books in any of their popular formats. It also allows the seller to set file protection and other conditions of the sale.These capabilities translate well into library solutions, and OverDrive recently began marketing a library e-book server that is like a virtual shelf that libraries can fill with e-books they have purchased (or other digital documents they have obtained or created, such as government documents or local archives). Notably, OverDrive allows public libraries to deliver the sort of popular, frontlist titles that users expect. This library solution is now in use at the CLEVNET Library Consortium, Cleveland, and King County Library System, WA.Another e-book sales company, FictionWise, has developed a library solution called LibWise that allows users to download e-books onto their handheld devices using an infrared beam from a computer at the library (as in "beaming" with a Palm Pilot). Users can also download these books from home through their computers and then load them onto the device. Access to these books expires at the end of the lending period, as with the other library lending solutions.The format BabelE-books can be loaned to a computer in the user's home or office, or to a handheld or portable computing device. The user can read the book off- or online, in whatever environment. Choice, however, creates something of a dilemma for libraries. There are dozens of different e-book formats, and a handful of them serve the majority of "mainstream" e-book consumers. But none of them serves everyone.Microsoft's MS Reader only runs on machines with a version of the Windows operating system. This includes the handheld devices running Windows CE but doesn't cover Macintosh computers or Palm OS handhelds. The Adobe Reader is available for a wide range of devices including Macintosh, Linux, and Palm OS. However, the Adobe Reader cannot run on older Palm OS devices, and the files in that format are much larger than the simple files that the Palm Reader accepts.Ideally, a library could purchase the e-book content and deliver it in whatever format the user desires, but that is not how it works. To have an e-book in both Microsoft Reader and Adobe Reader formats a library would have to purchase two copies of the e-book. The same is true for other formats such as the Palm Reader. And if a library decides to standardize its e-book offerings on a single platform, not all books that are produced in e-book format will be available because some publishers have not contracted with all of the e-book distribution services. In this still immature market, delivery format is part of the competitive edge that companies are experimenting with, and each format is considered a separate product by publishers and distributors.Searchable collectionsWe tend to think of e-books as individual texts, analogous to books, each separate and individually contained. There is another view of e-books that is similar to our view of the World Wide Web: a body of texts that can be treated either as a single unit or a kind of database. This is the model of ebrary and Books24x7, two online systems that offer an integrated collection of e-books that can be searched, viewed, and used as jumping off points for further research. netLibrary has also recently added this capability: the books that a library has purchased, as well as the public domain books that netLibrary carries, can be searched as one full-text database.The ability to turn a collection of books into a searchable whole is ideal for the reference collection. Ovid, a database vendor, has used its database technology to turn reference books into their logical units for searching and for display. These digital reference books can be updated "in place" and on more frequent schedules than printed versions of the same works.ABC-CLIO's new e-book collection contains 300 reference titles. Over the next five years it will be issuing each of its books simultaneously in digital and paper formats, in order to build comprehensive subject collections in key areas. Libraries can purchase individual titles or an entire collection.Gale's Virtual Reference Library, available in late 2003, will have both book and database views for the works in its collection. In the book view, the titles will have tables of contents, indexes, and lists of illustrations linked to pages in the book . In the database view, the user will retrieve an individual entry that can be printed or emailed, similar to an online article. The interface will include many of the capabilities that reference librarians and expert searchers have come to expect in an online search system such as a search history. (For evaluations of e-book collections, see E-Reviews, p. 28.)Linking outThe e-book collection can be further expanded with broader search and linking services. netLibrary is working on ways to allow its collections to be included in metasearch options that libraries employ against other networked resources such as abstracting, indexing, and full-text databases. The University of California's eScholarship project is experimenting with using OpenURL to link bibliographies and citations within the online University of California Press books to the university's union catalog and to the many licensed resources of the library.Books in the ebrary collection can interact intelligently with a variety of reference sources. In this way, the networked e-book becomes open to a whole range of web services, and the e-book loses its standalone identity and becomes part of a whole matrix of information resources.That's an e-book?It is likely that if you ask users of these services if they read e-books , some of them would say no, and they would be right--in a way. One company representative referred to this approach as "research, not reading." No one really expects users to read whole books online, but some librarians and library users are discovering the great reference value of being able to do keyword searching within a set of books. This integration of full-text searching with other search capabilities offered by libraries will not seem revolutionary to library users who take full-text searching for granted through their exposure to the web and large, full-text databases from vendors. It has, however, the capability to revolutionize the work of the library's reference staff, allowing them to dig deeper into the collection than they ever have before.Digitizing books allows them to be used in a variety of different ways. The same books can be presented both as standalone texts with virtual covers or decomposed into keywords in a mix with other digital texts. Individual chapters from textbooks or entries from encyclopedias can be integrated with online courseware or added to a professor's web-based syllabus. Publishers are experimenting with new models, such as the custom textbooks professors can create using McGraw-Hill Primus Online.Working with library modelsWith B&T's E-Content Delivery System (ED), librarians can buy e-books through the same library vendor they use for books. In fact, ED allows librarians to purchase books and make them available for loan in Adobe PDF format. The books are also available online in HTML format for browsing and short-time viewing on a library-branded web site.This model was pioneered by netLibrary, a company that was new to the library market only a few years ago but whose name is synonymous with e-books to many librarians. Now owned by OCLC after a period of economic instability, netLibrary was the first company to systematize the lending of digital books, but in a model that mimicked that of the one book, one loan model of libraries. To many it seems incongruous to treat a digital file like a physical object, i.e., a book that is out on loan is not available to other users, but this satisfies publishers' desire to limit simultaneous uses to the number of copies that the library has purchased.This lending model also helps libraries integrate e-books with their book collection. Both netLibrary and ED imitate the circulation function of library systems, allowing libraries to set short circulation times for reference books and longer times for nonfiction and fiction. These systems produce statistics not only on circulation but also on usage and turnaways. You know every time a book is browsed and every time a user tries to access a book that is off the virtual shelf.Where's Harry?You can't write about books today without at least one mention of Harry Potter. J.K. Rowling, the author of that famous series, has not (yet) given permission for the Harry Potter books to be produced in e-book format. Yet a pirated version of the latest tale of wizardry was downloaded in Asia, where the printed text would not arrive for many months. Knowing that some eager fans have gone to the effort of pirating Rowling's books, rekeying the text, can be taken as proof that there is real demand for books in electronic form.Few books will match Harry Potter's superstardom. However, other circumstances can fuel the demand for books that can be accessed as easily as any web page, such as serving distance education, bringing robust collections to rural communities, or adding virtual shelves to an overcrowded urban branch library. We can all expect the next decade to be a rich one for the evolving e-book.

Re:Misconceptions

"Libraries are not bookstores. They are community resources. Information in the form of books, whether electronic or printed, are a miniscule part of the services that we provide."

Actually TeleRead would include articles and other sources of information besides books, and, in fact, you've unwittingly strengthened my argument. Imagine the linking opportunities--to nonbooks--if more books and other items go electronic. Keep in mind, too, the reduction in shelving expenses, etc., so that more library spending can go for books and other acquisitions--which must now be a much smaller fraction of library expenditures than they should be. Patrons want both content and guidance in accessing it, and e-books and other electronic media could help. Believe it or not, millions of people still reply on libraries for books, not just to have reference questions answered. Then there's the little matter of children. Imagine the difference in their lives that the right books can make.

>So sorry that I didn't recall your site. I read through thousands of websites a year. I guess it wasn't that memorable.

How many other sites have you visited that focus on the advocacy of well-stocked national digital libraries from a community perspective? That include related writings such as a 1992 Computerworld article and items from the Washington Post and U.S. News & World Report and an MIT Press/ASIS info-sci collection. But then again, I guess books and other content are just a little detail to you.

As for your conviction that LISNews does not need an e-book-related area, I hope you'll keep your statement in mind when the Philadelphia library does get gutted--and "free community workstations" replace books by dead writers. If your feelings about books are representative of enough other librarians here--and I'd at least hope not--then we're well on the way to the scenario becoming a reality. Plebes will have information served up to them from so-so Web sites, while members of the elite patronize e-bookstores at Amazon and Google and various other pay-to-read and subscription services and care as much for public libraries as for urban schools.

David Rothman | dr@teleread.org | 703-370-6540

Re:Worthwhile Read

Thanks, Tomeboy! From the TeleRead web log I did link to the piece last month. Karen did a great job of summing up some major developments, and, yes, the e-book business is growing, but it's still just a speck of a speck of total book industry sales. The reasons as I see them? Not the basic technology inherently (though it could be better), but rather stupid copyright laws, along with clashing e-book formats and onerous digital rights managment. That's why I remain excited about the TeleRead library model, since it could be used to provide for proper compensation for copyright holders while reducing the incentive for piracy--and the need for user-hostile copy protection and DMCA-hideous laws. Thanks again. - DR

Re:Econ 101

Um, have you heard of electronic ink and the e-books that will have flippable pages and paper-level resolution. No, they aren't going to be on sale at BestBuy tomorrow, but the technology is on the way.

Meanwhile I don't know where I'd be without Project Gutenberg--and all the novels I've read on my Dell Aixim and Gemstar REB 1100. Both are far more comfortable for reading e-books than desktops are--and speaking of backs, imagine the back-saving potential for schoolchildren who must now lug around heavy backpacks.

While e-books are not a panacea, I don't see them as just niche technology in the future.

The issue, by the way, isn't just viewability, form factor, etc., but also the availability of content. My favorite writer of the moment is George Gissing whom I learned to enjoy in a big way through the Net. Try finding books after book by him on the shelves of your local public library.

While he's in the public domain, the same arguments might be made in the future in connection with commercial books by little-known contemporary writers. The Econ 101 for best-sellers just won't be the same Econ for smaller books--which, in the e-book era, will enjoy more of a chance if the big guys don't mess things up. TeleRead would vastly increase the number of modern e-titles, through arrangements to pay writers and publishers fairly.

Meanwhile thanks for repeating my criticisms of the industry for making e-book consumer-hostile with moronic protection schemes. TeleRead is about addressing that and other issues and also building on the strengths of e-books. Couldn't agree with you about the searching potential. Not to mention other good stuff ahead such as interbook links for academics and other demanding readers of nonfiction, including reference works.

But, again, please don't dismiss e-books for recreational reading! - DR

Re:Worthwhile Read

Sorry about your having already seen this.(heads up on personal rant)As for the lawyers, any legislation that may keep their sticky little mitts off of others money is good legislation. It's absurd how these greased hair, Armani models manipulate and intimidate businesses, physicians, etc.. I know copyright doesn't fall under tort, but both need to be addressed now!While on the subjects of intimidation and manipulation, too bad you can't get a cozy "non-profit" status like your competitor OCLC???

Re:Worthwhile Read

No problem with your reading rec. Would that I see everything; even RSS and Bloomba can do only so much. So I appreciated the pointer and, just as much, your anti-lawyer rant.

On another topic, please remember, TeleRead is a plan, not an OCLC competitor--although it certainly would be great to have better alternatives to the hobbled netLibrary.

If OCLC can improve its NL subsidiary, then more power to it. In many client libary systems, last I knew, people couldn't even download copyrighted NL books to their own machines because the libraries lacked the right proprietary software. OCLC needs to kick the rear end of the e-book industry and at the consumer level encourage truly open standards and less restrictive DRM.

Meanwhile I hope you can now appreciate just why e-books are a shadow of what they could be--and why they will be increasingly fit for much more than reference applications. I'd like to see libraries stay current with the technology and influence its evolution rather than being Googlized and Amazonned away (or victimized by clueless consultants in the Purple Haired Library Eater vein).

Thanks and happy holidays,
David Rothman | dr@teleread.org | 703-370-6540

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