In January of last year, I originally argued the librarian’s dilemma was that of figuring out what course of action libraries should take in the eBook arena. A year later, it seems there is still no clear answer! Given the recent Google Books decision (info via the Disruptive Library Technology Jester blog) and the public discussions from both OverDrive and Harper Collins, I don’t think any clear answer is coming soon!
So what does a library do? Remember, the choices they make will ultimtely affect you, the eBook buyer, reader and enthusiast!
Ultimately, I think libraries should focus for now on the free repositories available for use. Given the advances in Google Books, Hathi Trust, the Open Library and others, this course of action will help them stabilize their budgets, offer more choices to their patrons (YOU!) and not be locked into a vendor’s approach to the eBook world.
Is that realistic? In some cases yes, in others no….here’s why. The massive repositories now online or going online are promising to multiply a library’s local collection by 10, 20, even a 100 times more than what they could get from a vendor–all in a multiplicity of formats. Almost any subject under the sun is now available for library patrons.
Looking for classic American and English literature? Check–got that here. How about common non-fiction subjects such as gardening, pirates, and even science fairs? Yep-all of those are available! These sample subjects are just the tip of the iceberg as to what is out available.
However, this free approach can be unrealistic if the patron demand is for the best sellers, the hot new fiction that only the vendor can offer. Would this demand be better served by a real paper version? There’s really no right or wrong at this point, as libraries alone know what their patrons really want.
I guess the upshot here is that given the uncertainties of the current eBook situation, I feel it would be better for libraries to minimize their eBook purchasing until some sort of standard can be worked out–but still use the (sometimes, often) free resources to enhance and stabilize their local collections.
This way, eBook enthusiasts like you and me can still find lots of goodies for our ebook readers. Colllection integration of various free resources seems to be a better approach than a one shot only approach from any particular vendor. Given the public API’s and integration with library standards such as OCLC and others, this doesn’t seem to be too arduous to implement.
So what do you think? Realistic or just “pie-in-the sky”? My thoughts? I think it’s workable, but secretly, I’m holding out for the Digital Public Library myself!
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