Catching Up Over the Holidays

Posted Monday, January 6, 2014 - 13:44
Digital Content and Libraries Working Group logo

New Year’s week was a good time for me to catch up on work (or at least attempt to become less behind!). Accordingly, there are a few recent developments and upcoming events involving the Digital Content and Libraries Working Group (DCWG) that I’d like to highlight here.

Several weeks ago, I ventured forth to New York City. One of my stops was the venerable Strand bookstore for the launch of Library for All. This new initiative focuses on providing ebook access to individuals in the developing world who otherwise would have little or no access to books, whether print or electronic. Library for All is optimized for low-broadband environments and lower-cost mobile devices.

The Library for All pilot took place in October 2013 for 530 students at the Respire School in Gressier, Haiti. The implementation is based on a custom router system designed for low-broadband environments. Ebooks trickle down to a local server whenever a 3G connection is available. Thus, users may obtain access to ebooks at reasonable response times. Local content in local languages was the most popular form of content, and not surprisingly, students were more confident with using the technology than their teachers. The second pilot is expected in this spring 2014 to be on a scale that is more than an order of magnitude larger than the initial pilot.

Another stop I made while in New York City was Perseus Books Group, where I met with four senior managers. Perseus has had a profitable relationship with libraries from the early days of its ebook business. Unlike the Big 5, their titles are available to libraries at the same prices charged to consumers, and for the same time period as consumers—indefinite access via one person-at-a-time use. We discussed how libraries can best position themselves to fulfill the true information needs of their patrons, which sometimes means providing or recommending a title that a patron never considered requesting.

This year has also brought a change to the American Libraries E-content blog. As previously reported, after two years of thoughtful and tireless blogging, DCWG member Christopher Harris just concluded his service. ALA is fortunate that DCWG member Jamie LaRue, another highly knowledgeable, strong library advocate, is taking the blogger reins. I’m grateful to Chris and Jamie for stepping up.

Libraries as discovery and marketing venues are worthy of more attention. As we are early in the life of the library ebook environment, brainstorming is timely. Thus, we are pleased that Digital Book World invited ALA to present a preconference workshop at its upcoming conference in New York City on the subject of library discovery and marketing. This workshop, “Boosting Ebook Exposure and Discovery through Libraries,” will take place on January 13. The presenters and discussion facilitators include Nora Rawlinson of EarlyWord, Maja Thomas, consultant (and until recently, a senior vice president at Hachette Book Group), and Wendy Bartlett of Cuyahoga County (Ohio) Public Library, as well as Larra Clark and yours truly from ALA.

As we have at the past several ALA conferences, DCWG will hold a public session during the 2014 ALA Midwinter Meeting in Philadelphia, on January 25. The session will feature a panel moderated by DCWG Co-chair Robert Wolven and focus on library ebook issues from the author’s perspective. Ginger Clark, a literary agent and representative of the Association of Authors’ Representatives, and Peter Brantley, director of scholarly communications at Hypothes.is, make up the panel. DCWG Co-chair Sari Feldman and I will provide an update on DCWG activities and plans.

Finally, note that Sari Feldman and DCWG member Vailey Oehlke are cohosting a panel session at the upcoming Public Library Association 2014 Conference in mid-March in Indianapolis. “Public Libraries in the Marketplace: The Business of Digital Content” will feature Steve Potash of OverDrive and Skip Dye of Penguin Random House.

Looking forward to a busy winter on the digital content front!