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Libraries in the United States have been steadily embracing digital books for the past few years. A new report has decreed that 90% of all libraries now loan out eBooks, up from 76% in 2012.

The American Library Association is the definitive body in convincing libraries to embrace digital. They frequently hold annual meetings in different States and hold sessions where key executives and librarians talk about digital.

In the past few years ALA has been petitioning major publishers to bring them onboard with the concept that loaning the eBooks out for free, does not devalue the work. Penguin-Random House, S&S, Hachette, and HarperCollins have all committed themselves to making libraries work for them, although each company has their terms and conditions.

Some publishers have 26 limit checkouts before having to purchase the book again, while others allow libraries one years worth of loans. S&S mandates that libraries need to implement a Buy IT Now button and sell the eBooks, in order to even do business with them, while Penguin offers it as an option. Despite some of the shortcomings and each publisher having their own terms, the industry is hoping for a more unified strategy in the coming years.

Digital adoption by libraries has never been higher in the history of humankind. It is ridiculously simply to borrow an audiobook, eBook or watch a streaming video. Next year, I would not be surprised if this 90% figure were to climb further.


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The American Library Association Annual conference in Las Vegas is wrapping up and Good e-Reader was live on the scene. We checked out all of the emerging trends for the modern digital library, such as pay per use and the rise of audiobooks. Simon and Schuster rolling out their nationwide plan was also the topic of heavy conversation.

13,000 attendees participated in the event, while more than 5,600 exhibitors promoted products and services aimed at libraries. Attendees participated in more than 2,500 meetings, programs, discussion groups, events, in-depth conversations and exhibits, united by the theme “Transforming Our Libraries, Ourselves.”

Did you miss ALA 14? You can get a sense on how the event was by checking out some of the pictures we took.

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Library Collection Managers often have to buy the titles they want to make available to their patrons. eBooks, audiobooks, music and streaming movies all have to be purchased in advance in order to have them included in the catalog to be loaned out.  Sometimes the digital offerings take up a tremendous amount of capital and if a librarian is out  of touch with the needs of the community, money can sometimes be wasted.  An emerging trend is starting to catch on that may solve this conundrum, pay per use.

The pay per use model is starting to be embraced by a number of companies such as Overdrive and Hoopla. The concept allows the library to include the entire catalog of content and only pay when a customer borrows it. Instead of selectively deciding what audiobook or movie to buy, they can just display everything. Backend tools allow the collections manager to set monetary thresholds to insure they don’t go over budget.

Hoopla is an established audiobook company that has been in business for close to 20 years, but has only been doing digital for the last two. The company has one of the largest selections of audiobooks and do not charge libraries any sort of fees to use their system. Whenever a customer borrows an audio editions from the app or the website they can immediately listen to them without having to download any 3rd party apps. Librarians dig the ability to make their own collections, incase they want to manually curate the way everything is displayed.

Overdrive is experimenting with pay per use as part of their new arrangement with Warner Brothers. The company is making many backlist titles available within their Media Console App. Libraries will not have to buy the movies in advance and instead only pay when a patron borrows a title. Backend tools allow librarians to establish a daily, weekly or monthly revenue threshold, similar to Hoopla.

One of the main benefits of the pay per use model is that publishers are likely to embrace this as an avenue to further monetize their eBook sales.  Penguin Random House, Hachette, Simon and Schuster and HarperCollins all have different mindsets when it comes to selling content to libraries. Some only have a 26 checkout limit before librarians are forced to buy the title again, some expire after one  year and others mandate libraries have to sell eBooks directly. The Pay per Use model would insure frontlist and backlist titles would always be purchased, which would help drive down prices to less than wholesale.

Pay per use is not yet a fixture at libraries yet, but established players are starting to adopt. This system is still in its infancy and there is little financial information available on the costs libraries are paying or if the business model has long-term viability. Still, showing the entire catalog of content is fairly compelling. Hopefully companies like McGraw Hill and Follet start adopting pay per use to assist in more widespread adoption.


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The American Library Association Annual conference every year is the perfect avenue to gauge emerging trends. During the 2014 event in Las Vegas, three trends eclipsed all others that had the entire floor buzzing with anticipation. Pay per Use, Libraries as Retail and Audiobooks were the largest issues that had keynote speeches and companies devoted to digital.

3m Cloud Library and Baker & Taylor Axis 360 are both revising their apps geared towards patrons for a better streamlined process to handle audiobooks. Instead of redirecting you to 3rd party services, they have both employed a complex backend to allow customers to browse, borrow and listen to books within a singular app.

Both of these companies are also allowing libraries to have more flexible control over their audiobook catalog. Collection managers will be able to develop their own custom shelves and serve genre specific audiobooks. For example, say a library is doing a monthly program showcasing Fantasy, they could populate the frontpage of the app with a custom selection of content from Urban Fantasy or even Lord of the Rings.

The apps B&T and 3M are developing will be quite different from their existing offerings. Not only can  you listen to books within the app, but you can download them to your tablet, phone or computer and listen to them offline. They will also allow you to pick up where you left off on one device, while using another, with their new syncing system.

3M disclosed that 50% of all of their libraries they serve are very interested in an expanded audiobook solution, while B&T is seeing unparalleled demand.

Audiobooks is a very interesting system for libraries, as many of the top distributors lean on 3rd parties for a full catalog of content.  3M and Baker and Taylor both lean on Findaway World, which is current market leader in production. Findaway has a catalog of over 40,000 titles and maintains production studios, narrators and crew in New York.  Overdrive has their own internal solution, where they approach publishers directly, instead of dealing with Acoustic, Findaway or Hoopla.

Hoopla is an audiobook solution for libraries that floats under the radar, but are quickly making a name for themselves with their exclusive focus. The company has a catalog of 13,000 titles with 1,000 added each month. Hoopla deals with over 100 libraries in the US and charges no licensing fees with setting up the system, which is quite appealing to the average library.

How does Hoopla make money? The company has employed the Pay Per Use model, which only charges the library when a specific title is checked out by a patron. Librarians can establish a weekly or monthly threshold, so they can ensure they will not go over budget. This financial model works for Hoopla because they can promote their entire catalog, while curating the bestsellers on the main page, so finding quality content is ridiculously easy.

eBook sales globally may have flatlined, but audiobook sales have been consistently rising. The industry last year was worth 2.4 billion dollars and has a 6% annual growth rate in the UK. Still, audiobooks are still fairly expensive when compared to an eBook. The average eBook for a library to purchase is around $9.99, while an audio edition costs $29.99. Many distributors told us off the record that they were seeing a 5:1 ratio for eBook loans vs audiobook loans.

In the end, libraries have more choice than ever before on who they want to deal with to power their digital audio solution. They can go with Hoopla, which is dedicated to audiobooks only and does not concern themselves with anything else. 3M, B&T, Overdrive or Recorded Books are all in one solutions that do everything from eBooks, magazines, graphic novels, movies and music.

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Libraries have traditionally been a destination to borrow books, digital content and to train the community via various outreach programs. You can now add self-publishing to the libraries arsenal via a new system developed by Fastpencil and Recorded Books.

Recorded Books has been distributing content to libraries since 1979 and has mainly focused on digital magazines, eBooks and academic content. Recorded Books has announced a partnership with self-publishing resource FastPencil to bring public libraries an electronic resource that enables established and aspiring authors to create and prepare original works for publication.

FastPencil’s powerful technology provides libraries with an end-to-end publishing network that helps authors write, manage, convert and distribute books and eBooks. With access to robust management capabilities, libraries can also ingest, store and post library content to patrons.

We spoke to Brad Gray of Recorded Books and Andrew Conway of FastPencil at the American Library Association Annual 2014 conference in Las Vegas. The main question we asked is how will the self-publishing program be marketed to libraries and how will content be made available.

Brad suggested that traditional libraries or schools start developing creative writing or poetry competitions where young people can hone their craft and have their prose judged by library professionals. The winning entries that can be made available for the library to distribute for free to all of their patrons. Since the eBooks are self-published, they do not have to abide by the traditional one book, one lend philosophy.

Andrew thought that digitizing old family recipe books or family vacations would be an ideal way to leverage the technology. This avenue is practical because the FastPencil system allows collaborative sharing, editing and development of the eBook. The end result does not need to be shared with anyone else, but having the option to list it in the library is very compelling, especially with old recipe books.

FastPencil went from a startup just a few years ago to winning the Book Expo Innovation award. The company continues to innovate by announcing their partnership with World’s Best Story to uncover the next big blockbuster story via a social contest. Aspiring authors will be reviewed and voted on by a community of readers, and, ultimately, hand-selected by a panel of best-selling authors. The grand prize winner will have his or her title published by FastPencil PREMIERE, FastPencil’s best-selling author imprint service.

FastPencil is becoming an emerging force in self-publishing because they continue to establish relationships with other startups and veterans. The deal with Recorded Books really gives libraries the option to foster creativity in the community. Who knows, the poetry winner today, might be a Pulitzer prize winner of tomorrow and the books would also be available at the library forever.

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Audiobooks were the major trend of the American Library Association Annual conference in Las Vegas. Many of the top eBook distributors to libraries were all showcasing their next generation app platforms that put a priority on synergy and ease of use with all of their content. The 3M Cloud Library platform is developing a new app that will be released in September for Android and iOS.

3M is putting a heavy priority on their collection of audiobooks for patrons to borrow and listen from libraries. Their new app allows you to borrow and listen to each edition right within the app, instead of diverting you to a 3rd party. Each book will sync automatically with the cloud, insuring you can pick up where you left off on your tablet or smartphone. Currently, 3M is sourcing all of their audio content from FindAway World, which has a library of 40,000 titles.

Tom Mercer of 3M said that in a recent survey done by his company that 50% of all libraries were interested in purchasing and distributing audiobooks. He also mentioned that the new app will put a heavy priority on curated and editorial content. This way, the best new or established titles will be promoted on the main page by staff members. This will insure that the best and most successful titles will have an easier time being discovered.

We currently are living in a golden age of audiobooks. The global industry is currently worth around 2.4 billion dollars and the UK is growing at 6% annually. Amazon owned ACX is assisting indie authors in connecting them with producers and narrators. Other companies such as Findaway World, Recorded Books and Hoopla all have their own production studios that ware capable of digitizing exiting titles or making new ones.

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Baker & Taylor Axis 360 is the definitive app that library patrons use to read books, listen to audio or watch streaming video. One of the downsides is that B&T relies on many 3rd party companies such as Blio, Acoustic to deliver audiobooks and music. Instead of listening to music within the Baker and Taylor app, customers are instead redirected to download and install many different apps to take advantage of multimedia content. This process is similar to Barnes and Noble suspending their relationship with Overdrive because customers were mandated to download the Media Console and use Adobe Digital Editions, a convoluted process.  Baker & Taylor realizes that redirecting patrons to download alternative apps breaks immersion and is working on a next generation content delivery system.

The new Axis 360 app is poised to launch near the end of the year. They are utilizing new API systems that will allow patrons to listen to music or audiobooks, watch movies or engage complex EPUB3 textbooks. This will basically incorporate content from all of the companies they lean on to provide content within their own app and be more intuitive to use.

Michael Bills of Baker and Taylor said that the new app will be huge and reduce the complexity for libraries. Everything will be done behind the scenes, making the end-user experience a thing of beauty.

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Smashwords and Bookbaby have established relationships with Baker and Taylor for digital distribution to libraries. Both of these companies provide a small list of curated authors that assist the people in charge of acquisitions lives a bit easier. One of the downsides that these lists are small and do not have any pertinent sales data or metrics to find out how many copies actually sold and who is buying them. In order to assist libraries better in eBook discovery is the Reaching across Illinois Library System has pioneered an innovative concept known as “Soon to be Famous.”

600 libraries in Illinois share a group catalogue who belong to the RAILS consortium. The system serves more than 1300 private, public, school, and university library members, representing more than 4200 library facilities in a 27,000 square mile area.

The circulation managers who do the group buying recognized the worth of self-published and indie titles, since 23% of all Amazon best-sellers fall into this category. Indie titles often come with a fairly paltry price tag, but they loaning policed are often less convoluted than the big six.

In order to facilitate a better eBook discovery process, over one hundred three self-published fiction titles were nominated and more than 20 librarians across the state served as judges. After a series of eliminations, the top 3 authors were selected and most of their titles were purchased and sent to all of the libraries in the system.

Why did Soon to Be Famous work? Basically it put the power in every librarians hand to read indie titles they actually liked on a personal level and then their specific library would than nominate one title and the process was repeated. The editorial process worked because staff members actually read the eBooks and separated the wheat from the chafe.

I really like what RAILS is doing because they were not content in being spoon-fed small lists from the self-publishing companies and instead coordinated a massive effort. This program should be commended and emulated by others

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Simon & Schuster has been slowly dipping their toes into distributing their electronic book titles to libraries in the US. The publishing company has been participating in a pilot program in 20 different libraries in order to find a viable business model that worked for all parties involved. Today, ahead of the American Library Association Annual conference in Las Vegas, S&S has announced that are expanding nationwide.

Effective immediately, public libraries across the United States can acquire for their collections ebook editions of such beloved classic favorites and current bestsellers as The Great Gatsby, Steve Jobs, Doctor Sleep, Hard Choices, The Flamethrowers, The Light Between Oceans, The Perks of Being a Wallflower and the Mortal Instruments and Dork Diaries series.

S&S is offering both their frontlist and backlist titles, which means as soon as the novel is released in bookstores, libraries have a chance to purchase a copy. The library can offer an unlimited number of checkouts during the one-year term for which it has purchased a copy, although each copy may only be checked out by one user at a time.

Penguin pioneered the library concept of the Buy it Now Button. This allowed libraries to act as retail outlets, by offering the ability to sell the title to patrons. The library, publisher and distributer all got a piece of the transaction if the wait list was too long. 3M, Baker & Taylor, and Overdrive will all be expanding their distribution of Penguin titles all over the USA and offering the Buy it Now Button.

“In the year since we first started our pilot, we have been delighted with the response from the participating libraries, and we believe the time is right to make our ebooks available to all libraries,” said Carolyn Reidy, President and Chief Executive Officer of Simon & Schuster. “Although the library market for ebooks is still evolving, we are pleased to now offer ebooks to libraries on a universal basis, providing their patrons the content they desire in increasingly popular digital formats, and helping libraries to continue serving their communities as they have so well for so many years.

ALA President Barbara Stripling released the following statement – “Today represents an important milestone for improving the ability of libraries to serve the public in the digital age. America’s libraries are the quintessential institution in connecting authors and readers. We have always known that library lending encourages patrons to experiment by sampling new authors, topics and genres. This experimentation stimulates the market for books—with the library serving as a critical de facto discovery, promotion and awareness service for authors and publishers.

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Overdrive is currently the largest digital distributor that libraries in Canada, US, UK and Australia employ to fill their catalog with audiobooks, eBooks, music and video. The company has announced a series of new initiatives that will make librarians lives easier in managing their collections and enhancements to the Overdrive Media Console.

One of the pitfalls of managing a physical or digital collection is having the buy the titles in advance, under the one loan, one use model. Librarians really need to understand the needs of the community to make sure their content appeals to the widest demographic possible. Lets face it, if you want to get hundreds of new fiction and nonfiction titles, you will have to pay thousands of dollars to purchase books patrons might not even use.

Overdrive is developing a new solution called the cost-per-checkout (CPC) model that allows libraries to make available a supplier’s entire catalog of titles, but only incur a charge when a user borrows a title. The company intends on rolling this out across the board, but is starting modestly with their recent deal with Warner Brothers for streaming videos.

There are new catalogs that will be available soon that libraries will be able to purchase. Graphic novels, manga (English and Japanese) and popular children’s eBook series and picture books using EPUB3 with fixed layout. Overdrive is also putting a priority on hooking schools up with deals who order multiple units. Finally, they are going to launch consortia-friendly programs to enable Advantage titles to be migrated from individual libraries to shared collections, as permitted by publishers and suppliers.

The Overdrive Media console app for Android, Blackberry, iOS and a myriad of other platforms is the tool patrons use to read eBooks, listen to audiobooks or watch videos. The main pitfall is the Adobe Digital Editions step to insure that the title has been legitimately borrowed or purchased. The vast majority of patrons are not super tech savvy and may not understand the process. The Media Console app will receive an update this summer that will remove the Adobe step and also add synchronized audio narration with text, dictionary support, and other features beneficial to students and researchers.

“We are constantly innovating in response to requests from libraries and users. This includes libraries that are disappointed with competitor eBook collections due to low checkouts and fewer features,” said Shannon Lichty, OverDrive’s director of partner services. “As a result, we are supporting library requests to migrate their eBook and audiobook titles currently on other platforms to OverDrive in order to instantly benefit from higher circulation and compatibility with more devices.”

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Overdrive unveiled their streaming video service last year and the service allows Canadian and US libraries to offer digital movies to their patrons. The company has just signed a distribution deal with Warner Brothers that will add hundreds of new titles to their catalog, but with a catch. Libraries no longer have to buy the titles in advance.

Libraries will be able to benefit from a new transactional, pay-per-use lending model from OverDrive for the first time. This model eliminates the need to purchase titles in advance of their use and ensures that titles are available instantly to all patrons simultaneously. Libraries can curate the video lists that want to get setup and offer content that will serve their communities.  They can also set user lending policies for Warner Bros. movies to manage costs within their material budgets.

Library patrons across the U.S. and Canada will be able to use PCs, Macs, iPads, iPhones, Android Tablets or nearly any connected device to stream videos from their library. Building on the existing OverDrive catalog, Warner Bros. titles such as I am Sam (Academy Award nomination for Best Actor: Sean Penn), Natural Born Killers (Starring Woody Harrelson and Juliette Lewis, Golden Globe nomination for Best Director: Oliver Stone), Insomnia (starring Al Pacino and Robin Williams, Directed by Christopher Nolan), and Life as a House (SAG Awards nominations for Leading Actor: Kevin Kline; Supporting Actor: Hayden Christensen) will soon be available for lending.

New App from 3M Cloud Library
As the American Library Association’s annual conference kicks off later this week in Las Vegas, companies that support public and academic libraries will showcase their technology and roll out new offerings to the attendees. One of those companies, 3M Library Systems, will be unveiling a next generation app that provides a more personalized lending experience of digital content.

“The 3M Cloud Library app still allows libraries to create custom shelves to promote content to patrons. However, now users can personalize which genres they browse on a regular basis, allowing them to quickly find new content they are interested in,” said Tom Mercer, 3M Cloud Library Marketing Manager, in a press release. “The combination of both library and patron customization tools means we have the most flexible interface to create an intuitive and elegant experience for the library user. A great app experience creates happy patrons, which in turn means more circulation and more users for the library.”

Personalized lending experiences cannot come soon enough in a climate where libraries are struggling to remain relevant and to offer the same kind of user experience that patrons have come to expect in other industries. Of course, the real news is in the addition of a number of publishing partners, upping 3M’s catalog offering in order to help libraries provide their patrons with the content they want. These new partners include titles from Perseus Books Group, Penguin Random House‘s Spanish language books division, Encyclopaedia Britannnica, and several more. This addition increases 3M’s catalog of titles to over 300,000 ebooks.

“3M Cloud Library continues to secure content from publishing partners offering the titles patrons are most excited about,” said Mercer. “This quality-over-quantity approach helps libraries demonstrate the value of this powerful eReading tool.”

Good e-Reader will be on hand at the ALA conference to post features about the new projects and products that will be showcased at the event.

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As libraries continue to evolve in order to keep up with the needs of their patrons, library boards and systems are urged to adapt to the changing technological landscape. The death of libraries has already begun, according to many industry watchers, and issues like limited budgets, brief hours of operations, and lack of ebook and digital media integration are often cited as the cause.

Exciting new libraries have sprung up, though, some of which are digital nirvanas. With comments that some look more like an Apple Store showroom than a public library, interesting new lending models and digital access have become the hallmark for library relevance.

But one library system is currently under fire for its technology practices, and the American Library Association is being blamed for supporting the alleged criminal madness taking place. The Orland Park Public Library in an upscale suburb of Chicago has been at the center of legal battles and controversy over the terms of their computer lab, namely, the lack of internet filter on the computers and the resulting swarms of registered sex offenders who use them.

According to the watchdog group Illinois Leaks, the ongoing problem stems from the library’s refusal to block pornography sites, including sites that feature child pornography. As a result, there have been numerous reports of users literally sitting at the computers and masturbating to the images they’re accessing, as well as reports that women and children in the library have been accosted. In addition, reports have been made that some of the individuals accessing these sites on the library’s computers are in violation of the terms of their parole, and that they come to the library because their home internet use is being monitored. While some 22 reports have been made already, the group states that none of the reports were shared with the police, a direct violation of the library board’s own policy.

For its part, the library cites ALA guidelines and support that access to information should not be limited by public libraries, supposedly even going so far as to state that child pornography qualifies as “information” and therefore should be accessible given that libraries are funded by tax dollars and are therefore the property of the community. The Supreme Court ruled in 2003 (US v ALA), however, that this level of access does not extend to criminal activities.

The waters are further muddied in this case by ongoing fighting between the library board and local community members who want something done about both the computer use and the physical behavior that these critics say is directly tied to that computer use. Illinois Leaks has stated that the board has blocked attempts to secure documents under the Freedom of Information Act, that it has barred individuals from speaking during the public comments’ portion of meetings, that it conducts illegal closed meetings on state and federal holidays, and more. New information on further obstacles was posted today.