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Over 300 libraries have closed in the United Kingdom since 2011 and many more are on the brink. What can be done to stem the tide? Publisher and philanthropist William Sieghart may have an answer.

William Sieghart’s Independent Library Report urges “a reinvigoration of the library network”, calling on Westminster to provide funding so local authorities can roll out Wi-Fi to every public library in England as part of a new national digital resource. The provision of Wi-Fi, it says, is essential, with its lack of availability in some libraries creating “a barrier to the public using its facilities, especially amongst the younger generation”.

“By not providing Wi-Fi and high-quality computer facilities, libraries often present a negative image of being old fashioned places that have little relevance in today’s society,” says the report, which calls for the Wi-Fi to be delivered “in a comfortable, retail-standard environment, with the usual amenities of coffee, sofas and toilets”.

Libraries minister Ed Vaizey heeded the call by the report by announcing that he had created a new task force to implement some of the proposed changes. The primary focus will be to evaluate e-lending pilot projects and establish tablets and e-readers to be loaned out to patrons.

This is not the first time that the library industry has gave serious credence to a report made by Sieghart.  His 2013 government funded report said that libraries should not limit the supply of e-books in the same way that physical book loans are controlled, including the lending of each digital copy to one reader at a time, securely removing eBooks after lending and having digital books “deteriorate after a number of loans”.

This prompted a A pilot project to be established at four UK libraries in March 2014 that changed the digital loaning period to 21 days and included an expanded list of digital titles, including front-list and bestsellers.  The goal was to establish real-time, real-world research into the impact of eBook lending in public libraries to placate  authors, publishers and find a sustainable model.

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Overdrive has announced that at the beginning of 2015 they will be implementing a new MP3 audiobook system that will be able to play them in any HTML5 compatible browser. This is tremendously useful for patrons borrowing audio content from the library, because they no longer have to download the audio file or a dedicated app, everything is simply done in the browser.

All major internet browsers for desktop computers, tablets or smartphones all have the ability to render HTML5 content. You don’t need any extra plugins in order to get it to work.

The new audiobook system will be apart of Overdrive Read, which is their HTML5 browser based solution. Currently the system can only read e-Books in EPUB2 or EPUB3 with fixed layouts. It also has support for offline reading, but it is unclear whether you will be able to listen to audiobooks offline, or if needs a constant internet connection for streaming. It is also important to note for existing libraries that your collection of WMV audiobooks are incompatible, it is only going to be available for MP3 files.

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There was a time not too long ago that the only way to listen to audiobooks was to borrow a CD or tape from your local library. They degraded with use and most often were a victim of theft, due to its high value nature. In the last five years digital audio content has made things so much more accessible and is a rising force in US based libraries.

Audiobook publishing is certainly starting to be big business for major publishers and companies involved in distributing the content. In 2007 a paltry 3,073 digital titles were available and rose exponentially to over 20,000 published titles in 2013. The entire industry is said to be worth over two billion dollars, which is a huge jump from $480 million selling tapes and cassette in 1997.

There are a number of major players providing audio services to libraries,  3M Cloud Library, Baker & Taylor, Hoopla and Overdrive. For the most part, these are the exact same companies that provide the libraries e-Book portfolio. In the US, 95% of all libraries have a digital collection and audio content is starting to play a more central role.

Audiobooks actually works fairly differently than e-Books do, on a business level. Many of the top distributors lean on 3rd parties for a full catalog of content. 3M and Baker and Taylor both get their audio editions from Findaway World, which is current market leader in production. Findaway has a catalog of over 50,000 titles and maintains production studios, narrators and crew in New York. Overdrive has their own internal solution, where they approach publishers directly and don’t do business with companies such as Audible or Findaway World.

Tom Mercer, Marketing Manager of 3M Cloud Library said “we see a tremendous opportunity to grow in the Audio space in 2015. Right now we’re two weeks into the “real world” of Audio, but customers really seem to like our solution. Our initial Beta feedback from very positive.”

Hoopla is an audiobook solution for libraries that floats under the radar, but are quickly making a name for themselves. 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.

Audiobooks are certainly finding their grove in libraries, but one of the big challenges is that the audio editions are not released at the same time as the print or e-Book versions. Library staff and patrons need to be aware of this issue. In addition, digital audiobooks often have some fairly high costs, compared to digital books. The average price of a new audiobook is between $30 to $60.

How well are the publishers doing in the audiobook sector? Cheryl Herman, marketing director for Penguin Random House’s Books on Tape & Listening Library said. “Our library sales for digital audio are up nearly 30% over 2013, we’re offering more and more titles on audio, and we’re not alone in that. There are also more players entering the market, and more titles overall being published than ever before.”

When it comes down to audio in libraries, certainly audiobooks are not the only game in town. PressReader offers a vast catalog of over 4,000 newspapers and magazines with audio functionality. Using the companies app for Android or iOS every article can be read aloud, giving people the ability to stay current in local, regional and international news. This certainly appeals to people with vision problems or other disabilities.

In the end, the biggest trend in libraries in 2014 has been the adoption of audiobooks in Canada, US and United Kingdom. Likely, in 2015 international expansion will be a pressing concern, as libraries based in Europe, Australia and New Zealand will want to get in a piece of the action.

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European libraries have been experimenting with the concept of digital in libraries. The United Kingdom has had the most success, and other countries are starting to make moves to offer similar services. France has just approved a new mandate to implement a digital lending platform, which means in the new future you will be able to borrow audiobooks, eBooks and digital newspapers.

An innovative agreement was announced on December 8th in Paris to facilitate e-lending in French public libraries. The agreement was signed by the French Minister of Culture and associations of librarians, booksellers, authors and publishers, including IFRRO’s member Syndicat National de l’Édition. Twelve recommendations are set out in the agreement in order to make available digital editorial output within and outside the public libraries’ premises while ensuring fair remuneration for rightholders.

Now that a blueprint has been established for digital lending in France, a number of companies will be eyeing this market with glee. The first major challenge is getting an ILS system in place, such as Polaris or Triple iii. This is critical because collection managers need tie in their print and digital collections in a singular platform to monitor everything.

The next stage in facilitating the loaning of digital content will be up to Overdrive, 3M and Baker & Taylor to pitch libraries the virtues of their systems for e-Books, audiobooks and streaming video. Vancouver based PressReader would also be a valuable industry partner because they already carry all of the major French newspapers such as Le Monde, Le Figaro and L’Express.

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drseussgoestowar

Overdrive has just unveiled their new Dr. Seuss e-Book collection that is available to Canadian and US libraries. The big selling point is that these titles are available in EPUB3, but none of the content has interactive elements. If you are expecting multimedia enhancements, prepare to be let down, these e-Books all just have fixed layouts.

Dr. Seuss titles, published by Random House Children’s Books, include some of the most beloved children’s titles of all time. Titles include The Cat in the Hat, Green Eggs and Ham, The Lorax, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, Oh the Places You’ll Go! and many more. See the complete list and sample an excerpt here.

“No children’s collection is complete without Dr. Seuss, and now public and school libraries can have these popular titles as eBooks,” said Karen Estrovich, director of collection development at OverDrive. “We’re excited to make these available in EPUB3 fixed-layout, as the author intended, to preserve the original flow and experience that we all are familiar with.”

Dr. Seuss titles are available on a one-copy per-user basis in OverDrive Read, OverDrive’s browser-based reader. Once the title is checked out in OverDrive Read, there is no app to install and the title becomes instantly available in the browser without downloading.

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New Zealand libraries started to invest in digital books in 2011 when 40 locations started to deal with Overdrive in metropolitan areas such as Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch. At the same time, a local initiative developed by library and educational book supplier Wheelers implemented its own system homegrown e-book lending service with Tauranga and Hamilton library districts. Library patrons have really started to embrace the concept of digital as more than 800,000 e-Books were borrowed from library databases in 2013, up from about 350,000 in 2012

Executive director of Public Libraries New Zealand Tim Antric said despite the popularity of e-Books, a market would always exist for traditional printed books. “There’s a comfort in sitting down and reading a traditional book, even if we look at kids today there’s still a passion for that paper book. Tim also said more people than ever were going to libraries, with more than 37 million visits recorded last year.

It is interesting that e-Books are getting the big headline here, but the report does not mention anything to do with digital newspapers, magazines, academic books or research reports.

Many of the top newspapers in New Zealand have been digitized lately and are available for the public to download from the library. PressReader provides access to The Press, The Dominion Post and The New Zealand Herald, as well as many smaller, regional publications International coverage includes over 200 Australian newspapers and magazines and major newspapers from most parts of the world.

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When people think of libraries they normally envision old ladies with cats eye glasses shushing everyone. The only sounds that are audible is the rhythmic clanking of ink based book stamps. Times have certainly changed with many libraries forgoing books altogether and focusing on digital. The vast majority though, have embraced digital to a substantial degree.

A recent report by the Library Journal has stated that 95% of all US libraries have an e-book collection. That’s up from 89% in both 2013 and 2012, when researchers thought that adoption had plateaued for good.

The average number of e-books carried was 20,244 by each library, but that of course was skewed toward large libraries. Medium sized libraries statistically had around 10,434 titles.

The American Library Association every year holds an annual event that brings thousands of librarians and companies marketing services towards them. One of the biggest trends in 2014 was audiobooks, which have quickly become a billion dollar industry. The 3M Cloud Library disclosed that 50% of all the libraries they serve are very interested in an audiobook solution, while Baker & Taylor 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 do business with 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. Hoopla is also a rising force due to their 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. Instead, the libraries adopt a pay-per-use system and set a monetary threshold on how much they want to spend each month. This is useful because the entire Hoopla catalog is integrated into the library, so they can quickly monitor trends and user engagement.

I remember visiting libraries in my small town of Thunder Bay to kill time or to cultivate my love of reading. All of the locations had a very paltry selection of magazines and newspapers that were often yellow with age and in a state of tatters. Things are noticeably different in the digital age with new issues and back issues remaining in perfect condition for patrons to borrow. One of the leaders in this field is PressReader who has a robust system of 3,000+ well-known newspapers and magazines including the Washington Post, Business Traveler, and ForbesDaily. One of the cool benefits that this company provides is a wireless hotspot so anyone visiting the library can connect to and download anything they want. The system for magazines and newspapers does well in a library setting like this because eBooks have a one user one use system, whereas PressReader gives unlimited access.

Almost every major library in the US has a digital strategy in play, some have large collections and deal with many different companies to facilitate an avenue of content. Others are fairly small and often only do business with one or two companies at the most, due to budget and ILS concerns. Some libraries though, are bucking the trend and ditching print altogether.

The BiblioTech library in Bexar County is doing something that no library in the US has ever done. Since last year, the organizers had a grand vision of an all digital library. Six hundred e-readers and over ten thousand eBooks are available to loan out to the public and a huge computer lab is available for people to work on.

The library is based in a predominately Hispanic, low-income neighborhood, where 75% of the population lacks Internet access, yet that’s precisely why the $2.4 million facility was built there, said County Judge Nelson Wolff, who envisioned it when he had an epiphany after reading the life story of Apple founder Steve Jobs. “e-book readership was going up, more e-books were being produced, so we thought why not address that segment at probably one third of the cost … as opposed to building a big branch library.”

The success of the BibloTech library has prompted a series of non-profits in Omaha Nebraska to purchase a rundown Borders bookstore and convert it into a purely digital library. Mike McCarthy, a board member of Omaha nonprofit Heritage Services, said “All Omahans will benefit from increased access to all the good things technology can provide — the opportunity to learn, to explore and to create. This space will welcome everyone from our children learning to read and our grandparents applying for Social Security, to the emerging creative class who will develop the tools and products of the future, to our next generation of entrepreneurs.”

The future of libraries looks bright indeed. According to ALA, Americans go to school, public and academic libraries more than they visit the movies and there are more libraries than McDonald’s fast food joints. When it comes right down to it, there are many elderly people who simply can’t visit the library as much as they used to and digital allows them to borrow and read in the comfort of their own home.

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On the site of a closed down Boarders bookstore a grand vision of the future is occurring.  The first ever digital library in Omaha Nebraska will open their doors next fall.  It will not only loan out eBooks, digital newspapers and magazines but also have 3D printers and workstations for artists and video game developers. 

The former Boarders bookstore and acompanied parking lots at at 7201 Dodge St was purchased by the Community Information Trust, a private nonprofit.  It will be gutted and wired for new technology. President of Heritage Services, an Omaha nonprofit that will renovate the building, says it won’t look like a bookstore when crews finish working on it.

Mike McCarthy, a board member of Omaha nonprofit Heritage Services, said “All Omahans will benefit from increased access to all the good things technology can provide — the opportunity to learn, to explore and to create. This space will welcome everyone from our children learning to read and our grandparents applying for Social Security, to the emerging creative class who will develop the tools and products of the future, to our next generation of entrepreneurs.”

I think the most exciting element of this new digital library is that it is free to residents of Douglas County, and available for fees — $75 annually or $25 for four months — to people who live outside Douglas County.

Omaha is not the first library to go purely digital and forgo carrying print books. Bexar County in San Antonio launched the BiblioTech library earlier this year. Patrons are able to access to over 10,000 eBooks and residents will be able checkout 600 E-readers, 9 laptops and 40 tablets to read them on.

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The New York Library system is rolling out a new program that will allow thousands of low income families to be able to borrow wireless hotspots from their local library. This stems from a one million dollar donation from Google and a $500,000 grant from the Knight News Challenge.

The wireless hotspot program was successfully piloted by The New York Public Library over the summer, when families at four branches in the Bronx and Staten Island were able to borrow devices for months at a time. It was deemed a success and is now in the process of a broader roll out at Manhattan, Brooklyn and Queens.

The ultimate goal by the library system is to get 10,000 families online. This is certainly a noble effort but it might fall short. Official estimates say that over 30% of New York residents are without broadband access. With a population over eight million strong, that still leaves almost three million people without internet.

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Overdrive has just released their first app for Chrome OS, which also works as a standalone app for the Chrome internet browser. It was designed as a tool to primarily read eBooks that you borrow from the library.

Over 35,000 libraries all over the world use Overdrive as their content distribution system of choice. When you borrow eBooks, audiobooks, music or videos from your local branch, chances are it stems from the Overdrive service.

The functionality of the Chrome app is totally different, depending on if you are using the browser extension for Windows,  Chrome OS, Chrome for Android and a myriad of other platforms. Thanks to a diligent young scholar over at MobileRead, here is the full list of supported features for each platform.

Windows OS — Chrome Browser

  • Kindle eBook
  • OverDrive Read
  • EPUB eBook
  • Open EPUB eBook
  • PDF eBook
  • Open PDF eBook
  • OverDrive MP3 Audiobook
  • OverDrive WMA Audiobook

Android OS — Android App

  • Kindle eBook
  • OverDrive Read
  • EPUB eBook
  • Open EPUB eBook
  • PDF eBook
  • Open PDF eBook
  • OverDrive MP3 Audiobook
  • OverDrive WMA Audiobook

Chrome OS — Chrome Browser

  • Kindle eBook
  • OverDrive Read
  • EPUB eBook
  • Open EPUB eBook
  • PDF eBook
  • Open PDF eBook
  • OverDrive MP3 Audiobook
  • OverDrive WMA Audiobook

Chrome OS — Chrome App

  • Kindle eBook
  • OverDrive Read
  • EPUB eBook
  • Open EPUB eBook
  • PDF eBook
  • Open PDF eBook
  • OverDrive MP3 Audiobook
  • OverDrive WMA Audiobook

Some content is better than no content at all I guess. At least owners of the Chrome Pixel or any number of sub $200 Chromebooks can finally be able to read eBooks borrowed from the library.

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The British Library Prepares To Capture The Digital Universe

Sometimes we get spoiled in North America with the sheer of amount of options available to borrow eBooks from the library. Statistically over 90% of all libraries in North America have a digital collection and patrons can access all of the content remotely. Things are different in the United Kingdom where only a few major libraries have bothered with a modern eBook collection.

In May 2013 the UK government funded a review looking into the viability of allowing customers to borrow eBook, without all of the drama. The Sieghart Review said publishers should not limit the supply of e-books in the same way that physical book loans are controlled, including the lending of each digital copy to one reader at a time, securely removing eBooks after lending and having digital books “deteriorate after a number of loans”.

A pilot project was initiated in four UK libraries in March 2014 that augmented the digital loaning period for up to 21 days and included a number of front-list titles, including bestsellers that just came out. The essence of the pilot is to carry out real-time, real-world research into the impact of eBook lending in public libraries on authors, publishers and on the library service so that a suitable and sustainable model.

Its been around six months since the pilot was first initiated and there has been some interesting findings. All four participating authorities have seen a significant increase in e-lending,  with longer loan periods leading to more titles being borrowed. The project has also found the increase in e-lending is not decreasing physical lending or footfall to libraries.

One of the most important elements to the six month report is the fact that the increase in digital loans is not driving people to buy more eBooks. “There has been extremely low take up of the opportunity to buy the borrowed eBook through use of the ‘click to purchase’ facility,” the Publishers Association said.

Click to Purchase is a relatively new e-commerce strategy Simon & Schuster and other publishers have been employing in order to allow libraries to generate additional revenue by selling the books on their website. The actual eBook sales are facilitated by companies such as Overdrive.

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Simon & Schuster first got involved in distributing their vast collection of eBooks to libraries earlier this year. In order for libraries to carry their titles the publisher was basically forcing 3M, Baker & Taylor and Overdrive to implement a buy it now button as part of the arrangement. Many libraries and consortium’s did not want to sell eBooks on their websites and resisted carrying any titles by S&S. Today, the publisher relaxed their restrictions.

“From the beginning, the ALA has advocated for the broadest and most affordable library access to e-titles, as well as licensing terms that give libraries flexibility to best meet their community needs,” said ALA President Courtney Young. “We appreciate that Simon & Schuster is modifying its library ebook program to provide libraries a choice in whether or not to participate in Buy It Now. Providing options like these allow libraries to enable digital access while also respecting local norms or policies.”

“This change also speaks to the importance of sustaining conversations among librarians, publishers, distributors and authors to continue advancing our shared goals of connecting writers and readers,” Young added. “We are still in the early days of this digital publishing revolution, and we hope we can co-create solutions that expand access, increase readership and improve exposure for diverse and emerging voices,” said DCWG Co-Chairs Carolyn Anthony and Erika Linke. “Many challenges remain including high prices, privacy concerns, and other terms under which ebooks are offered to libraries. We are continuing our discussions with publishers.”

I think S&S  have relaxed their policies because libraries simply don’t want to be getting themselves involved with retail. Libraries exist because of public funds and forcing them to become a bookstore in order to carry specific titles is tantamount to extortion.

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Libraries all over North America have been embracing digital and over 90% have some sort of eBook collection. Not only do they have eBooks but audiobooks, digital magazines and newspapers. Many libraries deal with more than one company for their digital content, which makes the lives of patrons a little more difficult because they have to install many different apps on their smartphones and tablets to get the job done. What if things were simpler?

The Queens Library system in New York has developed their own proprietary app for Android and iOS. It offers library patrons seamless search and access to audiobooks from Acoustik, magazines from Zinio, and eBooks from OverDrive and Baker & Taylor’s Axis 360 platform. Other features include location, mapping, and contact information for each branch, a catalog search, an ISBN barcode scanning function that enables users to scan books in retail environments to see if titles are available at their library, an events schedule that enables registration, an “ask a librarian” live chat service, a contact information form, and even a text-to-donate option.

Since the apps launch in July they had 5,400 installations on iOS and more than 3,300 on Android. This has prompted Queens to consider developing apps for other libraries, leveraging their 50 person IT team to make digital content more accessible.

Queens is doing an amazing thing. Instead of forcing their patrons to install the Overdrive Media Console, Zinio, Acoustic and the Axis360 app, they have one app to rule them all. This dramatically simplifies the browsing and consuming of digital content, which is tremendously intuitive.

It remains to be seen if Queens can market this to other libraries, but the core concept is sound. All they are doing is simply using the public API tools these vendors make available and presenting it in a neat little package. I am sure major libraries all over North America could make something like this if they had the time and inclination.

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