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The end of 2015 and the start of 2016 seems to have delivered a number of interesting reports and presentations relevant to the library technology sphere.  So Ken Chad’s latest paper ‘Rethinking the Library Services Platform‘ picks up on the lack of interoperability between library systems as does the new BiblioCommons report on the public library sector ‘Essential Digital Infrastructure for Public Libraries in England‘ commenting that “In retail, digital platforms with modular design have enabled quickly-evolving omnichannel user experiences. In libraries, however, the reliance on monolithic, locally-installed library IT has deadened innovation”.

As ‘Rethinking the Library Services Platform‘ notes, in many ways the term ‘platform’ doesn’t really match the reality of the current generation of library systems.  They aren’t a platform in the same way as an operating system such as Windows or Android, they don’t operate in a way that third-parties can build applications to run on the platform.  Yes, they offer integration to financial, student and reference management systems but essentially the systems are the traditional library management system reimagined for the cloud.  Much of the changes are a consequence of what becomes possible with a cloud-based solution.  So their features are shared knowledge bases, with multi-tenanted applications shared by many users as opposed to local databases and locally installed applications.   The approach from the dwindling number of suppliers is to try to build as many products as possible to meet library needs.  Sometimes that is by developing these products in-house (e.g. Leganto) and sometimes by the acquisition of companies with products that can be brought into the supplier’s eco-system.  The acquisition model is exactly the same as that practised by both traditional and new technology companies as a way of building their reach.  I’m starting to view the platform as much more in line with the approach that a company like Google will take with a broad range of products aiming to secure customer loyalty to their ecosystem rather than that of another company.  So it may not be so surprising that technology innovation, which to my mind seems largely to be driven by vendors innovating to deliver to what they see as being library needs and shaped by what vendors think they see as an opportunity, isn’t delivering the sort of platform that is suggested.  As Ken notes, Jisc’s LMS Change work discussed back in 2012 the sort of loosely-coupled, library systems component approach giving libraries to ability to integrate different elements to give the best fit to their needs from a range of options.  But in my view options have very much narrowed since 2012/13.

The BiblioCommons report I find particularly interesting as it includes within it an assessment of how the format silos between print and electronic lead to a poor experience for users, in this case how ebook access simply doesn’t integrate into OPACs, with applications such as Overdrive being used that are separate to the OPAC, e.g. Buckinghamshire library services ebooks platform, and their library catalogue are typical.  Few if any public libraries will have invested in the class of discovery systems now common in Higher Education (and essentially being proposed in this report), but even with discovery systems the integration of ebooks isn’t as seamless as we’d want, with users ending up in a variety of different platforms with their own interfaces and restrictions on what can be done with the ebook.  In some ways though, the public library ebook offer, that does offer some integration with the consumer ebook world of Kindle ebooks, is better then the HE world of ebooks, even if the integration through discovery platforms in HE is better.  What did intrigue me about the proposal from the BiblioCommons report is the plan to build some form of middleware system using ‘shared data standards and APIs’ and that leads to wondering whether that this can be part of the impetus for changing the way that library technology interoperates.  The plan includes in section 10.3 the proposal to  ‘deliver middleware, aggregation services and an initial complement of modular applications as a foundation for the ecosystem, to provide a viable pathway from the status quo towards open alternatives‘ so maybe this might start to make that sort of component-based platform and eco-system a reality.

Discovery is the challenge that Oxford’s ‘Resource Discovery @ The University of Oxford‘ report is tackling.   The report by consultancy, Athenaeum 21, looks at discovery from the perspective of a world-leading research institution, with large collections of digital content and looks at connecting not just resources but researchers with visualisation tools of research networks, advanced search tools such as elastic search.  The recommendations include activities described as ‘Mapping the landscape of things’, Mapping the landscape of people’, and ‘Supporting researchers established practices’.  In some ways the problems being described echo the challenge faced in public libraries of finding better ways to connect users with content but on a different scale and includes other cultural sector institutions such as museums.

I also noticed a presentation from Keith Webster from Carnegie Mellon University ‘Leading the library of the future: W(h)ither technical services?  This slidedeck takes you through a great summary of where academic libraries are now and the challenges they face with open access, pressure on library budgets and changes in scholarly practice.   In a wide-ranging presention it covers the changes that led to the demise of chains like Borders and Tower records and sets the library into the context of changing models of media consumption.    Of particular interest to me were the later slides about areas for development that, like the other reports, had improving discovery as part of the challenge.   The slides clearly articulate the need for innovation as an essential element of work in libraries (measured for example as a % of time spent compared with routine activities) and also of the value of metrics around impact, something of particular interest in our current library data project.

Four different reports and across some different types of libraries and cultural institutions but all of which seem to me to be grappling with one issue – how do libraries reinvent themselves to maintain a role in the lives of their users when their traditional role is being erroded or when other challengers are out-competing with libraries – whether through improving discovery or by changing to stay relevant or by doing something different that will be valued by users.

 

 

 

 

 

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A fascinating couple of articles over the last few days around what is happening with ebook sales (from the US).  A couple of articles from the Stratechery site (via @lorcanD and @aarontay) Disconfirming ebooks and Are ebooks declining, or just the publishers.  Firstly referring to an article in the NY Times reporting on ebook sales plateau’ing, but then a more detailed piece of work from Author Earnings analysing more data.  The latter draws the conclusion that it was less a case of ebook sales plateauing but more a case that the market share from the big publishers was declining (and postulating that price increases might play a part).  Overall the research seems to show growth in independent and self-publishing but what looks like fairly low levels of growth overall.  The figures mostly seem to be about market share rather than hard and fast sales per se.  But interesting nonetheless to see how market share is moving away from ‘traditional’ print publishers.

The Stratechery articles are particularly interesting around the way that ebooks fit with the disruptive model of new digital innovation challenging traditional industries, what is termed here ‘Aggregation theory‘  [As an aside it’s interesting from the Author Earnings article to note that many of the new ebooks from independent or self-publishers don’t have ISBNs.  What does that imply for the longer term tracking of this type of material?    Already I suspect that they are hard to acquire for libraries and just don’t get surfaced in the library acquisitions sphere. Does it mean that these titles are likely to become much more ephemeral?]

The conclusion in the second Stratechery article I find particularly interesting, that essentially ebooks aren’t revolutionising the publishing industry in terms of the form they take.  They are simply a digital form of the printed item.  Often they add little extra by being in digital form, maybe they are easier to acquire and store, but often in price terms they aren’t much cheaper than the printed version.  Amazon Kindle does offer some extra features but I’ve never been sure how much they are taken up by readers. Unlike music you aren’t seeing books being disaggregated into component parts or chapters (although it’s a bit ironic considering that some of Charles Dickens’ early works, such as The Pickwick Papers, were published in installments, as part works).  But I’d contend that the album in music isn’t quite the same as a novel for example.  Music albums seem like convenient packaging/price? of a collection of music tracks (possibly with the exception of ‘concept’ albums?) for a physical format, whereas most readers wouldn’t want to buy their novels in parts.  There’s probably more of a correlation between albums/tracks and journals/articles – in that tracks/articles lend themselves in a digital world to being the lowest level and a consumable package of material.

But I can’t help but wonder why audiobooks don’t seem to have disrupted the industry either.  Audible are offering audiobooks in a similar way to Netflix but aren’t changing the book industry in the way the TV and movie industry are being changed.  So that implies to me that there’s something beyond the current ‘book’ offering (or that the ‘book’ actually is a much more consumable, durable package of content than other media).   Does a digital ‘book’ have to be something quite different that draws on the advantage of being digital – linking to or incoporating maps, images, videos or sound, or some other form of social interaction that could never be incorporated in a physical form?   Or are disaggregated books essentially what a blog is (modularization as suggested on stratechery)?  Is the hybrid digital book the game-changer?  [there are already examples of extra material being published online to support novels – see Mark Watson’s Hotel Alpha stories building on his novel Hotel Alpha, for example.]   You could liken online retailers as disrupting the book sales industry as a first step but we’re perhaps only in the early stages of seeing how Amazon will ultimately disrupt the publishing industry.  Perhaps the data from Author Earnings report points to the signs of the changes in ebook publishers.

KIndle MatchbookSo Amazon have announced Kindle Matchbook, initially for the US, but hopefully like Autorip it will come to the UK sometime later.  The Amazon press release is here, BBC News have also picked up the story.

The idea seems to be that if you’ve bought a printed book from Amazon you can get a copy of the ebook version for a discounted price or maybe even free.  The scheme will apply to books bought as far back as 1995, but as it stands there’s currently just 10,000 eligible titles.  Although as with Autorip you’d expect that to expand as Amazon negotiates with more publishers.  Presumably making this available in the UK will depend on which UK publishers come on board.

It’s easy to see this as an obvious step following on from Autorip (where you can get a free MP3 version of CDs you’ve bought through Amazon).  Amazon may see this as a way to grow their ebook customer base by encouraging people who’ve bought the book to try the ebook.    Whereas with CDs/MP3 I can see how useful it is to have both formats, for many people their CDs are going to turn into MP3s at some stage (although your autorip MP3s only seem to be playable from Amazon Cloud Player).

For books/ebooks I’m not quite so sure that I’d want ebook versions of everything I’d bought as a printed book.  If you are someone who reads and re-reads your books then I can see it being a selling point.  But I don’t often go back and re-read fiction that I’ve bought, or even some of the lighter non-fiction.  So it’s not too much of a benefit.  It’s interesting though if you’ve bought books as a present for people, in that you could get a free or cheap ebook version.  Where I think it would be particularly useful is for non-fiction/reference-type books that you go back to.  It will be interesting to see the mix of books that are made available through Matchbook.

Single box search terms word cloudReading through Lown, Sierra and Boyer’s article from ACRL on ‘How Users Search the Library from a Single Search Box’ based on their work at NCSU, started me thinking about looking at some data around how people are using the single search box that we have been testing at http://www.open.ac.uk/libraryservices/beta/search/Single search box prototype.

About three months or so ago we created a prototype tool that pulls together results from the Discovery product we use (EBSCO Discovery) alongside results from the resources database that we use to feed the Library Resources pages on the library website, and including pages from the library website.  Each result is shown in a box (ala ‘bento box’) and they are just listed down the screen, with Exact Title Matches and Title Matches being shown at the top, followed by a list of Databases, Library Pages, Ebooks, Ejournals and then articles from EBSCO Discovery.  It was done in a deliberately simple way without lots of extra options to manipulate or refine the lists so we could get some very early views about how useful it was as an approach.

Looking at the data from Google Analytics, we’ve had just over 2,000 page views over the three months.  There’s a spread of more than 800 different searches Search frequency chartwith the majority (less than 10%) being repeated fewer than 6 times.  I’d suspect that most of those repeated terms are ones where people have been testing the tool.

The data also allows us to pick up when people are doing a search and then choosing to look at more data from one of the ‘bento boxes’, effectively they do this by applying a filter to the search string, e.g. (&Filter=EBOOK) takes you to all the Ebook resources that match your original search term.  So 160 of the 2,000 page views were for Ebooks (8%) and 113 f0r Ejournals (6%) for example. Search filters chart

When it comes to looking at the actual search terms then they are overwhelmingly ‘subject’ type searches, with very few journal articles or author names in the search string.  There are a few more journal or database names such as Medline or Web of Science  But otherwise there is a very wide variety of search terms being employed and it very quickly gets down to single figure frequency.  The wordle word cloud at the top of the page shows the range of search terms used in the last three months.

We’ve more work to do to look in more detail about what people want to do but being able to look at the search terms that people use and see how they filter their results is quite useful.  Next steps are to do a bit more digging into Google Analytics to see what other useful data can be gleaned about what users are doing in the prototype.

Alice in Wonderland Google Play books bookplate

Alice in Wonderland Google Play books Harvard College Library bookplate

I’ve now got used to being able to read a book on an ebook reader across several platforms whenever I want.  Counting up the platforms I’ve realised that I’ve got several ebook systems setup with Kindle, Google Play books, ibooks and Calibre.  I’ve also got Kindle reading apps on a couple of PCs, an ipad and a phone, and I’ve a Kindle ebook reader.

So over the past few weeks I’ve been trying to keep track of when I’m reading ebooks, to help to understand what my patterns of reading are, and particularly what devices I am using, what I’m doing and where I am.  I’m also been trying to think about what the reasons might be for me using a particular device at that time.

Patterns of use
I’m reading ebooks largely at certain times of the day.  Mainly either at lunchtimes or in the evenings.  There is occasional use during the day at weekends.  I also find that at evenings and weekends I’m splitting my reading between ebooks and print books.  The only difference to that pattern is if I happen to be travelling by train or as a car passenger.

Lengths of time spent reading.
In the main I’m tending to read for short periods of time of 10-15 minutes with breaks.  When travelling I tend to spend longer periods of time reading of 30 minutes to an hour.  Interesting to me is that I tend to read print books for longer (and that may be down to where I am when I’m reading print books).  Occasionally I’m reading just a few pages for five minutes when I’m out and about.

Device use
When I’m out and about and reading ebooks on my phone it’s just for short periods of time, while I’m waiting for something.  Occasionally I’ll read ebooks on the phone for longer periods when travelling, but that seems mainly due to having the phone to hand, rather than the Kindle or tablet.  I’m always aware that power usage on the phone means that it won’t last a full day without recharging, so if there’s an alternative to the phone I’ll use that.  Reading ebooks on the phone as an experience is actually fine.

On journeys I’m tending to use the Kindle and I think that this is mainly because the power on the Kindle lasts for longer that phone or tablet, so even if I have both I’ll use the Kindle if I have it with me.  But I’ve noticed that I’ve started to take the Kindle with me less and less, if I know I’m going to be somewhere I can recharge the tablet.  The key consideration is that I can do other things with the phone/tablet so will want to save them for phone calls/text/internet.

At home I’m tending to use the tablet for ebook reading.  Mainly I think for convenience as I can recharge it when I want and switch between ebooks and browsing/looking things up.  A true multi-window tablet experience would be good though.  At lunchtimes I’m mainly using the ebook app on the laptop which is my main device at work.  If I’m sat at my desk it’s the easiest device to use.

Summary
I’m using the phone for mainly short periods of time, reading just a handful of pages.  For longer periods of time of say 30-60 minutes I’m reading the tablet or laptop.  For longer periods of time than that I’m using the Kindle generally.   What I find interesting is that I’ll use whatever device is to hand, but if I’ve more than one device with me then I’m thinking about how much power is left in the device and how easy is it to switch the device on.

Update
What I meant to add at the end of the post (and completely forgot), was why I titled this blog post ‘ebooks and analytics’.  Amazon clearly collect data about what devices you are using, when you are using them and what you are reading on them.  So wouldn’t it be good for you as an individual to have access to that data?

I’ve seen quite a few new ebook developments over the past few days that have caught my attention and look like they will have some form of impact on the personal ebook market that has come to be dominated by the likes of Amazon Kindle.

txtrbeagle
Strange name but a really interesting development in ebook devices.  txtrbeagle has a 5″ e-ink display and is powered by battery.   Ebooks are added to the device through bluetooth, so the device essentially works with an app on your phone.  An android app is available with an iphone app to follow.  The app allows you to transfer ebooks from your mobile to the reader and looks to be positioned as a mobile add-on that offers a more comfortable reading experience than trying to read material on a small phone screen.  Although the storage space is quoted as 4gb that is only sufficient to store 5 books at a time, which seems to imply some form of transformation of the ebook format onto the device if 5 books take up so much space.

What is really interesting about the device is the price.  $13 or 10 Euros.  Almost a giveaway price.  But it opens the world of ebook readers to potentially a wider audience who wouldn’t want to pay $100, have already got a phone, but wouldn’t want to read a book on their phone.  Or lets you, say, control what your children can read on an ebook reader that it so cheap that you are happy for your four-year old to play around with it.

BookShout
Bookshout is a book importer tool that lets you import your books directly from your Amazon or Barnes and Noble account into a single platform.  In itself that’s a great idea, as although tools like calibre can help with managing ebook content from multiple formats, DRM is often a restriction on being able to use the content on different platforms.  But there’s also another layer on top of that idea, which is to add sharing and social features into the tool, with Google+-like circles and the ability to share notes on the book you are reading, which look great for book groups.

The tool seems to have also thought about the perspective of authors and publishers, offering ways for authors to interact with readers and for it to act as a sales and marketing channel.  It’s an intriguing idea and even without the social dimension, offers a potentially useful tool to pull your ebooks into a single bookshelf.

wikipedia and ebooks
Wikipedia have recently announced a feature to allow users to export wikipedia content in an epub ebook format. http://blog.wikimedia.org/2012/09/17/new-e-book-export-feature-enabled-on-wikipedia/  Called the Book creator, the tool lets you select pages or categories of material from wikipedia.  Once you’ve slected your content you can download into a small number of formats including pdf or epub or even order a print-on demand copy.  It’s a useful tool to quickly extract some content for wikipedia that you want to read offline.  The formatting from the epub version I tried was a little messy but all the content was extracted neatly and you end up with something that will work on your ebook reader or Adobe digital editions quite well.

At a presentation at FOTE last week about ebooks it started to become obvious that the idea of offering a feature to allow people to export content from your website in a ebook format, especially epub, is a really sensible idea and something that has interesting applications for repositories and digital libraries.  Packaging the content into a neat and easily consumable package is a really good idea for websites and something that projects like anthologizr are already working on with their eprints ebook work.

Sign reflected in waterebooks – the future
Two contrasting views of the future of ebooks caught my attention this week.  Some of the news was positive such as the news that Microsoft is investing $300m in an ebook service with Barnes and Noble (reported by the BBC and the Telegraph), and then in news that 3M are launching a Cloud Library aimed at allowing library customers to borrow ebooks via kiosks.

The Microsoft news seems to be largely being reported as being Microsoft looking at getting a stake in the ebook and digital content world.  It looks like it potentially links the Nook ebook content into the microsoft operating system world and puts Microsoft in the same space as Apple and Amazon.  There’s an interesting quote on the BBC website “Our complementary assets will accelerate e-reading innovation across a broad range of Windows devices, enabling people to not just read stories, but to be part of them,” said Andy Lees, president at Microsoft.  And that seems to me to be envisaging an e-content experience that is far beyond current ebook look and feel.

The 3M solution is a very different type of product, aimed at a particular market (i.e. libraries) and including a pretty much total solution from the content through the applications to kiosks (a 3M speciality) and to their own ereader devices that are designed to be lent by libraries to people who don’t have their own devices.  It looks to owe a lot to 3M’s long experience of self-service in libraries and looks like a well-thought through solution.  Adoption will no doubt depend on price models and the content that is available.  It’s interesting to see 3M getting into the content reseller market and all that is implied there.  It will be interesting to see if this appears in other markets such as the UK.

or maybe not?
With a different perspective on the future of ebooks I was fascinated to read Jani Patokallio’s blog post yesterday Why e-books will soon be obsolete (and no it’s not just because of DRM).  It’s particularly interesting to hear the views of someone from within the publishing industry on e-books and their future.  His view is very much that the problems of long-term sustainability are partly around territorial rights for publications which is essentially the publishing industry’s attempt to take the print model and impose it on the digital world.  And unsurprisingly that model doesn’t work very well when set against the culture of the web of worldwide access.   He also picks up on the limitations of the ebook format(s) in comparison with what can be done on the web.  It’s a really interesting read.

It seems to me that the ebook publishing world is a very immature market that has grown massively in the last few years.  Seeing that growth in the market I can see why technology companies such as Microsoft would want to have a stake in that type of content.  It seems to me (and perhaps it is rather obvious) that once you have a reasonably competent piece of technology, it is the content that you can access on it that sells the technology product when you are talking about ebook readers.  For libraries I can see why an off-the-shelf solution for lending ebooks is attractive.

 

		

Kindle screenI’ve been wondering about ebooks and libraries for a while, in particular about where things are going in terms of library use of ebooks.  What caught my eye this week was a blog post on the Publishers’ Weekly blog here by Peter Brantley about Penguin pulling their ebooks out of the Overdrive system.   The bit that particularly caught my attention was this statement:

I am very sympathetic to the sobering prognosis that in the longer run there’s not much future for libraries in providing access to ebooks. If for no other reason, it is likely that ebooks will evolve into a great variety of objects, some of which are widely distributed on the net and not neatly packaged; many others will be enhanced into proprietary versions that will only work on a single platform.

The thing that particularly interested me in the quote was that there is the assumption that these are insurmountable ‘technical’ issues that would stop libraries from lending ebooks.  And I don’t know that any library would consider that to be the case.  I doubt that many people would suggest that the currrent format of ebooks is in any way a finished article, I’m sure that they will change and evolve over time.  But whatever the format, libraries will still see their role as trying to connect the user with the content.

The platform issue puzzles me slightly.  I think there are interesting parallels with the early days of video, where VHS won out over Betamax, and in more recent time when BluRay came through.  If you turn and look at computer games, then the different platforms still continue to co-exist, and many libraries lend selections of material in different formats.  I’m not sure that it is the platform that is the issue with ebooks.  Yes some of the formats and platforms may die, in the way that music cassettes largely disappeared as CD took over.  But the issue seems to me more to do with the publishers and platform providers positioning themselves for competitive advantage and not wanting to open their content up to a readership through libraries.

If you set aside the format issue for a moment and you look at the model that academic libraries have been able to take with providing access to ebooks.  Then we see them providing access to ebooks from different publisher collections with direct links to the ebooks on publishers websites, sometimes with ebook metadata added into the library catalogue or knowledge base to provide direct access.  Now I know that public libraries largely don’t have the infrastructure to provide remote access to collections of electronic material in this way so they have tended to go with a single aggregator.  But it seems to me that building and mantaining an infrastructure to let public libraries continue to provide access to ebooks, either as a collaborative shared service or as a commercial service (such as Overdrive) isn’t a particular issue.

Where format is an issue, is in terms of how the end-user uses the content.  While the ebook publication model is currently based mostly, it seems to me, on trying to lock users into a proprietary platform, it seems to me that we will see changes to that model over time.  Maybe the number of platforms will shrink, maybe the formats will start to move towards a standard, or one platform/format become dominant.  So if ebook publishers or aggregators want to make their material available through libraries, then there isn’t insurmountable ‘technical’ issues to stop that happening.

Which seems to leave the argument being about whether publishers and aggregators want their ebook content available through libraries.  And it seems to me that  the reasons why publishers might want their content to be lent through libraries are exactly the same reasons why printed books are lent through libraries, it encourages reading, it encourages literacy and surveys suggest that library readers are also heavy purchasers of books.  So if you want to get people into the habit of reading, using and buying ebooks, especially when you are building a new market, wouldn’t you want to use all means to encourage people to try out ebooks?

Kindle in caseBeing off the beaten track last week without a mobile phone or network signal I missed the debate on twitter and then on various blogs about Kindles and libraries.  Catching up this week on the debate particularly with the blog posts by Ian Clark and Simon Barron it struck me as interesting  that both identified the ease of use of the Amazon device and the ethical dimension of a ‘locked-in’, proprietary format and potentially monopolistic model as key aspects, despite having different views on whether to buy or not to buy a Kindle.

As someone who has bought a Kindle, uses it regularly and who wasn’t persuaded to buy an ebook reader until Kindles became established, then I’m probably one who has been convinced that the convenience of Kindles, particularly the ability to read your ebooks on a range of different devices outweighs reservations about the proprietary format.  It isn’t just the quality of the ebook reading experience that sells the Kindle but it is the infrastructure that can deliver your content to whatever device you choose (and then to any of your other devices as well) with a minimum of effort.  And that convenience hides the dimension that your purchases are effectively stored ‘in the cloud’ and under the control of Amazon, that you licence those books, rather than own them, and are going to be pretty much exclusively buying your books from Amazon.

What does strike me is that it is perfectly possible with tools like Calibre to convert ebooks into a format that can be used by your Kindle (or other ebook readers) so you aren’t in theory locked into having to buy from Amazon.   WH Smith/Kobo suggest you can load them through PDF format  as suggested here http://www.whsmith.co.uk/support/HelpeBookFAQs.aspx#FAQ2.1.  But there are likely to be DRM (Digital Rights Management) restrictions to prevent you converting ebooks bought in epub format into Amazon’s AZW format or vice versa.  [It’s something I need to check out to see how practical it is to try to get ebooks from Waterstones or WH Smith/Kobo onto the Kindle].  And that makes me wonder a little bit whether Amazon restricting themselves to a proprietary format now other ebook providers are starting to get going with their own delivery mechanisms is actually going to mean that Amazon miss out on the potential of people buying ebooks from Amazon to load onto Kobo or other ebook readers.  And if Amazon see themselves as a content provider, then wouldn’t they want to sell their content as widely as possible?

Amazon Lending Library
Having just caught up with the debate on Kindles and libraries it was ironic to see this week’s announcement of the Amazon Kindle Owners Lending Library.  The immediate reaction seemed to be that it was an potential threat to libraries, but I’m not so sure.  The deal (on available in the US initially) is that it is available to people who sign up to the Amazon Prime subscription service at a cost of $79 a year, you can borrow one free book a month, from a list of ‘over’ 5,000 (which implies to me more than 5,000 but less than the next significant number) and includes “100 current and former New York Times Bestsellers”.   Hm… so that’s at least 4,900 that haven’t ever been in the New York Times Bestsellers list?   So maybe not many well-known titles.  It will be interesting to see if it gets introduced in the UK and what the list of titles might be.  But unless the list grows significantly the Amazon Owners Lending Library sounds much more like a small incentive to sign up to Amazon Prime.   Now 5,000 titles might be small, and it might not be packed full of bestsellers but if you look at the public library offering of ebooks through services like Overdrive then 2,500 titles isn’t unusual for a public library ebook and audiobook download service.

So if you’re in the US you can use Overdrive to borrow from the public library and read them on your Kindle or borrow them through the new Amazon Kindle Owners Lending Library.  It will be interesting to see if there is any impact in US public libraries and if these features will get introduced into the UK at any stage.

Following a comment on this blog by Nick Lewis on my quick thought about the Kindle I’ve been looking in more detail about how the pagination matches up on Kindle ebooks across three different devices, a PC, an ipad and an android phone.  Both the PC and ipad versions show both pages and locations, the android app just shows the locations.

I’ve only so far looked at three fairly new novels as most of the older material I’ve looked at didn’t seem to show page numbers at all.   In  all three cases the location will take you to the same place within the text, or at least to the page that contains that location. 

When it comes to pages the PC and ipad versions have the same numbers of pages but the content on each page isn’t exactly identical.  In the samples I tried it varied from a few lines difference, to several paragraphs or more.  Given the variations in screen size then it probably isn’t surprising (and I’ll check it against the Kindle itself to see if there is more variation).  But the variation means that to give an accurate reference you are not only going to have to specify that it is the Kindle version of the ebook, but also the device you are using to access it.

There are some other thoughts about citing kindle ebooks on the web on Booksprung for example http://booksprung.com/how-to-cite-a-kindle-ebook that has an interesting discussion.  Our institutional Harvard referencing guidance (OU Harvard Guide to Referencing December 2010) has this to say

4.4       ebooks on ebook readers

The correct format for referencing an ebook used on an ebook reader (such as a Kindle reader) is: Author, A. (year of ebook publication) Title of Book [ebook], place of publication, publisher.

Example:

Matthews, D. J. (2010) What Cats Can Teach Us [ebook],London, Penguin.

In-text citation: (Matthews, 2010) or Matthews (2010) notes that…

As page numbers are not available on ebook readers, use the chapters instead for indicating the location of a quoted section:

In-text quotation: Matthews notes that ‘kittens are often delightful’ (2010, Chapter 6)

This suggests referring to a chapter rather than trying to find specific page numbers.  Although the Kindle at least now does now include page numbers the fact that they aren’t absolute and vary depending on your reader may mean that this is the best solution.

Updated
Owen Stephens (@ostephens) has just pointed out that you could use the percentage to provide a citation for exactly where you are referring to in the ebook. That is present in all the different types of Kindle apps I’ve tested.

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