Monday, February 11, 2008

6. Ebooks and their Readers

Ebooks
Electronic books (ebooks) have been around for quite a while. They've never really taken off, though, because they generally must be read while sitting at a computer. A lot of people don't like spending time reading on a computer screen - the glare and relatively low resolution (compared to print) of the screen makes it uncomfortable for them - or while sitting on a relatively uncomfortable desk chair. On the other hand, being able to do a full-text search of a reference book in ebook format is a definite advantage! To combat the computer screen problem, ebook readers have been coming out for years, trying to make reading from a screen a more pleasurable experience. Many cell phones also now have features and applications that let you read books using your phone. They are convenient, but still not something that most people want to curl up with and read.

The newest ebook readers, most notably the Kindle and the Sony Reader, are appearing on the scene with new technologies designed to make reading on screen more comfortable. The Kindle uses what they call an "electronic paper display". Sony's Reader uses "E-Ink". Both are supposed to be more like reading on paper than on a screen. They are both about book-size and have large book storage capacities. Unfortunately, they are both electronic and not really ready for the bathtub reading that many people like to do.

You can, of course, read lots of ebooks online without needing any kind of reader or even any money. Project Gutenberg, named for the man who brought us the printing press, has a huge selection of books that are no longer copyrighted. All the classic books that you have been meaning to read, all 17,000 of them, are available - if you don't mind reading them on screen or printing them out on paper yourself. More recent books which are still under copyright are available at MRRL through the netLibrary service. These are books that are available for you to use any time - even when the library is closed - and can be checked out just like our printed materials.

Have you ever used an electronic reader (phone or dedicated device)? Have you ever read a book online? Rochelle Hartman, a library manager from Wisconsin, has received a Kindle for her library to use and test out. She wrote about the possibilities of library usage for the Kindle recently. Do you think any ebook reader would be usable in a library? Would you like to see a library offer an ebook reader for checkout (provided the legalities are ironed out)?

Extra Reading

25 comments:

Francesca said...

I'd be really interested getting a hold of one of these Kindle readers. I remember in Lib School, one of the Prof's stating that until ebooks got more friendly on the eyes - people would be sticking with printed books. At last year's Mobius conference, there was a paper presented on ebook usage research. They found that other countries (I think maybe Japan?) people were far more likely to use ebooks, compared to folks in the US. Their research showed that Americans would much rather read a print book. The only exception was when writing research papers, especially late at night right before the paper was due - do ya' think they might be copying and pasting quite liberally?

sexybeast said...

At the present time reference type books are probably best for most patrons, since you usually don't want the whole book, just the necessary information.

ebooks are hard to read for those who like to read while taking long hot bubble bath. I'm not talking about me because long hot bubble baths aren't manly and all but some other do.

I guess copy and paste for papers and then footnote the hell out of it.

eyeoh said...

Just as the author of one of the articles notes, I see the latest readers as the first examples of devices that have a chance at success. Designing them to mimic an actual book is a great transition, and one which will entice reticent adopters such as myself. It makes the most sense in a library setting, as well.

Francesca said...

(finishing my post) The researchers interpreted this difference by claiming that Americans valued not just the practical learning that comes from text, but that we have a sense of valueing the physical book itself. People like to have a library of books, they like to display their books. There is the whole "art of the book" thing, where the physical design of a book is invested with lots of care and attention to detail (some journals come to mind). Why this Christmas, I even received a bookmarker, that almost looked like jewelry - very pretty beads strung at both ends of a thick flaxen thread. I don't think the 'valueing of the book thing' totally explains American attitudes toward ebooks.
One last tidbit. The researchers found that publishers saw academic libraries as their target audience of their electronic publications, public libraries use was just a small sideline.
Oh and the webpage ebook link (from our homepage) looks good & bright, ought to grab patron's attention.

sexybeast said...

When I put on the hat of library patron, rather then the pretty library worker hat, I prefer the feel of a book in my hand and taking the book with me anywhere. Even the research books I avoid unless I really have too. Using bookmarks is one of my little joys in life, I have many and plan to have many more before I pass on to the great Library in the sky.

Marion said...

These new models do show considerable improvement in size and the Sony having a "cover" to protect the screen may make it more durable. For libraries, it would probably be best to wait for an ebook standard. So, that the items will last longer than a year or 2. Also, just like with downloadable audiobooks that the library has, format is a problem - they can't be downloaded to an ipod. As far as checking out the items, they would need to be durable to stand up to library usage. For me personally, I also will carry around actual paper books and use many bookmarks before going to the great library in the sky.

Tab said...

I think these new devices are a vast improvement, but they definitely haven't hit the mark yet. I did see the Kindle reviewed on CNet and they were kinda cool on it. The thing that's really killing it is the price tag, I think.

absinthekid said...

Kindle is really close but not quite there, yet. The price, as Tab says, is a real hurdle for most people. These things are *almost* like books, but they can contain a hundred titles or so. Wow. For library use, what about this: Kindles(or the Sony reader) get cheaper, patrons buy their own readers, then come to the library--or login remotely--for downloads? You could buy some digital books to keep, but check others out from your library's web page; then, like today's e-books, they vanish after the loan period has expired.

Nikki said...

I think that some of our patrons would like this. I'm not really one to want to sit at a computer and read, I would feel like my eyes are going to burn out of my head, and when people see you reading a book in your hands they are less likely to interrupt you rather than you sitting at your computer reading the screen.

Thoughts from the CROA said...

Ebooks and Ebook readers are foreign to me, but after reading this lesson I can visualize uses for them in a library. For MRRL Ebook readers could help reduce MOBIUS and interlibrary loan costs paid for by the library. Patrons could search online for books that aren't in MRRL's collection (especially books for research papers), download them to a reader, and pick parts of the book to read or print out. I see Ebook readers as more of a research tool than a casual reading tool for use inside a library's walls. In other words, it wouldn't be much fun to sit down and read a romance novel on a reader at a table in the library no matter how reader friendly the screen was.

crows nest said...

As these ebook readers improve, and/or come down in price, they will probably be more widely used. Right now patrons can download ebooks to mp3 players and be mobile. These will never hold the charm of a book for most people, who love to have a book in hand, and love libraries that are full of them.

Age is only a # said...

If the library can look at providing Playaways instead of audio books, I don't see where there would be a problem with libraries providing a ebook reader in association with NetLibrary and downloadable ebooks. The new ebook readers do look more user friendly than the older models. I would be more likely to use these, but I still prefer to have my books read to me, unabridged.

moonbeam said...

I guess I am old school, I like to have a book in my hands to read. I also like the fact I can take one anywhere with me. With the ebooks and readers you would be tied to your computer.

dukeblue1212 said...

I’ve never used an electronic reader. I’ve ready short stories online but never an entire book. I don’t see myself curling up with an ebook for long periods of reading, but they would be very beneficial when writing a paper and needing to search for specific text. Ebooks will save all those kids who accidentally left their books at school. An ebook reader would be useful in the library for those patrons needing specific information and a check out program would be just another great service our library would provide.

justme said...

Personnally I work on computers all day and night and when I relax I want to curl up with a good book. If they're being used for research and there is a good index and you can get the info you're looking for quickly and effeciently then I see a great opportunity for it.

betterlate said...

E-books will someday be great but not for me right now. I do not have the time to sit at a computer reading a book! Listening or having the real thing in your hand is better!

leslie said...

I can't see the price of the ebook readers making it feasible to purchase for patron use. And exactly how do you know that the books you want to view are available in ebook form, therefore making it a good choice. With all the stuff you can do in classrooms with MP3's and iPods and laptops, why bother with one more device? Until paper becomes obsolete, I can't see these really taking off. A lot of school libraries are investing in devices called Play Aways. If you have the money, that would be fine. I can't imagine trying to get a parent to pay for a device that their kid dropped in the bathtub or toilet! It's hard enough to get the money for a damaged book.

Courtney said...

I keep seeing Kindle advertised on Amazon, which I find rather interesting. I'm curious to see if the new ebook readers take off. Did you know that you don't blink enough while reading from a computer screen? Fun fact. I love the fact that a lot of older texts with expired copyrights are available online. Viva Project Gutenberg! I've read a few things from that site and you can do anything you want with the material, including printing it to read it on real paper.

Bobbi Newman said...

The Kindle employs what they call "electronic-paper display" it doesn't look like a normal computer screen. I can't vouch for it since i haven't actually had my hands on one, but I've heard good things about it. I'd love to have one but the price tag is a little too high for me.

Heather said...

I think they are a definite improvement but still have a ways to got before they take off. I agree with Fancesca, plagarism could be an issue.

Anonymous said...

I can see both sides of the argument. Having the ability to have any book, even obscure and out of print ones, just a download away is pretty amazing. The luddite in me though loves a book's heft in my hand and the dusty papery smell in ny nose. Reading an actual book is, at least me, a more visceral experience than reading a computer screen.

newbie said...

That last comment was mine, Bobbi. I was a premature returner.

madmusing said...

I've used a Sony e-book and like it a lot. Its design is elegant,and it's easy to use. Maybe one day the price will come down; it's around $300 now, I think. The Kindle looks awkward and bulky to me, but it has Amazon's imprimatur.

madmusing said...

I've used a Sony e-book and like it a lot. Its design is elegant,and it's easy to use. Maybe one day the price will come down; it's around $300 now, I think. The Kindle looks awkward and bulky to me, but it has Amazon's imprimatur.

Melody said...

I think the the ebooks are a great source of information for the people who are doing reports late at night and the library is not opened. I personal will not be using the ebooks because setting at my computer to long will cause me a headachs and cause me back pains. If I were to go back to school I would diffentely use it.