As an emerging web technologies librarian I consider myself fairly tech savvy especially having used dozens of PDAs and phones, regularly use Mac OS and Win-whatever, and building my own linux box from scratch. You know, just the normal stuff. However this afternoon I met my match. Last week I put a hold on a digital e-audiobook from my public library’s OverDrive subscription that I wanted to listen to. Let’s examine that. A hold. On a digital file, that’s always somewhere on a server. Yes, I know it all comes down to licensing and publisher agreements, but that’s strike one against the user. Let’s fast forward to today. I open an email today on my iPhone alerting me that my download is ready. I click the link to ultimately discover that I can’t download the file directly to my phone, I have to use the OverDrive Media Console. That’s strike two. For a real user to take full advantage of this service, it has to be mind-numbingly simple, and so far this isn’t. Next I download and install the OverDrive media console on my MacBook Pro (which in fairness is easy) and download my digital title from the library site. I then discover that I can’t import it to the media console because the Mac version of the console doesn’t support WMA DRM. That is strike 3. I know publishers love the panacea of DRM (which has been easily defeated everywhere else), but libraries cannot expect their users to be gadget freaks and full-on technical audio/visual experts in order to use such services. So here’s the final outcome. In order to listen to this book which is WMA formatted but will play on iOS, I have to use a PC with an iOS device that is formatted to connect to Windows. Unfortunately I’m not about to reformat my phone to work with a Windows iTunes library just to get one book that I have to listen to within the next 21 days. As a side note, I checked a couple of the popular torrent sites that the kids use these days and found a DRM free copy of the same e-audiobook. It would let me play it anywhere I wanted and keep it as long as needed. I won’t do this because I consider it unethical, but what’s to stop an average user from taking the path of least resistance?
Over 100 million people watched the Super Bowl last night between the Packers and Steelers. While enjoying the game, most admit they also watch it for the the creative ads. Thirty seconds of air time cost approximately $3 million dollars. That’s ridiculously expensive, but what an amazing opportunity to reach a huge swath of Americans from all walks of life. That’s exactly why the American Library Association needs to sponsor a commercial during the 2012 Super Bowl. Libraries have seen usage surge, especially in public libraries. Citizens have turned to their local libraries to search for jobs and receive resume and application assistance, access the freely available content available at libraries, receive computer training to improve their marketability, and the list goes on. Conversely, library budgets are taking huge cuts due to the down economy. Branches are closing and staff are being laid off. An expertly produced commercial (I can’t overemphasize this part) could have tremendous impact and generate an endless supply of goodwill and interest among current library users as well as non-patrons. Those voices in turn could lobby for restored funding, work to increase giving to friends’ groups, etc. As far as production, I wouldn’t be surprised if a few of the elite marketing firms across the country would potentially give a discount for the the design work. No doubt there are dozens of celebrities (let’s avoid those recently associated with rehab) who would act as spokesperson pro bono. Imagine a commercial that quickly highlights some of the amazing services available at libraries with Morgan Freeman’s voice narrating the events. Sounds like a winner to me.
I’ll leave you with my favorite ad from this year’s game, it’s brilliant! – Volkswagen: The Force
It’s been quite a for e-books. On Monday Google launched their new eBookstore which boasts over 3 million titles (watch the overview video). Google’s approach is somewhat unique in that they are emphasizing the “openness” of their titles which can be read in a browser, Android device, iOS device, Sony Reader and Barnes and Noble Nook. Noticeably absent is Amazon’s Kindle. Google also offers to sync the pages you’ve read across you’re multiple devices, much as the Kindle does between the actual Kindle and Kindle apps which are available for PC, Mac, iOS, Android, Blackberry, and Windows Phone 7.
Not to be outdone, Amazon updated it’s Kindle for the Web reader on Tuesday allowing users to read full titles online instead of samples, which the reader was previously limited to. Supposedly this feature was already in line to be announced, but I’m sure Google’s event on Monday increased Amazon’s urgency.
Last on the list is an announcement from the Internet Archive and the Open Library project. They’ve beefed up their online BookReader to include features like text-to-speech, better sharing options, iOS touch and iPad support, and better searching. There are over 2 million titles now in the Open Library catalog, however not all of them are available as e-books.
In my opinion Amazon and Google are now the most important e-book vendors to watch with Apple coming up a close third with iBooks. Do you have a favorite platform or device? If so, share it in the comments!