Thursday Threads: Ebooks in Libraries, Prognostications for the Year, Open Source Adoption, Public Domain Day

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The turn of the year brings commentary on the past 12 months and thoughts on the future. This edition of DLTJ Thursday Threads looks at the relationship between libraries and electronic books with an offer by Sony to explain e-reader hardware to libraries and an opinion piece that libraries need to get their act together on the adoption of e-books. Then there is a look forward at possible trends for the new year; I try to pick out the ones that I think will have an impact on libraries. One trend that does seem to be emerging is the migration of libraries from proprietary software to open source software for their integrated library systems. Lastly, we’ll wrap up with a look at Public Domain Day.

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The Changing Role of Libraries in the Digital Age

At Sony, we believe there is a place for public/private partnerships. That’s why we’re so excited to be working closely with libraries and librarians across the country as part of our Reader Library Program. While there are several different views on the future of libraries, we believe that digital reading will be at the core of libraries, regardless of how they grow and evolve.

Sony’s Reader Library Program is designed to help libraries overcome the challenges of adopting eBooks and educating their constituencies on how to borrow, read and make the most of digital reading content. eBooks, like traditional paper books, will play an important role in our civic and cultural life, but only if they are made broadly available and people understand how to access and use them.

Steve Haber, President of Sony’s Digital Reading Business, publishes this piece in the Huffington Post about the Sony Reader Library Program. The program offers a 2-3 hour training session for library staff, donation of four models of Sony e-reader devices for library staff use, promotional materials for patrons and “bi-annual update sessions designed to keep libraries and their staff current with the latest developments in digital reading content, format and devices.” Although I found out about this via a tweet from the ALA PLA account, I don’t see anything in the program description that limits it to public libraries. The only requirement is that the “library must have eBooks available through a third party such as www.overdrive.com in order to be considered for our program.”

I also can’t help but be a bit cynical that “The Changing Role of Libraries in the Digital Age” is just a front to promote Sony products. But if it gets more libraries thinking about the role of libraries in a digital age, then it seems to be, on balance, a positive thing.

2010 Summary: Libraries are Still Screwed

In mathematics, catastrophe theory is the study of nonlinear dynamical systems which exhibit points or curves of singularity. The behavior of systems near such points is characterized by sudden and dramatic changes resulting from even very small perturbations. The simplest sort of catastrophe is the fold catastrophe.

When a fold catastrophe occurs, a system that was formerly characterized by a single stable point evolves to a system with no stability. The point where stability disappears is known as the tipping point.

One of my goals for this past year was to raise awareness of the tipping point for libraries that will accompany the obsolescence of the print book.

Eric Hellman, serial entrepreneur with an altruistic bent to make libraries stay relevant, create this end-of-2010 summary of the library/ebook tensions. The title comes from a presentation (20 minute recording part 1, part 2) by Eli Neiburger at the Library Journal / School Library Journal eBook Summit who bluntly states, “Libraries are Screwed.”

Does the libraries’ historic reliance on the physical codex doom us to obsolescence? (The “library memorial”, as Eli puts it early in his presentation.) Is the time, as Eric suggests at the end of his post, “for raising awareness about the catastrophic future of libraries” over, to be replaced by “build[ing] things that change the system dynamics”?

100 Things to Watch in 2011

As part of our annual forecast, JWT presents 100 Things to Watch in 2011. Some of the items on our list reflect broader shifts we’ve been following:

  • Mobile as the Everything Hub: More consumers and brands are embracing a trend we outlined two years ago, one that will manifest in a multitude of ways next year—from mobile memes to “moblogging” to waning interest in point-and-shoot cameras.
  • The evolution of media as content becomes digitized over various platforms: Books will take new forms, entertainment will go transmedia, and journalists will get more entrepreneurial.

Some reflect counter-trends to broad shifts in consumer behavior:

  • To balance out our increasing immersion in the digital world, people will embrace face-to-face gatherings and digital downtime, and come to fetishize physical objects once considered humdrum.
  • The trend toward Radical Transparency will see a growing backlash (Ignorance Is Bliss).

As always, new technology is a theme.

  • We’ll see smart infrastructure ramping up, tablets for tots as this platform gets widely adopted and some truly futuristic-seeming developments (3D printing, virtual mirrors, electronic profiling).

While some of our Things to Watch may not yet reflect a broader trend, we believe they eventually will ladder up to one. Retail as the Third Space, one of our Things to Watch from last year, and De-Teching, one of our Things to Watch for 2008, both gained momentum since we first spotlighted them. This year we included them among our “10 Trends for 2011.”

The people on our list—from pop culture, sports, architecture, fashion and other realms—have the potential to drive or shape trends in the near future.

THE TRENDS: 3D Printing; Deforestation Awareness; Ignorance Is Bliss; Odyssey Trackers; Social Objects; Africa’s Middle Class; In the Flesh; Older Workforce; Space Travel Goes Private; Apps Beyond Mobile; Detroit; Jennifer Lawrence; The Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN); Art.sy; Digital Downtime; London Tourism; Storied Products; Auto Apps; Digital Etiquette; Long-Form Content; Pedro Lourenço; Stricter Green Building Standards; Digital Indoor Maps; Personal Taste Graphs; Automatic Check-Ins; Matcha; Digital Interventions; Piers Morgan; Tablets for Tots; Bamboo; mHealth; East London Tech City; Pogo; Tap-to-Pay; Banks Branch Out; Michael Jackson Lives On; E-Book Sharing; P-to-P Car Sharing; Tech Liaisons; Banner Ads Do More; Electronic Profiling; Micro-Businesses; Rooney Mara; Tech-Enabled; Beer Sommeliers Throwbacks; Biomimicry; Entrepreneurial Journalism; Mobile Blogging; Rum; Temporary Tattoos Go High-End; Bjarke Ingels; Mobile Memes; Rye Rye; Facebook Alternatives; The Nail Polish; Ryo Ishikawa; Brazil as E-Leader; Tintin the Movie; Fashion Fast-Forward Economy; Scanning Everything; Breaking the Book; Transmedia Producers; F-Commerce; Nanobrewers; Self-Powering Devices; Brigadeiro; Tube-Free Toilet Paper; Food, Ph.D.; Near Field Communication; Smart Lunchrooms; “Buy One, Give One Away”; Ukraine; Gay-Centric Hotels; Smart-Infrastructure Investment; The New Mobility Industry; Urban Industrial Parks; CAPTCHA Advertising; Global Disease, Refocused; Video Calling; Children’s E-Books; Smartphone Cameras Take Over; Green Luxury Cars; New Nordic Cuisine; Virtual Mirrors; Coming Clean with Green; Next-Generation Documentarians; Voice-Activated Apps; Group-Manipulated Pricing; Smoking on the Fringe; Costlier Cotton; YouTube the Broadcaster; Social Browsers Go Mainstream; Culinary Calling Cards; Heirloom Apples; Neymar; Decline of the Cash Register; Home Energy Monitors; NKOTBSB; Social Networking Surveillance; Objectifying Objects

This things-to-watch list comes in the form of presentation slides from JWT Intelligence. It is a general list with a few things that libraries should be aware of: #14 – Breaking the Book (selling smaller segments of monographs); #18 – Children’s E-books (interactive story designs); #23 – Deforestation Awareness (a document file format that cannot be printed); #25 – Digital Downtime (take a break from technology); #27 – Digital Indoor Maps (maps of library stacks, anyone?); #30 – E-book Sharing (mentions Bluefire Reader to read library-loaned e-books); #47 – Long-form Content (journalism and other forms); #56 – Near Field Communications (RFID-like patron card?); #67 – Personal Taste Graphs (“helping the right information find you”); #75 – Scanning Anything (proliferation of QR codes); and #87 – Tablets for Tots (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt to sell a tablet preloaded with childrens titles).

Koha and Evergreen Shine in Breeding ILS Survey Results

According the Breeding’s data, 150 libraries migrated to Evergreen (I say migrated but his stats often reflect a “contract” not necessarily a migration) and 133 migrated to Koha. In contrast, only 53 libraries migrated to a SirsiDynix product, 48 to Agent Verso, and 28 to Millennium.

Lori Bowen Ayre summarizes ILS migration trends from Marshall Breeding’s annual ILS survey. The data on migrations is available in the forward and reverse directions. Does this mark a shift in acceptance of integrated library systems based on open source software?

Update: Somehow I missed Ed Corrado’s review of the report and his follow-up focused on the Koha numbers. Both posts have a number of helpful and insightful comments from other readers as well.

Public Domain Day 2011: Will the tide be turned?

This year’s Public Domain Day, the day on which a year’s worth of copyrights expire in many countries, is getting particular attention in Europe, where events in various European cities commemorate authors who died in 1940, and whose works are now in the public domain there.

Many commented on Public Domain Day — a watershed day each year when copyrights terms are up and works enter the public domain — but I found John Mark Ockerbloom brief review of the state of copyright extensions in North America and Europe the most interesting. He also briefly mentions the desires by some to return to a more simple model of copyright terms and registration.

The text was modified to update a link from http://ebook-summit.com/program/ to http://web.archive.org/web/20101102201746/http://ebook-summit.com/program/ on November 21st, 2012.

(This post was updated on 21-Nov-2012.)