Archive for November, 2010

Tuesday, November 16th, 2010

Over 40 Libraries using Library Anywhere

We’re happy to report that more than 40 libraries around the world have made their catalogs mobile with Library Anywhere since we launched last month. It’s a wide range of libraries, from small public libraries and school libraries to large universities and huge consortia of public libraries. And with over 100 more libraries in various stages of testing, we’re excited about Library Anywhere really taking off.

Try out a few:

See all the libraries using Library Anywhere listed here or just click the … menu within Library Anywhere and choose “Select a Library”.

What does it do? Library Anywhere lets you search the catalog, save items for later, request and renew materials, and more. It can display events listings, ask a librarian links, and other mobile pages, and libraries can completely customize their “homepage”.

Get it. Library Anywhere includes an iPhone app, an Android app, a mobile web version, and the Universal/Accessible version (Blackberry app coming). In short, something for everyone and every phone.

Systems. Library Anywhere works with all the major OPAC systems, including: III (Webpac and Webpac Pro), Horizon Information Portal, Sirsi (eLibrary, iBistro, iLink, Web2), Polaris, Civica Spydus, Voyager 7, Koha, Destiny Follett and Infocentre, and Companion Alexandria. We’ll be adding support for more systems as we go (Aleph is next on the to-do list), so if you don’t see your system listed here, let us know!

Labels: android, app, iphone app, library anywhere, librarything for libraries, ltfl, mobile, mobile catalog, mobile web

Tuesday, November 16th, 2010

New group: “Books in 2025—The Future of the Book World”

I’ve started a new discussion group LibraryThing Group, Books in 2025.

The group aims to centralize and restart a site-wide conversation about the future of books and reading. It’s a conversation that’s been going on for years here and there on Talk, especially Book talk and the librarians group, in comments to my Thingology posts about ebooks and my Twitter stream. It needs it’s own group. It will also be refreshing to hear more from LibraryThing members–not technologists or industry people. After all, who better to discuss the future of books than the people who love them most?

Anything about the future of books is welcome, but the focus will be on how ebooks and social reading are and will change things, with 15 years as a proposed timeframe:

  • How will ebooks change reading? Has it changed your reading?
  • How fast will ebooks rise, and how high will they go? Is the paper book dead?
  • Where is social reading going? What’s core and what’s fad?
  • Will sites like LibraryThing continue to exist, or will ereaders leverage their advantages to make book discussion a platform-dependent activity?
  • Will libraries contract or prosper in an ebook world? What can they do to make sure things turn out right?
  • How will ebooks change the world for publishers?
  • Will writers see increased opportunities–or be decimated by piracy? How will ebooks change literature?
  • Are physical bookstores doomed?
  • What about the rest of the book world–small and informal libraries, agents, rare books, small presses, book reviewers, etc.?
  • Amazon, B&N, Apple… How many will win, and how will they evolve?

Anyone can post, and start a topic. But we’re going to keep this a LibraryThing project. We’ll be starting some topics ourselves, and bringing in authors and other book people to discuss what they know, and where they think things are going.

So, come check out the group “Books in 2025,” and participate in a first topic, “Welcome to this group / Books in 2025?

Group image by Javier Candeira, released under CC-Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (see on Flickr).

Labels: books, bookstores, ebooks, libraries

Monday, November 8th, 2010

Library Anywhere Android app now available!

Library Anywhere, which turns any library catalog (OPAC) into a mobile one, is now available in the Android market. The Android Verson joins the iPhone application, Mobile Web version and Universal/Accessibility version.

qrcodeGoogle doesn’t have a webpage for apps in the Android Market. If you’re on an Android device, however, you search for “Library Anywhere” or follow market://search?q=pname:com.phonegap.LibraryAnywhere to get to the app. You can also scan the QR code to the right with your phone to get to it.

The Android version is just the latest news on LibraryThing—with more to come this week. So far, over 35 libraries are signed up, with many more testing it. Between apps for iPhone and Android (a Blackberry one is coming), a Section-508-compatible OPAC, no-installation setup and prices both public and a fraction of its competitors’, we’re optimistic we’ll capture a big piece of the market. If not, at least we’ll force the various competitors to slash their prices!

Labels: android, library anywhere, librarything for libraries, ltfl, mobile, mobile catalog

Sunday, November 7th, 2010

Library Friendly…

This publisher has pledged to support eBook lending for libraries.
(Find out more.)

The idea arose from an email I wrote on Web4Lib, which argued the rather dismal economics of ebooks in libraries, and noted that if “advocacy” was going to get anywhere it had better happen soon. After all, the ebook market is already about twice the size of the library market.

Anyway, my one constructive suggestion was to start the public campaign, to get publishers to commit publicly to a slate of lending rights for libraries.

To assist that effort, libraries (ALA?) should establish a “Good Housekeeping”- or “Organic”-style sticker that authors and publishers can slap on their books and webpages. By doing this they would get something in return for continuing First-Sale-style rights when they sell ebooks to libraries. They’d get a halo, a way for libraries to know what ebooks to buy and what publishers to support, and a way for regular readers to show their love for libraries in an ebook age.

Anyway, an idea. Lots to work out, of course.

Labels: ebooks

Monday, November 1st, 2010

Feedback loops in eBook success

“How big will ebooks get?” A lot hangs on that question. Right now ebooks represent perhaps 7% of the total book market. A world where they rise to 20% or 25% and stop rising differs substantially from one where they rise to 50%, 70% or 90%.

Without arguing the point, I see a 20% market as one in which bookstores continue to survive in significant numbers, publishers continue to have an important role in the book world, and public libraries mostly carry on as usual. At some higher level I see most bookstores vanish, non-academic publishers largely disintermediated away, and public libraries in crisis. (For libraries see my posts on ebooks in libraries.)

Feedback loops. My contention is that ebooks rise far above 20%, becoming the dominant book format, because the logic of ebook success has built-in feedback loops. You can call it “success breeds success” or “vicious cycles” as you like. Same idea.

I’ve never seen someone lay out ebook feedback loops in detail, and I’ve recently run many people who seem to think ebooks will “stall out,” so here’s my attempt at articulating the logic as I see it:

  1. Ebooks win on convenience above all; you can download something and start reading it immediately. Bookstores win on browsing and socializing. As ebooks cannibalize print sales, booksellers will go out of business, making paper books increasingly hard to find, and therefore less convenient, harder to browse and less socially rewarding (see also 7). Ebooks kill bookstores and dead bookstores drive ebooks–a classic feedback loop.
  2. Paper books depend upon economies of scale. As you print and distribute more books the cost per book goes down rapidly. The physical-book industry depends upon these economies. But when scale shrinks, everything runs in reverse. As ebooks take off paper-book costs will rise, making them relatively more expensive (3), and others will become unprofitable, eliminating the choice altogether (4).
  3. Ebooks are already cheaper than printed books, and bound to get cheaper still. If popular print books are cheap because the marginal costs are low, digital books have no marginal costs. They’re not free to produce; even apart from money to the author and publisher there is a substantial cost associated with preparing the digital file. That cost is “baked into” the ebook price. But it’s a fixed price, divided over the total number of copies sold. As volume increases that price will be spread out further.
  4. As books drop out of print, ereaders become a necessity. Ereaders today are a choice. Some prefer them, but nobody needs one. As books drop out of paper, ereaders will become necessary for people who don’t want to be constrained in their purchases. This will drive device adoption and therefore ebook purchases (5).
  5. As ereaders proliferate, ereading does too. eBooks suffer from a relatively high initial cost, but ebooks are generally cheaper. Once a consumer gets over that cost and has an ereader all subsequent book-buying decisions are influenced by that sunk cost.
  6. Ereaders become more powerful as you buy more books. First, on a personal level, there is a big difference between a device that has a few books you bought since Christmas and a device that has everything you’ve read since high-school–all in in one place and searchable. Right now most ebook people people have the former. Soon they will have the latter.
  7. Second, we will soon discover that ereaders are a networked good, like the telephone or the internet. As more people use them, they become better. Ebook “sharing” features are intentionally crippled, but they gain in value as more of your friends and family have the devices. The same applies to the possibilities for “social reading.” We have only begun to explore this, but, as LibraryThing and its immitators have shown, social reading shows great promise. It will be even more valuable when fully integrated into the book.
  8. As ebooks take off, we will figure out what they’re good for. Five hundred years of development have shown us what paper books are good for, but we’re still learning about ebooks. As ebooks become a larger share of the book market ebook-only advances will become worth pursuing. “Enhanced Ebooks,” like The Elements, will be part of the answer. But I suspect the real gain will come in genres that didn’t work as well in print. Nothing about short stories or poems requires they be bound together into anthologies or sold in tiny and expensive editions. The economics of print did that. Ebooks will change the market logic, and then change expectations. I don’t see someone accustomed to buying short stories on their Kindle reverting to the print-book model of buying anthologies.
  9. Right now–and I believe for a long time–ebook success accrues to a small number of companies, with Amazon in the lead. Concentrated power of this sort is bad news for publishers struggling to retain high ebook prices. Last year, MacMillan could afford to lose all Amazon sales for a time in order to put presure on Amazon’s pricing model. As eBooks rise, Amazon’s share of the book market will only increase. This would be true of ebooks even if the death of physical bookstores didn’t give Amazon a larger and larger share of physical book sales. A rising share is not going to make it easy for publishers to keep pricing power, and thus delay ebook adoption.

Any I’ve missed?

Labels: ebooks