Sometimes I just can’t help myself. I get a clever post title in my head, and I have to use it. Some may call this “style over substance,” but I call it resourceful.
E-ase on down the road has several meanings. First, it is meant to revisit this post from November, eBook fatigue on The Yellow Brick Road, which was widely viewed, and if I do say so myself, made a lot of sense.
Second, didn’t The Wiz do just that? Revisit a classic? Make it relevant (or try to, anyway) for a new generation?
Third, ease on down the road means what it says–move on, move forward.
How does all of this relate to ebooks and libraries? I don’t believe I’ve written specifically about ebooks since that November post, and a lot has happened. Most of it not favorable for libraries, if that is, libraries are still overly concerned about ebook lending, which they are. I’m sure I don’t have to tell you what’s been happening. Today’s post from Annoyed Librarian brought it back into focus for me.
To put it in political terms, we are not winning the war on (for) ebooks. Not even close. Just as the government has to determine how much of its budget it’s willing to spend on The Department of Defense, and war and the like, libraries have to decide how much of their very limited budgets they’re willing to spend on ebooks that have limited circulation, long wait lists, and no longevity.
Are there better uses for our money? Do patrons care that much? Yes, I know that within our own System, circulation statistics are up. People are using OverDrive and checking out ebooks. But I would suggest more people are not. Believe me, I know this is a weak statistic, but I will point to it anyway: In my own, recent survey 17 out of 33 people, didn’t know if their own, local public libraries offered ebooks…and didn’t care.
Maybe, for now, it is time to just ease on down the ebook road. Who knows what the business models, formats, etc., will look like a year from now? We could be wasting valuable time and money trying to secure access to resources that are just not library-friendly at the moment. Or, if we insist on spending the money and contracting with an ebook vendor, then that is a decision we make knowing full well that it is not a very good deal. All the complaining and angst does nothing to change that fact.
OverDrive had the clear advantage in selection, offering both ebooks and eaudiobooks. But their platform is cumbersome, at best. 3M had ease of use going for it, but they only offer ebooks, no eaudio formats. Recorded Books only offers eaudiobooks. All 3 cost a lot of money and come with restrictions.
It comes down to a choice that each library has to make for itself. As others have pointed out, just as Will did over at Will Unwound, publishers are going through their own identity crisis. They’re not particularly sensitive to libraries’ concerns at the moment.
That said, Annoyed Librarian got one thing wrong-
“There were boycotts and petitions and some earnest librarians even came up with a “ebook user’s bill of rights,” perhaps forgetting that rights aren’t much good if no one enforces them. The hostile rhetoric was hot and heavy for a while. Librarians felt good about themselves for standing up for principle and against The Man. It was collective action, baby! They were going to show those publishers just what stern stuff librarians were made of!”
Why make fun of anyone for at least trying to make a difference? There’s nothing wrong with being earnest and for standing up and saying that something is wrong. It’s only natural to come to the defense of your own. Anyone can be snarky. Few try to put their words into action.
The verdict is still out on ebooks and libraries. In the meantime, it’s up to each library to decide how to navigate this new territory. One thing we shouldn’t do is to confuse librarian concerns with library concerns or patron concerns. It’s time to revisit the ebook debate from the perspective of not what is fair or unfair to librarians but what is in the best interest of our users and what is the best use of our (their) money. Some may decide the ebook hassle is not worth it because their patrons are not clamoring for this format. Some will decide it is. Eventually the terms will change anyway. Hopefully, we can learn from each other along the way. Libraries are supposed to be centers of learning, after all.