e-books and libraries

My good friend Kelly asked a question on the Writers’ Corner about how libraries handle e-book lending.

We don’t purchase e-books at our library, but other libraries in our consortium do. We also have access to NetLibrary through NCLive. All of our services are available on-campus, but for our curriculum students, faculty, and staff to access an e-book through NetLibrary off-campus, they have to use a password.

I have helped other catalogers in our system code their bibliographic records so their students can access the e-books they purchase. Catalogers embed a link in the bibliographic record so when a patron is searching our online database, they will receive a link to an e-book. The patron clicks on the link, but they must enter a password before they can view the book.

The book isn’t checked out in the same sense as you would check out a bound volume. Multiple users can view an e-book simultaneously. I have tried to use e-books for my own research, I’ve found the technology cumbersome and difficult to use.

For example, if I want to quote a passage from an e-book for a paper, it’s not a simple copy/paste function. So I either have to print the page I want to quote (which to me, defeats the purpose) or switch back and forth between screens, which is a nightmare. The other problem is that I’ve found research in e-books to be more time consuming, due to the load-time between pages. I can scan the page faster than it can load.

That’s been my experiences with e-books. If someone else, especially a library employee who works with e-books have had different experiences, I’d love to hear about how your library handles e-books.

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6 Responses to e-books and libraries

  1. lawrenceez says:

    Fascinating article. Thanks for sharing.

  2. JC says:

    Well, I’m not familiar with libraries but I can and will tell you something about e-books. There are two problems you mentioned and they’re the most common ones.

    First, some e-books are protected with a digital rights management (DRM) system. This technology is used to impose limitations on the usage of digital content, e. g. to prevent unauthorized duplication of the content. I guess that’s why you’re experiencing problems with quotations. The obvious solution would be to only rent or buy e-books without DRM. If that is not possible, you should check the level of restriction specified by the publisher or distribution agency.

    Currently, there’s a trend of dropping DRM, especially after Amazon’s disastrous move. Many companies and artists have begun advertising their products as DRM-free. I don’t know how one could handle rentals, though. This is relatively new and clearly nobody really thought about that issue.

    Second, the load-time between pages. This is due to the technology called e-Ink which is employed by most of the e-book readers. Reading e-books on your PC is much faster because of the greater processing power and a different display technology, mostly LCD. E-Ink has a three huge advantage in that it is ultra-efficient (it only need power to change the image displayed), it is very easy on the eye, and it is possible to create very thing displays. Most importantly, newer generations will provide faster response times, ultimately making e-book readers worthwhile.

    • Teresa says:

      Hi JC, thanks for taking the time to make such a detailed response!

      I don’t have a problem with DRM or the philosophy behind it, I’m just saying that using e-books as a research resource can be more time consuming than a book. Regarding the Amazon issue: Amazon never would have had its initial problem if they had been careful about assessing copyright for Orwell’s digital version of 1984 in the first place. Which brings me to e-book piracy, which would be a post unto itself for me.

      So I’ll be a good moderator and not plunge into a rant.

      You’re also dead on when you speak of the slowness of the page loads. I can scan five pages of a book for information while one e-book page is loading. However, here is something a lot of e-book manufacturers don’t think about: I spend anywhere from 8-12 hours a day behind a computer screen. I hit my e-mail between 5:30 and 6:00 a.m., and when I hit my office, my job requires constant computer use. When I get home at night, I work on my novel (read: more computer). The last thing I want to do when I need to relax is pick up another digital product.

      I think it’s a matter of taste, too. Younger people think nothing of it, but I love the ease of print and ink (the old-fashioned kind) on my eyes. 😉

      Thanks again for stopping by, JC, and definitely thank you for taking the time to explain DRM. Nicely done.

  3. JC says:

    You are very welcome!

    I generally tend to use cutting-edge technology but I couldn’t convince myself to buy an e-book reader. Imagine that. I’d only need a reading device to read novels, mostly fantasy and sci-fi. You are totally right when you say that it’s more time consuming or literally more complicated than handling an old-fashioned book. I’d probably get a reading device for future vacations (it’s much easier to take three or four e-books than real book with you) but that’s about it. It seems e-book readers have quite a way to go yet.

    I understand that you’re not exactly thrilled by the thought of using another electronic device when you spend most of your daytime in front of computer screens. In this case, however, I have to step in and defend e-book readers because they are very easy on the eye – just like a real book. To my mind, there’s no difference at all, apart from the obvious ones (texture, feel, handling, etc.). Still, I prefer printed books and not just because they make my living room look better. 😉

    • Teresa says:

      I tell you what I would like to use either a Kindle or Sony e-book reader for and that’s to download my manuscript. I know a lot of agents love the idea of being able to load multiple manuscripts on their Kindle or Sony e-books when they travel. That does make an e-book reader appealing to me. You also talked about the convenience of taking two or three novels on vacation, and I think that’s also a reason I would own one. However, the current prices of both devices put them out of my reach, but those should come down eventually.

      But when it comes to being home, I prefer my books. There’s something cozy about snuggling up with a book that I will always cherish. With all the e-book conversations going on, I alway remember a scene from one of the Star Trek movies where a younger crew member goes into Kirk’s room and is astounded to see bound books. I figure one day my collection will also be rare, but you’ll not get me to part with them. 😉

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