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posting by Jim

sometime…today that is….in some places.

Yesterday, we announced that a beta test was underway at KCLS and SPL.  This morning in an email from Steve Potash CEO and President of OverDrive it was announced that Kindle compatibility is here for library e-books.

OverDrive is updating all U.S. public and school library websites to support Kindle compatibility.  The nationwide update should be completed by next Wednesday.  In the past Sno-Isle has been in the first tier to receive these rollouts for new features so we may be seeing this functionality sooner rather than later.   As of this morning our website hasn’t been updated for Kindle compatibility.  I am waiting to hear back from our OverDrive  Account Specialist to find out more specifics as soon as we know more we’ll be sharing it with you.

posting by Jim



Kindle users can get their first taste of the free e-book love during the beta test going on at KCLS and SPL.   According to GeekWire, it’s a true beta test so not everything is working the way it should with some customers getting an error message, and others having success.

Here’s a snap of what it looks like at KCLS.

When we have more information we’ll share it with  you.

Posting by Jim

Library customers continue to ask about the Amazon/OverDrive press release which announced that Kindle owners would be able to access library ebooks sometime later this year.

Library Customer:  “WHEN, will this happen?  I want my free library ebooks now!”

Collection Developments: “Gee, sorry but we know as much as anyone else about when this will happen.  The press release from Amazon only said that it was coming later this year, that could mean tomorrow or it could mean December 31st.”

LC:  “But you’re Collection Developments!  Don’ t you have special insider info? Corporate spies?  People in the know that you meet with secretly in dark alleys who exchange info for cold hard cash?”

CD: “Uh, gee thanks for the compliment, but no, I’m not privvy to any secret info. I do have a sister in law though who lives in Seattle (the same city that is home to Amazon’s corporate headquarters ) unfortunately she works in the cruise ship industry, and she’s not saying anything”

LC:  “Well, that’s not helpful at all.  Is that because she’s not talking to you? Or because she’s in the cruise ship industry and doesn’t know anything about ebooks?”

CD: “Well come to think of it, I guess it’s because of the cruise ship thing but we really haven’t spoken since I told her a joke about a pirate, a monkey, a travel agent, and a librarian who walk into a bar..but either way she’s keeping mum about the whole ebook thing”

LC:  “Eeewwww, you know you’re weird, and that’s disturbing….well moving on.  If you don’t know when it will happen, what do you know about the Kindle Library Lending program?”

CD: “Well when it happens, all of the EPUB, and PDF format ebooks  owned by the library will be available to you to read on your Kindle.  The library owns nearly 8,000 ebooks right now and we’ll have more by the time Amazon and OverDrive get their act together.”

LC: “Oh, that’s cool. Anything else?”

CD: “Um, you can read more about this by going to the Kindle site,  Amazon has a media room where all their Kindle press releases are available.  If I wanted to get the straight dope on this, I’d be checking it out pretty frequently.”

LC:  “Okay, so I get that you don’t know when this will happen, but I was hoping to buy a Kindle for a friend as a gift, and they really want to be able to read the free ebooks from the library.  What should I do?”

CD:  “Well if it was me, I’d just buy a Nook color, or some other ereader that currently works with the library ebooks, if I was buying a present for someone and they want to use the library collection right away.  There’s a whole list of them on our website.  But, if you’ve got your heart set on a Kindle, go ahead and buy that, they’re all kind of the same and it’s all about personal preferences sort of like the Ford and Chevy rivalry, my brother in law’s a Chevy guy and I like Ford and..”

LC:  Interrupting, “Dude, enough about your family already!  I think I know everything useful that I’m going to get out of you, so I’ll talk to you later.

CD: “Okay, but seriously my brother in law…”

LC:  “Buh, bye.”

post by jim who has a Nook color in his house, but isn’t allowed to touch it.


So if  the Nook color is outside of your price range, check this out Barnes & Noble unveiled a new version of the Nook reader.  The Nook Simple Touch is priced to compete directly with the Kindle at $139 dollars.  Read more on Shelf Awareness about not only the Nook Simple Touch, but Kobo’s new reader priced at $100 dollars. Nifty!

Kindles, DRM and audio books

February 22, 2011

Ugh, DRM makes me so annoyed.

Before your eyes glaze over let’s talk for a  second about a way that library customers  who own a Kindle might use our download service.  A question came up this weekend about the whether the  Kindle can play mp3 audio book files from our download service.

I have heard anecdotally from staff that this is possible, though not having attempted it myself I can’t say whether there are any extra hoops a customer needs to jump through to make it happen.

Some things to know if you get asked about the Kindle and library downloads.

Kindle uses it’s own proprietary DRM to manage downloads.  This DRM is incompatible with the following types of files.

  • EPUB & PDF ebook files and WMA audio book files.

The Kindle is primarily an ebook reader, and since it’s DRM is incompatible with our ebooks, this is the reason that you’ve heard over and over that the Kindle won’t work with our downloads.

When the Kindle2  first came out it had a text to speech feature which made it possible to convert your ebook to an audio book.  It was an automated voice so it was never going to be the listening experience you’d get  from an audio book read by a professional reader, but it was an option.   Not long after that the Author’s Guild objected claiming that Amazon was ripping off authors by creating an audio book without paying royalties for the privilege.

Audio books and the Kindle

5,600 of  the 7,400  downloadable audio books available from the library are WMA files with DRM attached making them incompatible with the Kindle.

The 1,700+ mp3 audio book files may work with the Kindle because they have no DRM software attached.

No DRM = no compatibility problems.

Currently OverDrive lists the Kindle as being incompatible with ebooks, which makes sense for the reasons explained above.   They do NOT list the Kindle as being compatible with mp3 files. Other devices such as the Nook are listed as playing mp3 files but with limited functionality.  This leads me to believe that though it may be possible to play mp3 files on a Kindle there are undoubtedly some bugs that make the experience less than optimal for customers, otherwise the Kindle would be listed as compatible but with a similar qualifier as with the Nook.

SO it may be possible for a customer to listen to these files on their Kindle, but I suspect there may be problems associated with managing the files.  When speaking to customers about Kindles and library downloads be sure to discuss the various formats separately making clear that EPUB & PDF ebooks aren’t going to work because of DRM, and that mp3 files may work, but only because there is no DRM attached to the files.  The library cannot offer technical support for customers attempting to download mp3 files on their Kindle.

posting by jim

who doesn’t love a chart?

January 25, 2011

Bookbee put together a handy chart of ereaders, “Getting started with ebooks:  a beginner’s guide.”

as indicated in the note, it many not be an exhaustive guide, but it’s certainly an  additional tool when talking to customers about their ereaders.

(via Shelf Awareness)

posting by marin

the holiday ereader round-up

December 21, 2010

with Christmas just a few short days away, articles and blog posts about ereaders are at an all-time high.  i’ve tried to pull together some of the better articles which cover and compare dedicated ereaders, as well as tablets – customers are certainly asking for advice.

first off, for those asking about our ebook collection from OverDrive, here’s their cheat sheet for which devices are compatible.

from the most excellent blog, Dear Author, is a compilation of questions to ask before embarking on the purchase of an ereader or tablet, “Holiday Buying Guide, Part 1:  Device differentiation, which type is right for you?”  the 10 questions range from “Do you need backward compatibility?” to “Do you read at night?”  Part 2 of the “Holiday Buying Guide” is a list of recommended devices.  also included is a handy chart of devices with comparisons (updated frequently).

in its November 15, 2010 issue, PW published an article,  “Digital Readers” (link to PDF).  it’s an easy to read, one page spread that compares the cost, title availability, tech specs, and provides comment on E-ink readers, tablets, and Phones/handhelds.

also timed with the post-Thanksgiving shopping blitz, CNET Editors’ Choice Awards picked both the Kindle and the Barnes and Noble Nook Color as favorites.  the Kindle earned the top spot in the dedicated ereader e-ink market, while the Nook Color was the pick for a color dedicated reader (limited competition); the Nook Color is also as an affordable alternative to the multi-function and expensive iPad. Time compared the two devices  as well, concluding

If you want a monochrome E Ink screen, absurdly long battery life and the option of 3G wireless so you don’t need to hunt for a wi-fi hotspot, buy a Kindle. If you crave backlight color and a touch interface, don’t require 3G and don’t mind charging up your gadgets every couple of days, get a Nook Color. I like ‘em both–and I don’t see either being rendered obsolete by pricier full-strength tablets any time soon.

(via Shelf Awareness)

note that a Nook Color can be rooted into a budget tablet, patience during install not included.

making the rounds last week was the EFF’s (Electronic Frontier Foundation) updated review of privacy policies of both devices and ebookstores, “E-Book Buyer’s Guide to E-Book Privacy.”   this is a useful compilation for consumers who want to know what retailers track in their searches and purchases. (via Shelf Awareness)

once the ereader or tablet is purchased, it’s not all smooth sailing.  there are a seemingly endless number ebook retailers and subsequent differences in availability and pricing (Amazon, iBookstore, Barnes and Noble, the newly launched Google ebookstore, etc.).  there are also the questions of format (epub, mobi, Kindle, pdf, and so on), which app is allowed on which device, what it means to own an ebook, but not really own it, etc. etc.

it’s certainly a challenge to keep up with the technology, but looking to the experts like some of those listed in the post is about the only way to stay sane.  as Josh Hadro writes in his LJ article, “How to Get Library Ebooks on the iPad/iPhone, No Sync Required,”

The day library patrons can download and read a library ebook directly on a mobile device will be the day I can die happy.

We’re not there yet. It’s still stupidly complicated to get a library ebook onto a device. Anytime there’s a step involved along the lines of “now, connect your device to your computer…”, they’ve lost me for good. Here’s a hint: I love my mobile device because it’s not tethered to the mothership.

heck, i am exhausted from writing this post, “stupidly complicated” is putting it mildly.  it takes a village to become an ereader and for many, we’re the source for information regardless of the device.

posting by marin who has decided that she will delay buying an ereader or tablet until she reads all the unread books currently languishing on her bookshelves

last week, a rather snotty commercial made the rounds in which the Kindle goes head-to-head with the iPad in a poolside rumble.  it’s clear that the beautiful people are the ones who spend their money wisely by buying the Kindle for their sunny vacations.

Tony Bradley in PC World had this to say about the campaign (via Shelf Awareness):

Amazon is responsible for the mainstream acceptance of the e-reader thanks to the Kindle, and it has a virtually insurmountable dominance of the market. Yet, Amazon seems to have some sort of Napoleon complex about the Apple iPad, as evidenced by its new marketing campaign.

there is also this puzzling statement to consider from Jeff Bezos who in a  June interview with Forbes declared that the iPad is not Kindle’s competition.

Fortune: Obviously, the Kindle’s price drop was in response to Barnes & Noble’s price cut on the Nook. Did the iPad and its overnight success play a role, too?

Bezos: No. The iPad… I think there are going to be a bunch of tablet-like devices. It’s really a different product category. The Kindle is for readers.

perhaps the Kindle’s marketing plan and Bezos’s opinion has changed in the last 3 months?

posting by marin

said with a straight face

August 11, 2010

in the last several months, reported ebook sales from Kindle, Apple, and Barnes & Noble were bandied about leading to some pretty funny numbers.  with Kindle reporting about 80-90% of the market and Apple and Barnes & Noble claiming 20% each respectively, it’s clear that something is amiss.

in an interview with CNET, Ian Freed, Kindle’s VP, was asked about the validity of these numbers:

Honestly, something doesn’t add up because we’re pretty sure we’re 70 to 80 percent of the market. So, something, somewhere isn’t quite working right. I encourage you to do some more research. Obviously, from the beginning of Amazon we’ve been very metrics-focused and we don’t typically throw out numbers we don’t firmly believe in. Take that 70 to 80 percent number and add up all the others and something somewhere isn’t going to add up.

this from a company that has yet to disclose the numbers of Kindles sold?!  sure Freed, in Amazon we trust.

(via Slash Gear)

posting by marin

apparently a hall monitor is no longer sufficient.  with the introduction of the iPad into the ebook market, the pricing war and debate has escalated to a whole new level.

publishers were gleeful at Apple’s entry into the ebook market despite Steve Jobs’ declaration a couple of years ago in response to the Kindle that “people don’t read anymore.”  they hoped to use the competition as leverage with Macmillan’s John Sargent leading the way, insisting that Amazon follow their rules or they’d withdraw their ebooks from Amazon.  a brief tussle ensued, but was ultimately resolved.

Apple negotiated with 5 of the big 6 publishers (Random House as the holdout) an agency model pricing structure which means that the publishers set the price with the retailers making a commission off the established price.  Amazon has operated under the retail model:  publishers sell to retailers who then establish their own price (Amazon has a fondness for $9.99) when selling to consumers, sometimes at a loss.  this has not pleased publishers, but Amazon is fighting back.

Exhibit A (via GalleyCat)

Exhibit B (via Dear Author)

Amazon is now selling some new Penguin hardcovers at a reduced price of $9.99.  there is speculation that this move (ya think?!) is pay-back for Penguin withholding ebook versions of their titles from Amazon when pricing negotiations failed (via Dear Author).

the deal with Apple appeared initially to be a win for publishers, but some are questioning that notion.  in a very thorough New Yorker article (is there any other kind?), Ken Auletta summarizes the ebook dramatics, players, and implications  in “Publish or Perish.”

But in the long term Apple and Google will not necessarily be better partners than Amazon. One day, they, too, will complain about the cumbersome publishing process, or excessive prices. Just days before the iPad went on sale, on April 3rd, there were rumors that Apple might list best-sellers for as little as $9.99. Apple agreed to the agency model for just one year, and, as publishers are acutely aware, Jobs has a history, with music and television companies, of fighting to reduce prices.

if you’d like to geek out further, Auletta was interviewed on “Fresh Air” which covers some of the same material (via Shelf Awareness).

Rich Aden over at TeleRead (via Dear Author) outlines several drawbacks of the ebook agency model:  publishers have burned their Amazon bridges; in forcing retailers across the board to adopt the agency model, publishers can’t evaluate its success (or failure) as compared to the wholesale model; and iPad users may not be ebook readers.

The big 5 have declared war on me (and like-minded ebookers) with agency model pricing and aligning themselves with the iBookstore. This may well be their Waterloo, yet it is a battle the publishers cannot afford to lose. If the iBookstore’s sales numbers do not at least meet the sales numbers of the wholesale model, publishers will have won the battle (imposition of the agency model) but lost the war (decline in sales and revenues).

plus, Aden identifies that the iPad has physical limitations (heavy and can’t read in sunshine) and the iBookstore frustrates consumers by locking down its ebook titles with a proprietary DRM.

this all gets a little more interesting with the news that Google is developing a tablet.  not surprisingly, Google announced that it will begin selling ebooks this summer (via Shelf Awareness).

Google has been discussing its vision for distributing books online for several years and for months has been evangelizing about its new service, called Google Editions. The company is hoping to distinguish Google Editions in the marketplace by allowing users to access books from a broad range of websites using an array of devices, unlike rivals that are focused on proprietary devices and software.

ruh-roh publishers, Apple, and Amazon – what’s next? what will the impact be on consumers?  and when will libraries enter the discussion?

posting by marin


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