Kindle and Overdrive = Hooray for Libraries

20 04 2011

I’ve said a number of times on this blog what a huge fan and how supportive I am of libraries and today, I’m just really feeling impressed with Amazon coming around and offering up their format to Overdrive. I know there are some, like the article I link to, who’ll say that it’s just Amazon bowing to the inevitable. To that point, I’ll say only two things, really.

First, are you sure that it was all that inevitable? In the vast scheme of things, Amazon is a big player now. Libraries still are, too, but there’s the impression that they’re waning, especially when cities and states balance their budgets during the recession. You just never know, but Amazon on the whole might have more clout and staying power than they’re given credit for. On the other hand, it helps to sell Kindles, which is their money making baby.

Second, Guy Gonzales said it better than I could:

Funny how pundits always give Apple benefit of the doubt, rarely to Amazon, though the latter is arguably more innovative and experimental.

I’m all for shaking my fist at big capital when it comes to publishing, as has been well documented. I don’t like it when a single retailer controls so much of the market and even less when they begin to dominate the almost the entire chain of book production; writers gotta write still, but after that, I can imagine a dystopia in which Amazon becomes the one and only source for the written word. I think the reasons for that dislike are probably pretty clear.

But credit where it’s due. This is a *good* thing Amazon’s doing, even if self-interest is involved. It’s hard to see how this isn’t a win for everyone and, especially, for books and libraries.

HarperCollins Puts Its Funeral Procession Into Overdrive

26 02 2011
2007 Disney Weekends #4: Darth Vader

"I'm altering the deal. Pray I do not alter it any further."

Just when you thought the publishing world didn’t need another fiasco, here one gets thrown in everyone’s lap. HarperCollins has elected to change the deal that they have with libraries in a mind-bogglingly myopic display of poor decision making. See, HarperCollins did allow ebooks to be distributed through Overdrive, which is a very clever system for treating ebooks like real books. A customer checks out a copy of the book via the Overdrive service, has that copy on their device for 3 weeks or so, and then the copy is removed and back on the virtual shelves for check out by another patron.

And it’s a system like that that has the potential to help libraries and publishers make the transition to the new digital world of books.

That is, until HarperCollins decided to go crazy and play the DRM card, as they announced that they will be limiting downloads of the book to 26 before nuking the copy completely. The library then has to buy another digital copy as we all pretend that 26 is the magic number of times that a physical book can be checked out before becoming an unreadable mess of tattered pages. The Overdrive scenario already employs the simulacra in allowing only so many simultaneous checkouts as the library owns, but this next step of treating the digital apple like a paper orange is too out there. Honestly, how much of the overall dollars going from libraries to publishers is from replacing books that they’ve already bought once before? I’m going to reckon that’s a pretty small piece of the pie.

Libraries and publishers need to be working together during this period of very rapid change or they’re going to kill themselves off. Overdrive is a great way that flows with the change and begin to define a space for libraries in the digital environment and that’s always been good for publishers, who need libraries because libraries produce readers. In other words, libraries overall are going to produce more value for publishing houses and books and reading than they’ll take away by checking out copies to patrons.

Instead of going with the change and looking for ways to make it better, however, HarperCollins appears to have gotten spooked and now stands with its arms outstretched against the oncoming train. This is not good for libraries and not good for them either. If you try to rein in change, you’ll just get flattened. DRM, folks, is bad. Real bad. What better way to encourage reading and readership than to strangle libraries with crippleware. Meanwhile, you can almost hear Amazon giggling in the corner, because they’ll be the big winners in all of this (especially since they’re the ones trying to actually make it EASIER for readers to read books).

Also, the entire fiasco is playing out over twitter now under the hashtag #hcod. Enjoy.

Antsy Blogging

1 09 2010

I’m nervous. I’m hoping to hear some good news soon on the whole day job front, but suspense and I just don’t get along. Update: Had some good news come this morning, but still suspenseful. At any rate, that’s why I didn’t do any writing yesterday and missed my normal blog post and had more absolutely insane dreams the night before. That might be why this post branches out into a gazillion different directions. I’m thinking about many, many things all at once.

What I did do was work out and finished two books I had been reading/listening to. I might write up a real review of the first one, World War Z by Max Brooks, at some time in the next day or three and put it on my book blog (which hasn’t been updated since November) in addition to posting it here. I know that’s a pretty redundant way of handling things and more of a lost cause already than this blog, but I like having it. The other one, Michael Chabon’s Manhood for Amateurs, is one I listened to the audiobook version, so it’ll get a mini-review at best, since I don’t like not having the print material itself handy to reference while I’m writing.

Side-note: I freakin’ love Overdrive. With Overdrive, I was able to download the whole audiobook, for free, from the Nashville Public Library, put it on my iPod and listen to it while I work out and at my desk. Overdrive is bonkers and awesome and great and good. My only complaint is that the selection isn’t always the greatest and I feel like I pick up something that looks just interesting as opposed to something I’m really dying to read, but generally, if I want to read something, I read it. Like with the eyes. And on paper (or Kindle, but mostly paper). So, really, it’s just something to listen to while I’m doing something else.

The new book I downloaded last night is John Meacham’s American Lion, a history of Andrew Jackson in the White House. Don’t ask me why, because I don’t really understand it myself, but I find it easier to listen to non-fiction than fiction. Fiction, I suppose, is where I get caught up in the language and I like having that right in front of me. Non-fiction, however, is easy to listen to because I feel like I’m constantly getting new information and there are logical connections between ideas to follow. It’s like TV but not nearly as superficial and much, much more edifying.

It’s also been a year since I’ve read anything in the area of American history, so I’m due. Having moved to Nashville, Jackson is a pretty obvious choice as well.

I also learned that the public library here has access to Interlibrary Loan, even through academic libraries. It’s more limited, but if one were to want to conduct “real” research, it can be done. And there, folks, is yet another great reason we need libraries. I mean, damn. Libraries rock my world.

Shifting gears, today, I also have to go work out some more then this afternoon I get to go to my daughter’s school and help with their cross-country training. They had their first meet last Sunday and everyone (save one kid who was knocked down pretty bad at the start of his race, poor guy) finished and had fun. It makes me happy to be involved like that and the kids are fun, though I will say that I’m not sure I could handle those kids all day, every day like the teachers do. Still, there’s an innocent, yet funny thing to that age group that makes it easy to appreciate the appeal of being a primary school teacher.

Then we’re off this weekend to visit my family, which is a pleasure we’re accustomed to only getting to do around Christmas, but now that we’re closer we will get to do it much more often.

So, that’s it. I’ll hopefully get a bit more writing done over the course of the day, but given how my mind is working, I’m not sure it’s going to be very high quality. Tie up a few loose ends, though, and I should be back up to speed.