Pre-#uklibchat thoughts on ebooks in libraries

This evening’s #uklibchat is on ebooks and thinking about it I realised I’m a bit behind the times with what is happening in the world of ebooks.

As a solo librarian in a small library with, until a couple of months ago, no library management system and with no access management system I hadn’t really delved into the world of ebooks since I finished my MA two years ago. I’m not sure those things are necessary for an ebook collection, but it’s something that seems complicated and would need time to think about to set up (and budget!). I’ve had brief conversations with people working in similar libraries to me about the subject, but it’s just not reached the top of my to do list yet.

So I decided to quickly remind myself of what I used to know about ebooks and try to update myself.  A summary is below for anyone else who would find it useful.

  • Licensing electronic content vs. purchasing print content: Buying ebooks is not the same as buying print books.  You purchase a license to access the content, not the content itself.
  • Ebooks come in a variety of formats – the two main ones are EPUB and PDF
  • There are multiple ebook platforms with differing interfaces – wonderfully confusing for our readers.
  • When purchasing ebook need to consider:
    • Is access perpetual?  What happens if supplier goes out of business?
    • What loan length is allowed? Can readers choose the loan length? Can they be returned early?
    • How many concurrent users can look at an ebook?
    • Is the total number of loans limited?
    • What counts as a loan? A 30 second look equivalent to flicking through a book on the shelf?
    • What is the cost in relation to the print book?
    • Interoperability across devices?
    • What access systems (e.g. log ins) are needed for library users?
    • Library users privacy?
  • There are lots of different licensing models from different publishers.  It’s confusing.  Have a look at this 2013 Thinkpiece from IFLA for (a lot) more information.
  • European copyright law allows publishers to withhold ebooks from libraries because they can sell ebooks with licences which do not permit lending (Let libraries lend ebooks, CILIP webpage)
  • Open access (OA) books: OA books are a bit behind OA journals, but they’re following.  There’s now a Directory of Open Access Books (DOAB) with over 3000 books from 120 publishers (as of 6th October 2015).  You can even download their metadata.
  • Epublishing makes self-publishing easier.  Good, but be careful of quality.
  • Ebooks allow use of more than just text and static images.  Where is the boundary between ebook and multimedia content? Ebooks and gaming? Does it matter?  Implications for cataloguing?
  • There’s the whole e-reading debate too.  Do our readers actually want to read ebooks?  My answer – it depends! (A more in depth answer would need another post, or more likely several)

Thing 12: Putting the social into social media

This post was written for 23 Things for Professional Development, Thing 12.

Am I a social media lurker or a social media socialite?  Well, I think I am somewhere in between, but closer to the lurker end of the spectrum.  It varies between social media sites and twitter is where I’m most social.  I always respond to thank someone if they tweet a link that makes me think “Wow, that’s brilliant”, I’ve attended a few uklibchats where although I’m not particularly vocal I do participate in the conversation and I do occasionally respond to or ask questions on twitter.  Blogs I comment on occasionally but not as often as I would like and elsewhere I’m pretty much a lurker.  Sometimes my lurking is because when I come across somewhere I want to contribute I think “Oh I’ll think of a good way of writing what I want to say on that later” and either never finding time to do it or finding that someone else gets there first with what I wanted to say.  I like to follow and read posts by people from different sectors and different stages of their career, but find it easier and less daunting responding to people in a similar situation to me.  I think this is a combination of it being less likely that I have completely missed the point if they’re writing about something I do too, often having met them face-to-face as well as online, worrying that people won’t be interested in the thoughts of mere graduate trainee and, if the person I am responding too works at a certain level, that maybe one day they might interview me for a job and so anything I say now is effectively part of a job application.

However, sometimes my lurking is out of choice.  I have different reasons for using social media sites and not all of them are about being social.  For example I’ve chosen not to use the social side of LinkedIn for now – it’s just somewhere to (hopefully) direct people googling me to information I would like them to see and for me to store contact information for people I would like to keep in contact with.  My main use of twitter is as a current awareness service – when I have less time due to other stuff happening in life the interacting is the first to go.  This is because although I get something out of interacting with people on twitter I feel that reading articles other people very kindly tweet is a more valuable use of my time.  So really, the only way I would like to become more social at the moment is by commenting on blog posts more – just need a little more confidence.


My second (professional) new year’s resolution was to start attending and contributing to #UKlibchat – a fortnightly twitter discussion group about library issue.  Last Thursday I attended the first #UKLibChat of the year.  The topic was Libraries and Librarians in 2012.  I particularly enjoyed the first question: “What was your biggest achievement of 2011?”  I think it’s important to focus on what we have already achieved sometimes, rather than always concentrating on what we’ve still got left to do.   I found it interesting to hear views from participants with wide-ranging library backgrounds and think this is a great way to bounce ideas off other people.

Before attending #UKLibChat my first task was to properly set up a twitter account and work out how to use twitter.  Last year I tried to follow the chat on Library School, but as I only got round to signing up for twitter about five minutes before it started, I got rather lost and confused, so didn’t contribute anything.  This time I was more prepared.  I spent some time a couple of days before going through the twitter help centre – wonderful for demystifying twitter terminology – and signed up for HootSuite which I found made it much easier to keep track of the conversation.  Although I am still getting used to twitter, I really enjoyed the experience and I’ll definitely be back for another #UKLibChat.