Monday, April 11, 2011

Presentation on ebooks for Smithsonian Ignite (plus notes)

2011.03.30-IMG_2042Here's my presentation for the Ignite Smithsonian event (11 April 2011) in Washington, DC.

Below are notes and references to the cited facts and figures.

eBooks for eVeryBody. Martin R. Kalfatovic. Ignite Smithsonian. National Museum of the American Indian. 11 April 2011. Washington, DC.

1. eBooks 4 eVeryBody
A presentation for Ignite Smithsonian at the National Museum of the American Indian, 11 April 02011

2. Book in Chains
Books were once rare and precious things, so much so, that they had to chained to library shelves. From the 15th century through 1599, there were just over 15,000 books published in Great Britain; around 125 titles / year.

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  • Some Statistics on the Number of Surviving Printed Titles for Great Britain and Dependencies from the Beginnings of Print in England to the year 1800, by Alain Veylit. Datasource: ESTC Data

3. Early Print Shop
Making each copy of a book, though easier than in the manuscript era, was still a relatively slow and labor intensive process.


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4. Book shelf
"Of making many books there is no end” (Ecclesiastes 12:12)

5. Worldometers: New Book Titles
Today, book production is exploded. UNESCO estimates are for 269,565 new titles published during the most recent statistical year. For the United Kingdom, for comparison to the early number of about 125 new titles year in the 16th century, there were 206,000 new titles.


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6. Total number of books in the world: 129,864,880
Google recently did an estimate of the total number of "books". Their answer, 129,864,880. There are many footnotes and caveats to this number, but, it's a number.


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7. The codex 
The printed book form, the codex (which had existed for even longer in manuscript form) has provided, first the West and now the world, with over 500 years of quality; the "book" in it's printed form that we now know, however, took 50+ years to take the structure we now intuitively interact with. Accessing information like tables of contents, page numbers, indexes, title pages, etc. The book, for most people, doesn't need a users' manual.


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8. Books today
But now, books are taking on new formats drivin by electronic publication. The ebook publishing business began in around 1998 with ebook readers Rocket ebook and SoftBook;the first Kindle launched in 2007 and new forms (e.g. readers) will continue to evolve.


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9. 10 million ebook "titles" available
So, of Google's 128 million books, how many are available in ebook form (of all types?). Glenn Fleishman estimates about 10 million.

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10. Obligatory chart graphic
Here's a chart shows Amazon sales of paperback, hardcover and Kindle format sales, relative to each other. Epublishing soon to be a signifant portion of "book" selling market-wide. "Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" just became the first 1M ebook. Some publishers, O'Reilly, are now selling majority of titles in electronic form.

2012 is expected to be the year digital music sales surpass CD. If we consider 2001 as the start of digital music sales (the launch of iTunes), that's a little over ten years. What will be the ebook trajectory?

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11. Manadatory Pat the Bunny slide
I love books, I love to touch them, I love the smell of paper. I love Pat the Bunny, the wonderful 1940 tactile sensation, it will not be replaced by ebooks. I promise.

12. Per capita ebook consumption
eBooks are a toy of the mobile, bi-coastal elite, 20 somethings NOT. Highest per capital consumption is in Alaska, North Dakota, and Utah. Lowest in DC, California, Maine and Mississipppi.

Caveat on these stats, these are for sales of Smashwords ebooks. Total across other large sellers (Amazon, Barnes and Noble, iTunes, etc.) may change these numbers. So, in using these numbers, I plead the Twain Amendment: "There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics."


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13. I'm a librarian. Cat / Kindle / Jane Austen
What does this inevitable (in my opinion) march towards books becoming primarily ebooks mean to libraries?

14. Richness of ereaders
Right now, there are many problems with the use of ebooks in libraries. Multiple platforms, DRM, etc.


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  • Google search on ereaders and display images
15. iPad 2 in a library
US law allows something called the "first-sale doctrine." This is what lets libraries lend books, lets you give books to friends, and allows used book stores to exist.

Ebooks, however, are not generally "sold". They are licensed, which falls under contract law, not Copyright law (Title 17). Library ebook purchases are licenses (primarily), so it's a new game.


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16. One Kindle = 3,500 ebooks
A single Kindle 3 holds about 3,500 books ... that's a lot of shelve space. How can libraries move into this space? Can we work with copyright law and licensing to fill those Kindles not only with books their owners purchase, but with books from our libraries?

17. Free-to-All: Books on Devices - in Apps - in Browsers
So the big questions for libraries are how do we handle these new materials. How do we make them available in the traditional mission of the modern library, which is summed up on Boston Public Libraries motto "Free to All"? And in the case of academic libraries, "Free to our user community".


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18. Open Library
There are lots of free books on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and other book sites. One I'd like to point you to is Open Library. Not only does this massive database of book information "open" itself to wiki-like editing of the content, but it also points to ecopies of the books. Best of all, Open Library is experimentally testing the limits of Section 109 to "lend" digital copies of in-copyright books.


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19. Overdrive
A more "traditional" model for libraries is a service like Overdrive which works with publishers to license ebooks to libraries and manage the DRM around them in a logical, contract-based manner.

But a recent plan by HarperCollins introduced a new concept of licensing where after 26 circulations, the book needs to be repurchased. Though this raised an uproar, but at the bottom, it is a copyright owner legitimately licensing its product.

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20. A Future of Books
So, here are a few thoughts, adapted from Mike Hendrickson's "The Future of the Book" for take aways:
  • Available in all formats (print, Mobi, ePub, DAISY, PDF, ?)
  • Rich media integration
  • Socially connected (aside: yes, reading is solitary but books are social)
  • Shorter turn around from idea to instantiation
  • Gamification
  • Pricing that is fair and works
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21. Thanks
All images note cited are available on my Flickr site. Special thanks to Banjo, the black cat, for patiently working her way through the Kindle version of Northanger Abbey.

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