Tuesday, April 13, 2010
The Ebooks Are Coming, The Ebooks Are Coming, The Ebooks Are Here.
In his first bestseller The Tipping Point, Malcolm Gladwell analyzes the sociological phenomenon when things, people or places suddenly hit the country's collective radar screen. He calls it "the moment of critical mass, the threshold, the boiling point."
We are now experiencing the tipping point for ebooks. Yes, they have been around for some years now but no one was paying attention. Not everyone wanted to read books on their computers and the first portable ereaders were clunky and the LCD screens were hard on the eyes.
The kinks and glitches are finally gone and ebooks and ereaders are the new black. Once Oprah announced that she loved her Kindle, everybody got into the act. Amazon has its Kindle, Barnes & Noble has its Nook, Apple has its iPad and those are just the big boys.
Which is not to say that this brave new world is without brave new problems. Each of these companies sells its own ebooks which work exclusively on its own ereader. In other words, you can't buy a book from Amazon and download it on a Nook. And Sony is the only company who has made an ereader on which you can download free ebooks from your public library. Hmmm. That never happened with a paperback!
Ebook-o-mania is also causing some havoc in the publishing world. Amazon wants to sell all its ebooks for $9.99 (just like iTunes used to sell all its songs for 99 cents.) The publishers and many authors think the price is too low, however. Who would purchase a book for $25 if you could download it for $9.99? And if you lower the price of each book by half or more, how can you continue publishing anything but known bestsellers? They'll be no more development for new authors. We'll have 24/7 of James Patterson, Danielle Steel, John Grisham and Nora Roberts and that's all.
There is also a huge storm brewing about copyrights. In the last ten years, publishing companies have negotiated royalties for ebooks, but not before. Who gets the money from older titles, the publisher or the author?
And what's the environmental impact? You would think that ebooks are vastly superior to paper books in this context. Maybe not. According to Daniel Goleman and Gregory Norris in a recent New York Times op-ed piece, one e-reader requires the extraction of 33 pounds of minerals. A book made of recycled paper requires only 2/3s of a pound of minerals. ( I recommend this very interesting article.* )
The Des Plaines Public Library tries to embrace the best of the new while preserving the traditional ways that still work well and are beloved.
We now have thousands of titles in our e-catalog that can be downloaded like an audiobook to your MP3 players or iPads, or as ebooks to Sony Readers or your computer. We are even starting an ebook discussion group. The Friends of the Library have graciously purchased six Sony Readers for us which we will distribute to patrons who need enlarged print. These patrons and all ebook owners are hereby invited to discuss the bestselling The Help by Kathryn Stockett on September 11, 2010. (More details later!)
Don't worry about the books though. They are going to be here forever. And as far as the environment goes, nothing can beat the public library for reusing and recycling! Public libraries were GREEN before blue and yellow went out on their first date.
*Goleman, D. & Norris, G. (2010, April 4). OP-CHART; How Green Is My iPad? The New York Times, retrieved on April 12, 2o1o at http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2010/04/04/opinion/04opchart.html