Not really everything you need to know about e-books

Dawn of the e-books era? Image CC from OpenClipArtLibrary

News items, statistics and blog posts about e-books crop up on an almost daily basis and sometimes it seems difficult to keep up with all the changes (or is that just me?!). Sometimes reported developments apply only to America (e.g. availability of certain hardware) whilst others start in America and then come here. Here are some links to a selection of the articles that I have come across recently on the topic of e-books (meaning e-book reader devices and e-books content). NB you may want to go and get a cuppa, this is going to be another long post!

According to a recent YouGov poll, 1 in 40 adults in the UK received an e-reader for Christmas 2011, over 90% of which were Kindles. The article notes that the UK’s biggest publishing group Hachette sold over 100,000 e-books on Christmas day alone, and both HarperCollins and Random House also had e-book downloads of over 100,000 on that day, each. 

This recent article in USA Today shows a range of e-book sales data, including a chart of when titles in the USA Today’s Best-selling list have sold more e-copies than paper copies. 

Lending e-books
Here is a simple summary mainly from a UK perspective of the potential for loaning e-books (content) in public libraries. This is from a computing website not from a library perspective. 

The above article mentions the lending of e-books (content) in America with Amazon’s Kindle. The Amazon Prime package includes unlimited instant streaming of thousands of movies and TV shows and a Kindle e-book to borrow for free each month from the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library. The lending library currently has some 66,000 titles, and it costs $79 (c.£51) a year to join, and is only available in America, in partnership with Overdrive. *UPDATE – at bottom of post

As the public cannot get free Kindle e-books via library services anyway this could be attractive for Kindle owners who are prepared to pay $6.50 a month (equiv. of£4.30) although they only get one free e-book loan a month for that (along with the films etc). See also two articles about this on Digital Shift and Digital Reader.

Publishers and libraries 
In November 2011 two decisions sent shockwaves through the library world. One was Penguin’s decision to not make digital editions of new titles available for library lending. The reason given was ‘security issues’. Initially announced in America, the decision was then announced for UK Penguin a few days later. 
Harper Collins’ decision to restrict library e-book lending to 26 issues per title also caused consternation in the book world, including this article in the Guardian, and in Library Journal, and see also the HarperCollins’ response in an open letter to libraries. The decision means that for libraries with HarperCollins’ e-books, after a title has been borrowed 26 times it self-destructs (well, sort of), and disappears from the library catalogue and the library has to buy it again if they want to still offer it to customers. The 26 figure was based on the average number of loans a paperback usually lasts.  I’m a bit confused as to why wear and tear on paperbacks should be converted into wear and tear on a digital file though. 

Also in America (not sure if library authorities in the UK who use Overdrive have noticed the same problem), some public librarians in America noticed that different libraries who had subscribed to the Overdrive service received different collections of stock to offer their customers, and only found out by mistake

This article in the New York Times entitled ‘Publishers vs. Libraries: An E-Book Tug of War’ outlines the views of publishers and why they fear the involvement of libraries in e-books, and also provides a general overview of the current e-book situation in America.

Closer to home in Wales, various Welsh language blogs have raised the issue of the availability of Welsh language e-books, see recent posts by by Carl Morris, Hacio’r iaith and Hen Rech Flin here and here.  

Some of the posts mention the Welsh Books Council’s recent report into the issue of Welsh language e-books, and you can read this report in English or WelshThe report indicates that the epub format is the preferred option, and that there is considerable interest among Welsh language speakers to be able to access Welsh language e-books.

Several publishers in Wales do sell e-books directly, including Y Lolfa , Honno for all their new titles from now on through Amazon Kindle, and Parthian that I’m aware of, (although Honno and Parthian mainly publish in English), and the Welsh Books Council also intends to offer e-books to the public through Gwales.

If you are interested in e-book readers or other mobile reading devices you might like to view this short piece on BBC Click programme.

And finally… !
This Guardian article discusses the pricing of e-books, and this blog post forecasts future battles to come in the e-book world in this post on ‘The years the e-book wars broke out’.

I think that’s enough for now!

*Kindle Prime update – according to TechCrunch, Amazons launch of Kindle Direct Publishing has let to over 75,000 titles now being available in the lending library scheme. And in December 2011 customers borrowed nearly 300,000 KDP titles. KDP allows independent authors and publishers to make their titles exclusive to Amazon, and if they’re borrowed they get a share of the KDP fund.

About alysontyler

Civil servant, yoga teacher and former librarian.
This entry was posted in Cymraeg/Welsh, E-books, Wales. Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Not really everything you need to know about e-books

  1. The biggest issues with e-books, for many people, are:
    1> Pricing (it is ridiculous to charge the same – or more – for a digital object with insignificant materials and distribution costs, yet with added restrictions).
    2> DRM. At best it is mostly invisible or a minor irritation; at worst it is a complete nightmare (there are links to some of my posts about DRM here:
    3> Lack of availability of some titles (particularly textbooks), due to publisher fears.

  2. PS thanks for the summary!

  3. Cromen says:

    some welsh language e-books available from – english e-books will be available soon

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