Another Move Towards Improving E-Book Access

This just in from DPLA.  Interesting news!

This is the second in a series of posts about DPLA’s ongoing work to maximize access to ebooks. Check out the first post in this series introducing our plans and learn more about the Sloan Foundation grant funding this work.

At DPLAfest this past April, the DPLA Board of Directors approved a plan to move forward with an ebook pilot aimed at improving access to a broad selection of open and licensed ebooks through market-based methods. We at DPLA are evaluating what we could potentially do from a community and technology perspective to help libraries maximize patron access to ebooks and other e-content. Through the pilot, set to launch in early fall, DPLA will manage technology solutions for 3-5 large public libraries and consortia.

First, some background: US libraries began providing ebooks through OverDrive in 2004. Since then, library ebooks have been provided through siloed, vertically integrated systems in which users can discover and borrow books from a given vendor only in that vendor’s website and apps. In 2012, a group of frustrated library leaders mobilized to form Readers First to fight for a better user experience for their patrons. This grassroots movement has advocated with some success for more open systems and empowered libraries to demand more from e-content vendors. These innovative, library-driven efforts have also led to multiple IMLS-funded grant projects moving us closer to the vision of a national digital platform.

DPLA’s approach to help libraries maximize access to ebooks and other e-content is to work with technology providers, publishers, distributors and public libraries to offer a comprehensive technology solution managed by DPLA. The first component of the solution addresses content acquisition. The second is a curation portal that serves as a circulation manager based on the Open Publication Distribution System (OPDS). We believe helping US libraries move to OPDS-based distribution could greatly expand access for patrons. OPDS is a simple, elegant syndication format based on Atom and HTTP.  It allows libraries to use a standard protocol for the aggregation, distribution, discovery, and acquisition of electronic publications.

Our hope is this solution will enable libraries to move to an open, OPDS-based service architecture without deploying additional software or incurring costs beyond content and DRM fees. Libraries would be able to merge content from various sources, including popular publisher content and free, open content curated by DPLA and others in the community, and serve it through curated user interfaces to drive deeper discovery and thus more use of existing collections.

We will continue update you on our progress with pilot libraries, and related DPLA + Ebooks projects. We will also be sharing our vision for open access content, publisher relationships, and community engagement in future blog posts and announcements.

Questions? Email us.

VITAL Library Funding at Stake

This post is borrowed from the Maryland Library Association but is appropriate nationally in the USA. At this point, it would be better to call than to use another forum for communication. Millions of dollars in library funding, important projects, and the jobs of many library supporters in the IMLS are at stake. 

If you have already called, please call again! We have only 5 days to act.

Record-Setting Senate Support Needed to Save Federal Library Funding!

If you have visited this page in the last few weeks, you know the President has proposed wiping out all library funding – and the agency, the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), that administers much of it – in his initial FY18 budget proposal. You also know thousands of librarians, library supporters, users, vendors and citizens in every Congressional district in the country used the ALA Legislative Action Center and many other channels to insist that their Representative in the House sign two "Dear Appropriator" letters to the Appropriations Committee asking them to preserve funding this year for the Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA) and Innovative Approaches to Literacy (IAL) program.

One-third of the entire House of Representatives signed each of those Dear Appropriator letters and nearly 170 Members signed at least one — an 18% increase in support for IAL and a record-shattering 64% increase for LSTA. (Visit this House tracker to see whether your Representative in the House signed.)

Now, it’s time for you to break records for support in the U.S. Senate by asking both of your Senators to sign Dear Appropriator letters for LSTA and IAL. Our goal is to put a majority of all 100 Senators on record in support of these critical programs! Check this Senate tracker to see if your Senator signed last year and if they have already agreed to sign this year. If not, we have until just May 19 to convince them to add their names to both the LSTA and IAL letters. There's no time to lose.

Please use ALA's Legislative Action Center today to call, email or tweet (maybe all three?) both of your Senators and ask them to support federal funding for libraries by signing both the “Reed/Collins LSTA” and “Reed/Grassley/Stabenow IAL” Dear Appropriator letters. Many Senators will only sign if their constituents ask them to, so your action is crucial. Let them know why libraries are important to your community and ask them to show their support now.

Let's See Where This Goes

RF looks with great interest on the following development. Open eBooks has been a great platform but not as widely suited for public libraries because of the economic restrictions set in place for access (though libraries serving Title 1 school populations or otherwise economically disadvantaged areas have used it to great effect).  Can DPLA pull off another coup, expanding access with new use  models?  Very intriguing!  Let's see where this goes.  RF will post updates.

Introduction to Upcoming DPLA + Ebooks Work

As part of its core mission of maximizing access to our shared culture, the Digital Public Library of America (DPLA) is working to expand the discoverability, accessibility, and availability of ebooks for the general public. At DPLAfest 2015, many of you joined us as we began a deep exploration of the ebook space. Two years later, and with additional support from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, we are taking elements of that work forward.

We are exploring how DPLA may be able to broaden access for users by helping libraries move to an open service architecture. What does maximizing access to ebooks look like? Facilitating discovery of free, open content; unlocking previously gated content through new licensing and/or access models; and facilitating better purchasing options for libraries.

Our vision is to

  • Help libraries find and serve more open content, including open textbooks and other open educational resources (OER).
  • Merge content from multiple paid sources on a single platform and consolidated user interface.
  • Curate content to drive discovery and use of more of libraries existing collection.
  • Experiment with new types and sources of content including local publishing.
  • Empower DPLA to work directly with publishers to secure new and better terms from libraries that will allow them to provide more access at a better value.

While we explore innovative methods to advance the library ebook ecosystem, we’re also making familiar content new again. We are developing a substantial, free, and open collection of widely-read and widely-held ebooks, with a goal of improving discoverability through metadata and curation. Interested in helping? Check out our survey on open content, and watch for a later post for more.

These efforts complement DPLA’s ongoing work in the ebook space as a partner on the Open eBooks initiative. During its first year, K-12 children in need across the United States and its territories downloaded over one million popular and award-winning ebooks for free, without holds.

In the coming weeks we will be sharing more about this ongoing exploration. If you’re joining us in Chicago for DPLAfest 2017, we have two full days of ebook discussions. We invite you to join the conversation. Stay tuned for more updates on DPLA + Ebooks.

More Thoughts on the Supposed Decline of e-books

Jane Friedman, founder and co-editor of The Hot Sheet and columnist for PW, has updated her post about what has become a mainstream media outlet truism: that print book sales are rising and e-book sales are declining. RF has posted on this topic before, but it never hurts to attack fraudulent news, even (or perhaps especially) when the fake is perpetuated by some normally reliable sources.

Friedman says "Most of it is wishful thinking rather than an understanding of what’s actually happening."

RF knows that to be in true in libraries: our digital use continues to rise, while print generally remains flat or declines.

To summarize her points (but better still, do read them):

  • To the extent that any e-book decline is real, it is apparent only in traditional publishing and is largely due to agency pricing
  • To the extent that print is back, thank Amazon and not other or Indie marketers.
  •  The majority of the e-book sales have moved to "non-traditional" publishers
  • While frequently quoted stats suggest e-books make up 25% of print sales, the number is likely closer to 50% of fiction sales.

In short, "Carry a big dose of skepticism, and look at possible underlying agendas, when you hear celebrations about print’s comeback. While I’m not at proclaiming the death of print or traditional publishers, few media outlets have an understanding of the big picture." (Friedman)

Readers want their format of choice delivered in the most convenient way. For some, print may always be their primary, or only, choice. We at RF love ALL forms of reading. But don't let suspicious figures take away from the increasing importance of digital content, especially in libraries, where it is more vital than ever.  

An Important Alert from ALA--Please Act!

Advocacy Alert: Time is running out

 Send an Email  Make a Call  Send a Tweet 

The deadline for the House "Dear Appropriator" letters is looming. April 3rd is our last chance to get as many Representatives to sign the letters as possible in order to protect federal library funding. Our ask is simple "please support federal library funding and sign both the Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA) and the Innovative Approaches to Literacy (IAL) "Dear Appropriator" letters.

The first "Dear Appropriator" letter asks the Committee to fully fund LSTA in FY 2018 and the second does the same for IAL. When large numbers of Members of Congress sign these letters, it sends a strong signal to the House Appropriations Committee to reject requests to eliminate IMLS, and to continue funding for LSTA and IAL at least at current levels.

Between LSTA and IAL, at least $210 million in federal library funding is at risk.

To see if your Representative has signed the letters, check our handy database. If they haven't signed, please give them a call! 

ALA's Legislative Action Center gives you everything you need to identify your Member of Congress and to tell him or her to sign the LSTA and IAL "Dear Appropriator" letters being circulated to protect both of these critical programs in the FY 2018 federal budget.  

Not sure what LSTA and IAL are all about? Visit District Dispatch for more background information.

  Send an Email  Make a Call  Send a Tweet 

ALA Representatives Meet with Publishers

American Libraries has published an article about a recent meeting between members of the American Library Association with "Penguin Random House, Hachette Book Group, the Book Industry Study Group, Metropolitan New York Library Council, and Brooklyn (N.Y.) Public Library."

Entitled "Finding Common Ground in New York," the article discusses ALA's advocacy for new e-book models: As with previous visits, ALA pressed the case for more options on e-book licensing models. Pricing remains high for many titles, especially bestsellers . . . . In addition, many publishers, and the Big Five in particular, offer only one licensing option. While a perpetual license, 26-loan license, or two-year license may be a reasonable business model for some titles for some libraries, the model is hardly optimal for all. For example, a perpetual license (and its corresponding high price) is far from desirable to support a public program, book club, or initial high demand of a new release."

No immediate breakthrough looks likely: "Publishers listened and talked about the market’s evolution. They indicated that they are open to proposals. If the library community is to make any headway, it will need to put its collective head down and do some hard research, make proposals, and come up with a new advocacy strategy, perhaps involving grassroots engagement."

This response is certainly better than a flat "no," but puts the onus on libraries to drive change. 

Matters outside of e-content were discussed: "The current divisive political environment was prominent on the agenda during the meetings. The publishing industry and library community have a longstanding common purpose to promote reading and literacy, free speech, and equitable access to materials. Both sectors have professional norms for clear, substantiated, and logical writing. One idea that received interest is the development of and consensus on common principles for the digital age. This principles project will be an initiative of ALA going forward."

ReadersFirst has long advocated the development of flexible and varied licensing models. We pledge support to efforts to create proposals and will ask our members for ideas. We also support the development of common principles for the digital age. Creating a partnership--but partnership it must be--is essential for ensuring the continued support for traditional library values of intellectual freedom, equitable access to quality information, and support for democracy in our republic.

Let's get started! 


RF at ALA Midwinter Reports: Tony Marx on the Digital Future

ReadersFirst will be sharing some e-book related news from ALA Midwinter. The first of our posts will be a summary of remarks made by Tony Marx, CEO of NYPL.  We apologize to Mr. Marx in advance for our failure to capture his eloquence here, but we think we have the gist right. For those of us who are often down in the library e-book weeds, it is inspiring to think at a high level on why our work matters. Mr. Marx is inspiring indeed.

 "What libraries stand for, and our traditional mission, is more important than ever.

We are dedicated to the proposition that all should have an equal chance:  be able to learn, to use knowledge to move forward, to learn about others, to learn to work together.

We take all comers, for whatever reason brings them in our doors: the kid, the students,the parent, the teacher, the homeless person, the business owner, the Nobel laureate. Every one of them needs to be able to find what they need to move to the next level

Libraries are the foundation of an effective civil society, economy, and democracy.

But all is not well.

We have kids who sit outside our libraries on the stoop to get the crumbs of broadband.

We need to ensure people are connected and have the content they need.

How will people get the technology they need?  This question, and issue, is larger than the digital divide. I use the term "Digital equity."

Libraries alone are focused on it, and Silicon Valley will not solve it.

Let's compare where we are in the digital economy to the Gutenberg Revolution. The printing press was first use to help sell indulgences. We are in the era of printing indulgences--content that is frankly crap.

We are losing a battle for people's lives. Adults spend on average 9 hours a day on tv and digital while spending less than an hour reading. For teens and children, the amount spent reading is often less than 10 minutes.

We are losing the competition for what people use their brains for.

Libraries are the only group that is trying to compete against this loss.

Technology says it should be equalizing. In some ways it is, but often it is reproducing and exacerbating inequalities.

We see not only an inability for people to afford broadband, much less the subscriptions they need to get access to quality information to compete with the garbage they are presented with.

Our obligation is to provide the alternative, We must be there with a triad of broadband digital access, education on how to use it, and materials.

2.5 million people in NYC and some 55 million Americans are without broadband. We started a program, as many of you have, to loan 10,000 hotspots. People line up. We looked at some aggregate data and we learned people were spending time on education and reading, and also cat videos. Why not--everyone else does. Why aren't the federal government and tech industries interested in getting everyone on broadband, if only as customers? But they have moved on.

Techology is of no use if one can't understand it . So we offer computer labs, with 10,000 attendees in basic computers education. We are offering free coding classes in poor neighborhoods. We had a waiting list of 5,000 on the first day. The demand is there, and nobody else is meeting it.

But even if people have a connection and skills, what is it that they look at? We must make sure quality content Is available for schoolwork and education and enrichment.

Many actor are helping: the ALA, the Library of Congress, DPLA, Internet Archive, libraries, We need to figure out what role we can play, we must play. It is not a competition. We must allow for collaboration and build on it. We must work together to provide access, educate, and enhance content. Let's consider an example from NYPL. We have 50 people in our digital shop: we have deveoped SimplyE, an e-book app that gets ontents in less than 3 clicks. It's easy to use, open source, and we want to work with everyone to make it possible for all. Now, over 300,000 titles from 3 clicks is a good start, but why isn't it millions? Why isn't it the brad renae of human knowledge. We ned to provide good exampels from the public domain, and also work with publishers and authors to expand access, finding the balance of licensing that will work for all. We will continue to play our traditional role of curator. But we all need to need to work together. No one group can solve the problem. No one solution will stand forever.

Let us look back at the Gutenberg revolution: it began in indulgences, but then came bibles and then books and the result was the Enlightenment, the greatest flowering of knowledge in Western History. We now live in a world that  83% literate and more and more books are produced each year. This change is a great innovation, for all the bumps and disruptions it caused. Let us take the technology revolution we have to today and make it the Gutenberg revolution on steroids. And don't worry about foot traffic. Coming to the library is complementary with and not competition with technology. If we don't embrace technology, make it available, help people use it, and provide quality content, nobody else will. The opportunity to learn is fed by technology, not constrained.  This is noble work.  And it is  more important than ever.

Some questions and answers:

Where should our biggest focus be?

If we don't do all three legs of stool, our response won't work. If people don't know how to use technology, then connection is worthless, and if content is not there than people are stuck in the superficial. We can't get away from any of these three.  I'd love to see private industry try to help and government get on board with broadband, if only at a utility level, the way basic water is provided. We have recently see a political change of because tens of millions of Americans feel left out, and there is likely a substantial overlap with those who feel left out with those in the digital dark.

There are changing trends in how people use libraries. We see only a modest increase or even flat circulation, flat computer use (the first time years we haven't seen growth), but we see much more  demand on coding and other sort of higher learning experiences.  Where then do we focus? If access is important but demand is going down, where do we focus?

It's easy to lose sight of how much we do. 40 million to New Yorkers use libraries, more than go to museums and sporting events combined. That's great. We can' be boiled down to one thing. We need great collections, We need great staff.  If collection circ is flat, it is still high, and in any case we are also the civic space, the welcoming place, the place that helps society to hold together in a time of national fragmentation.

We must strive to be the education center in our community. Do what libraries done but add the educational aspect: Homework help, ESOL, citizenship classes, basic computer and advanced programming, whatever people need to advance their lives.  We are physical space, civic space, education, and materials. Civic space, education, and collections will be our triad.

What is content, what is collection? For example--gaming. Is that a part?

I came from academics, and I confess to starting off a slightly snobbish, but I've learned we must take people where they are when they come.  Can playing games get one interested in designing games? Can Manga get one started in reading or art?  Good.  Libraries are not intimidating. We trust you to get the content you want. Nobody else does that, certainly not schools.  We  must keep that going.

I started educational career in South Africa in the middle of a civil war, and that experience has colored my life since. We gave disadvantaged kids one year of quality education who then watched them go off to prestigious universities. Never underestimate the ability of the human mind, no matter how crushed, to strive and learn.

Libraries do so much good.  I'll give an example I had recently.  NYPL used to provide custodial apartments in our libraries in part so that custodians could shovel coal at night to keep the place warm.  Recently, we turned one from an apartment into a beautiful center for kids and teens. At the opening, a distinguished older man told me the following:  'I was the son of the last custodian. At night when he would shovel coal, I would sneak into the library.  I felt like a millionaire with all those book, just for me. I would read about boat building and navigating by the stars. I was the first person from my family to graduate from high school.  I was the first to graduate from college. I eventually came to be the head of a social agency. Before I retired, I got a book built a boat, and learned to navigate" it by the stars. I owe where I am to that time in the library.'  You make a difference everyday, even if you don't always get to see it. Keep making that difference!"

E-books on the Decline? We Beg to Differ!

ReadersFirst tends not to share news from for-profit vendors, but OverDrkive's recent press release is noteworthy, not so much because of OverDrive's success (though we at RF continue to wish them well) as for showing that, at least in public libraries, the e-book is far from being on the decline.

 "OverDrive announced today that 30 standalone public library systems and 19 library consortia in the U.S. and two other countries have set a new record for lending more than one million digital books in 2016. These 49 systems each achieved significant year over year circulation growth, and together surpassed the 32 systems that accomplished the feat in 2015."

Five libraries (or consortiums) circulated over 3 million e-books in one year. Seven circulated over 2 million. Here's the list, with percentages of growth. Note how the move to e-books is international. ReadersFirst is proud to note that many of our members, individually or as part of a consortia, are on the list.

Just think what might be accomplished if more content were to become available through more varied business models.

3 million or more digital books circulated
• Toronto Public Library (ON) +20% (standalone library)
• King County Library System (WA) +21% (standalone library)
• Wisconsin’s Digital Library (WI) +11% (consortia)
• Greater Phoenix Digital Library (AZ) +12% (consortia)
• The Ohio Digital Library (OH) +15% (consortia)

2 million or more digital books circulated
• New York Public Library (NY) +28% (standalone library)
• Los Angeles Public Library (CA) +44% (standalone library)
• Seattle Public Library (WA) +12% (standalone library)
• Tennessee READS (TN) +21% (consortia)
• Digital Downloads Collaboration (OH) +17% (consortia)
• Maryland’s Digital Library (MD) +14% (consortia)
• Ontario Library Service Consortium (ON) +12% (consortia)

1 million or more digital books circulated
• Hennepin County Library (MN) +20% (standalone library)
• Cuyahoga County Public Library (OH) +8% (standalone library)
• Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County (OH) +22% (standalone library)
• Calgary Public Library (AB) +8% (standalone library)
• Fairfax County Public Library (VA) +20% (standalone library)
• San Francisco Public Library (CA) +23% (standalone library)
• Multnomah County Library (OR) +38% (standalone library)
• Broward County Library (FL) +13% (standalone library)
• Boston Public Library (MA) +24% (standalone library)
• Pikes Peak Library District (CO) +21% (standalone library)
• Mid-Continent Public Library (MO) +25% (standalone library)
• Indianapolis Public Library (IN) +19% (standalone library)
• Sno-Isle Libraries (WA) +34% (standalone library)
• County of Los Angeles Public Library (CA) +25% (standalone library)
• Denver Public Library (CO) +26% (standalone library)
• Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh (PA) +25% (standalone library)
• Harris County Public Library (TX) +34% (standalone library)
• Hillsborough County Public Library Cooperative (FL) +16% (standalone library)
• St. Louis County Library (MO) +17% (standalone library)
• The Free Library of Philadelphia (PA) +12% (standalone library)
• Brooklyn Public Library (NY) +21% (standalone library)
• Orange County Library System (FL) +12% (standalone library)
• Metropolitan Library System (OK) +8% (standalone library)
• San Antonio Public Library (TX) +25% (standalone library)
• Ottawa Public Library (ON) +9% (standalone library)
• CLEVNET (OH) +16% (consortia)
• Oregon Digital Library Consortium (OR) +9% (consortia)
• North Carolina Digital Library (NC) +18% (consortia)
• Kentucky Libraries Unbound (KY) +17% (consortia)
• Lî (NY) +15% (consortia)
• My Media Mall (IL) +1% (consortia)
• Utah’s Online Library (UT) +39% (consortia)
• Midwest Collaborative for Library Services (MI) +12% (consortia)
• Houston Area Digital Media Catalog (TX) +17% (consortia)
• Bridges (IA) +124% (started collection in July of 2015) (consortia)
• Las Vegas-Clark County Library District (NV) +31% (consortia)
• Auckland Libraries (NZ) +24% (consortia)

Michael Blackwell, St Mary's County Library (member of Maryland's e-book group)

More E-Books to Become Available to Library Users for Free!

Thanks to a most generous grant from the Alfred P Sloan Foundation, the Digital Public Library of America is making a collection of e-books available in EPUB format to public libraries.  These e-books, ReadersFirst has learned, will supplement the work that DPLA is doing with the SimplyE app. No word yet exactly how the titles will be made available--perhaps simultaneous access model isn't out of the question?-- but it seems likely that they will be open to libraries that deploy SimplyE as an app and perhaps also through the Open eBooks app. Increased access to free and readily available content will make the SimplyE app an even more attractive option for public libraries, especially once the 2.0 version of the app lowers costs and deployment complexities.

Here's the press release from DPLA:

The Digital Public Library of America is thrilled to announce that the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation has awarded DPLA $1.5 million to greatly expand its efforts to provide broad access to widely read ebooks. The grant will support improved channels for public libraries to bolster their ebook collections, and for millions of readers nationwide to access those works easily.

DPLA will leverage its extensive connections to America’s libraries through its national network to pilot new ways of acquiring ebook collections. In the same way that DPLA has worked with its hubs in states from coast to coast to improve access to digitized materials from America’s archives, museums, and libraries, DPLA will collaborate with other institutions to improve access to ebooks through market-based methods.

As part of the grant, DPLA will also develop an expansive, open collection of popular ebooks, formatted in the EPUB format for smartphones and tablets, and curated so that readers can find works of interest. Together, these programs will increase substantially the number of ebooks that are readable by all Americans, on the devices that are now broadly held throughout society.

“From its inception, DPLA has sought to maximize access to our shared culture,” Dan Cohen, DPLA’s Executive Director, said at the announcement of the new Sloan grant. “Books are central to that culture, and the means through which everyone can find knowledge and understanding, multiple viewpoints, history, literature,  science, and enthralling entertainment. We deeply appreciate the Sloan Foundation’s support to help us connect the most people with the most books, which are now largely in digital formats.”

“The Sloan Foundation is delighted to support the Digital Public Library of America’s efforts to create new channels for better ebook access,” said Doron Weber, Vice President and Program Director at the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. “Sloan was the founding funder of DPLA and its mission, enabling a nationwide, grassroots and non-profit collaboration that to date has provided access to over 15 million digitized items from over 2,000 cultural heritage institutions across the U.S. With its timely new focus on ebooks, DPLA will leverage its national network to expand reading opportunities for thousands of schools and libraries and millions of students, scholars, and members of the public.”

The Sloan grant will help DPLA build upon its existing successful ebook work, such as in the Open eBooks Initiative, which has provided thousands of popular and award-winning books to children in need. Recently, DPLA announced with its Open eBooks partners the New York Public Library, First Book, Baker & Taylor, and Clever that well over one million books were read through the Sloan-supported program in 2016.


SimplyE a Top 10 for 2016

Mr. Andrew Albanese of Publishers Weekly, who has often earned ReasersFirst's admiration for trenchant commentary on library e-books, has named the SimplyE app on of the Top Ten Library Stories of 2016.

Notes Albanese:

"In July, the New York Public Library rolled out its much-anticipated e-book app, SimplyE. The app seeks to solve a problem that has long plagued library e-book users, by simplifying the cumbersome process of checking out library e-books. Make no mistake—the app, by focusing on the user experience, represents a big step forward for those who borrow library e-books. But it also serves to highlight just how far the library e-book market has to go.

But let’s start with the good news. After years of complaints from library e-book users forced to wrestle with clunky interfaces and processes powered by a growing and diverse array of vendors, the SimplyE app offers users one simple interface for all ePub-based library e-books, regardless of vendor. And SimplyE looks and acts like any commercial e-book platform. It features highlighted titles with thumbnails of book jackets. And when you find a book that you want to read, it takes just a few clicks, three or less, and you’re reading. Well, sort of (more on that below).

Developed by a group called Library Simplified, a coalition of libraries and tech partners (with NYPL serving as lead partner), the app is based on open-source code and is available for virtually any public library or library system to use. And because it is open source, partner libraries are free to improve, tinker with, customize, and brand the app for their own library systems."

His final sentence is less favorable: "After all, as I observed in a column this summer, it would be a shame if SimplyE served mostly to highlight for users how frustrating it is to get an e-book from the library."

ReadersFirst appreciates the good review of the SimplyE app. Expect to see a 2.0 version of the app soon that will, through the efforts of the Library E-content Access Project (LEAP--the grant partners behind SimplyE, who thank the IMLS for generous funding), be easier and cheaper for libraries without in-house developers to deploy. It will add more features, and compatibility with formats other than EPUB (PDF and Audiobook) is in the offing. We agree that overall "the library e-book market has [far] to go" but think it unfortuante to connect SimplyE with this sad state of affairs. Limited library budgets certainly have something to do with long waiting lists, but ALA's Digital Content Working Group and other ALA leaders have been working with (on?) publishers for some time to implement a business model (pay-per-use or subscription) that would allow libraries to take fuller advantage of e-books' ability to reach many users simultaneously. We have not been encouraged by the discussion, though there has been some limited progress with some o them. Hey, publishers, could we at least start with your backlists and see if we can work out something mutually beneficial for the good of reading and "to reduce the kind of friction that could drive readers away from books and the library"? We in libraries would love to work with you! Speaking of working, the app mostly works without a hitch. I have never had it fail, and I've demo’d it in many forums. Some of the poor user ratings of the app mentioned by Mr. Albanese say frankly unintelligent things like "books are boring" or "it sucks because you have to have a library card." That said, we in libraries do have more technical work to do to enhance the reader experience. Still, the LEAP partners are moving forward aggressively to create a great e-book experience. At current prices and with current business models, however, LEAPing up from the "plateau" Albanese mentions may be impossible however enthusiastically those at Library Simplified work to make the technical side of the experience streamlined and enjoyable.