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Interview with OverDrive’s Steve Potash

American Libraries has published an interview with Steve Potash, CEO, following up on the announcement of their acquisition by Rakuten. Potash reiterates that OverDrive is expecting faster access to content for libraries as a result of the relationship with Kobo. He comments that he expects that Rakuten’s emphasis on speed of delivery will mean continued ability to respond to library needs as they change.

Potash also comments that he does not expect any changes to the optional nature of the retail option in OverDrive – i.e. that libraries who want to offer it will continue to be able to opt-in and that those who do not want to will not be obligated.

His comments about Kindle are “business as usual on all fronts” – which could be interpreted to mean that Amazon continues to control this relationship and OverDrive cannot anticipate their behaviour.

On the topic of privacy and anonymity, he comments:

“OverDrive has always respected and adopted the policies and practices that libraries and schools have required. We have enabled reader choices. And in every case, including the one you mentioned [Kindle], it’s an opt‑in by the reader. If the reader wants to use a particular device or app, our job has been to ensure that they can do so if they elect to anonymously. We expect that those two tenets will allow us to continue, not to change, our track record of respecting patron and reader privacy.”

Note: OverDrive is currently working with ReadersFirst to further protect patron privacy when using library eBooks by exploring ways to use the library account as the patron identifier.

Posted in Libraries, Vendors.

OverDrive being bought by Rakuten: Expect more with Kobo

Rakuten announced on Reuters overnight that it is purchasing OverDrive for $415 million. The process is expected to be complete in April. In July 2011, Rakuten bought for $315 million. The press release indicates that eBook “renting” to libraries in the US will continue.

An interview from PCWorld quotes Rakuten and OverDrive’s Steve Potash, predicting further growth and an increased role for Kobo devices:

Rakuten sees huge growth potential in the public library ebook market, where spending on digital content is only 7 percent of library spending in the U.S., Takahito Aiki, who leads Rakuten’s ebooks business, said Thursday at an event in Tokyo.

“The near-term opportunity is for us to do a more direct integration with Kobo apps and devices, where you can instantly borrow a book from a school or library and have it appear on your Kobo bookshelf,” OverDrive CEO Steve Potash said.

OverDrive’s announcement makes further reference to Kobo “Kobo, headquartered in Toronto, Canada, and OverDrive will work together to enhance their abilities to deliver world-class digital content and reading technology services. The acquisition is expected to close in the next thirty days.” Steve Potash will continue as CEO.

Posted in Libraries, Retail, Vendors.

Materials Spending Survey

Library Journal has published the results of their latest materials spending survey of US public libraries. Highlights:

  • print books have remained at 59% of budgets for 3 years, compared to 65% in 2009
  • ebooks have risen from 1% of budgets in 2009 to 7% this year
  • media represented 20% of budgets in 2009 and is now 24%
  • 75% of budgets are spent on book formats (books, ebooks, audiobooks, downloadable audiobooks)

Mystery/suspense, general fiction and romance are the top circulating categories for adult fiction in both print and ebook formats.

Circulation is considered flat at 0.5% growth, one-third reporting an increase, and nearly one-third reporting a decrease. Among ebooks, fiction represents 80% of circulation.

Posted in Libraries.

Why digital natives prefer print

The Washington Post story on February 22 includes the following highlights for reasons when college students prefer print from the book “Words Onscreen: The Fate of Reading in a Digital World,” by Naomi S. Baron:

  • research shows readers remember the location of information by page and text layout and that this plays a key role in comprehension – that the reader is building a mental map of the content and uses this to remember.
  • reading online is “usually spent scanning and skimming, with few places (or little time) for mental markers.” Research showed readers “spend a little more than one minute on Web pages, and only 16 percent of people read word-by-word. That behavior can bleed into reading patterns when trying to tackle even lengthier texts on-screen.”
  • research found students were more likely to multitask reading on-screen (90 percent) compared to print (1 percent)
  • “students like renting textbooks that are already highlighted and have notes in the margins”

The article also comments that Pew studies show the highest print readership rates are among those ages 18 to 29, and the same age group is still using public libraries in large numbers.

Although the article focuses on print use, it also notes times when students prefer digital:

  • “science and math classes, whose electronic textbooks often include access to online portals that help walk them through study problems and monitor their learning.”
  • “when locating information quickly is key — there is no control-F in a printed book to quickly find key words.”

Posted in Reading.

Deloitte finds worldwide print book spending at 80%

Deloitte predicts that print will represent more than 80% of all dollars spent on books worldwide in 2015. Print dollars will be under 80% in the US, but are offset by the continued higher use of print in other countries. This comment and others are found in the January 13, 2015 “Technology, Media and Telecommunications Predictions 2015” [PDF]

Other highlights related to books:

  • eBooks have hit a plateau or are declining in Canada, the US and UK.
  • 92% of readers ages 18-29 read in print in 2013
  • 37% of millenials read an eBook in 2013
  • nearly half of 16-34 year olds said that eBooks would “never take the place of real books for me”
  • one UK study found that for the 62% who preferred print, the reason was that millenials “like to collect” and “like the smell”

The report also comments on the importance of covers, information retention studies, the closure of bookstores, and the impact of devices. The report includes many other technology and media reports unrelated to books and reading.

Posted in Reading, Retail.

Scholastic report on kids and reading (US)

Scholastic has published a new “Kids and Reading Report” based on 2014 surveys of 2,558 children and parents in the United States. The report covers reading for fun, activities that encourage reading, books children enjoy at different ages, and attitudes towards print vs. ebooks.

Selected highlights:

  • the percentage of children frequently reading for fun (5-7 days/week) has continued to drop, from 37% in 2010 to 34% in 2012 to 31% in 2014
  • 51% of children ages 6-17 are currently reading a book for fun and another 20% just finished one (29% haven’t read one in awhile)
  • reading enjoyment declines sharply after age 8, dropping from 62% to 46% reporting ‘I love it’ or ‘I like it a lot’
  • 61% of children had read an ebook as of 2014, compared to 46% in 2012, however, 77% are still mostly reading print books
  • 65% of children say they’ll always want to read print books even though ebooks are available
  • 55% of those who have read an ebook report that they prefer print – however, the preference for print declines with age, from 66% of children 6-8 to 48% of 15-17 year olds
  • among those who have not read an ebook, interest in reading ebooks has dropped since 2012

The library is the most popular source reported by children for finding books – 77% of children aged 6-11 find books to read for fun at the library, and 58% of 12-17 year olds. The next most popular source is school book fairs at 63% and 28% respectively by age. Among activities that parents use to encourage their children to read for fun, 63% report taking their children to the library as an activity, putting libraries in third place – choosing books from a book fair flyer (57%) or having books at home (54%) are listed slightly more often.

Posted in Libraries.

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eBook subscription services affect indie authors

From GigaOm this week, summarizing several articles about eBooks and subscription services in 2014: “What is now being proven is that market is not infinitely elastic,” publishing industry consultant Mike Shatzkin wrote on his blog on New Year’s Eve. “It seems likely that the low-priced indie authors are disproportionately affected by KU. Who bought indie author ebooks in the first place? The price-sensitive reader! Who switches from buying individual ebooks to the subscription service first? The price-sensitive reader! In other words, the subscription service offering appeals most to the same audience as those who read indie-published ebooks.”

While many more books are now available to readers, the author notes a key problem from a revenue standpoint for the market overall: “if more people aren’t buying and reading more books, it will be a problem for most authors and for all ebook subscription services.”

Posted in Retail.

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Tablets, not ebooks, damage sleep

Numerous news outlets reported this week on a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences for the USA with headlines like this one from the BBC: “E-books damage sleep.” Reading the journal article on the study reveals that it was of 12 people and conducted using tablets. As a result it applies to reading ebooks on iPads and Android tablets (including Kindle Fire and Kobo Arc), as well as any other activities that people might do on a tablet.

GigaOm in “Do e-readers really harm sleep? Depends on what you call an e-reader” clarifies that the research was done in 2010-2011, and does not include e-ink readers, such as the traditional Kobo, Kindle, Nook or Sony, all of which use reflected light and in this sense have the same properties as print books. The study also doesn’t cover side-lit or front-lit displays, such as the Kindle Paperwhite or Kobo Glo.

The news that devices that emit blue light affect sleep (devices which also include TVs and computers), has been reported repeatedly over the past several years, including in other publications from Harvard Medical School.

Posted in Devices.

Wired on ebook challenges for the visually impaired

Wired reported on December 15 about the challenges and opportunities that ebooks and ereading present for the visually impaired. The article primarily focuses on the issues with Kindle:

“When the Kindle 2 was released in 2009, it came with TTS functions that could be used across all Kindle ebooks. Publishers balked. They argued that TTS would negatively impact the audiobook market, and that a computer reading an ebook aloud constituted a violation of copyright. Amazon conceded.” The article goes on to discuss the related legislation:

“If a tablet doesn’t have a text-to-speech feature, you can modify it. Root the tablet and install a TTS app not sanctioned by the manufacturer. More commonly, though, people just strip the DRM off ebooks they buy. Then, the ebook can be uploaded to and read through an e-reader’s existing TTS feature. The problem is, both those workarounds are technically illegal under an esoteric clause in US copyright law.

Here’s why: The Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), a 1998 law designed to protect digital content from infringement. Under Section 1201, it’s illegal to break a technological lock that protects copyrighted content—like an encryption over a tablet or DRM over an ebook. So, it’s not just a voided warranty that would-be readers have to worry about: Web-connected e-readers are essentially tablets, and you can’t legally root or jailbreak a tablet. Even if you just want to trick it out with a cool app that extends the device’s accessibility or functionality.

Breaking the DRM on an ebook is also technically a violation—-but the Librarian of Congress granted an exemption for people who are visually-impaired or have a print impairment. But the ruling is interestingly idiosyncratic: it’s legal for someone with a disability to strip DRM from ebooks, but it’s not legal for developers to create programs or apps that strip DRM.”

Posted in Publishers, Retail.

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Teen reading choices (US)

Nielsen has published a study reporting that 20% of teens buy ebooks, compared to 23% of 18-29 year olds and 25% of 30-44 year olds in the United States. The study notes that many teens tend to borrow and share reading material, and that they also learn about new books from social media.

Posted in Retail.