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Freading Ebook Library from Library Ideas, LLC

   February 8th, 2012 Brian Herzog

Freading: a new look at library lendingLast week, a salesman from Library Ideas, LLC, came to demo their new ebook product, Freading. This is the same company that has the DRM-free music download product Freegal, so I was curious to hear their approach to ebooks (tl;dr version is their excellent FAQ).

Ebooks are more popular than ever in my library, and our Overdrive ebook catalog (which we share with 36 other libraries in my consortium) just cannot keep up. Patrons are disappointed that everything they want to read isn't available for immediate download (either because the publishers won't deal with Overdrive or because other patrons already have that ebook checked out).

And that's how Freading is different: instead of the Overdrive model of building your library ebook collection by purchasing one ebook that only one person can use at a time, the Freading model gives immediate access to their entire 15,000+ ebooks, and any number of patrons can download the same ebook at the same time.

A Better Model?
I really like this model much more than Overdrive, because patrons never have to wait for books, and right off the bat you're offering a huge collection. Although there is the question of sustainable cost, which I'll get to later.

They also have a lot of kids books - at least, more than we currently offer with Overdrive.

Another huge plus is that I find the interface and whole download process way easier than Overdrive. You can check it out at http://freading.com - it's not the most elegant interface, but the process really is just three steps:

  1. Search for an ebook
  2. Click to view the ebook details (title, author, summary, etc)
  3. Click to download (all are epub, some are also pdf)

Yay for not having to "add to bookbag" first, and all the other extra steps.

Multiple authentication methods are available, so there is also the step of the patron entering their library card number. Then, downloaded ebooks go through Adobe Digital Editions just like Overdrive, and patrons would use that to transfer to their devices (or their app for smartphones and tablets).

Some Drawbacks
One major drawback is that it doesn't work with the old-style Kindles, but it does work with Kindle Fire and pretty much any other ereader. This is almost a deal-breaker, as about 70% of the people I've been helping use basic Kindles.

Another drawback is that they don't have books from the major publishers in there. They do have books from 45 publishers, but I searched for our most popular Overdrive ebooks, and none of them were in Freading. So at best, this would be a supplement to Overdrive, until the bigger publishers get on board.

Which, according to the salesman, is just a matter of time, because of the payment model Freading uses. In their model, libraries will be paying every time an ebook is downloaded (rather than buy it once and use it indefinitely like Overdrive [except for HarperCollins]), so theoretically the publishers stand to make more money this way.

Side note: check out Cory Doctorow's American Libraries article on revamping copyright, and also the White House petition to reform U.S. copyright law in regard to libraries. (via)

Something else is that, even though I like their interface, it amounts to being yet one more place patrons need to check to cover all their bases. I asked about MARC records to put in our main ILS catalog, (which we do for ebooks from Overdrive and Safari), to make it easier for patrons to find the ebooks we have access to. The salesman said they can do it, but it's still in process and should be available by PLA in March. But then there's the question of whether we want to dump 15,000+ new records into the catalog, on the off-chance someone might want it.

Pay-Per-Download Model
Within Freading, "paying" for downloads all happens on a "token" system. A token is $0.50, and it takes different amounts of tokens to download different types of books. Their breakdown is:

Ebook Type #tokens/download Renewal
Ebooks published less than 6 months ago* 4 tokens ($2.00) once for 1 token ($0.50)
Ebooks 7 months - 2 years old 2 tokens ($1.00) once for free
Ebooks older than 2 years 1 token ($0.50) once for free
*Publishers do make exceptions for bestsellers or popular books - the example he gave was Water for Elephants which, although it is more than 2 years old, is still a 4 token book.

Patrons would each get, say, 5 tokens a week (this can be adjusted by the library). Unused tokens continue to rollover for 4 weeks, and then are lost (so if you had 1 token left after week one, week two you'd have 6 tokens, but week one's extra token, if not used, would disappear in week five). Libraries can also cap the total number of tokens their patrons can spend a month, to control how much money the library spends.

I looked into my library's Overdrive stats for Jul-Dec 2011. We averaged about 356 downloads a month. If the 4/2/1 token breakdown is averaged at 2 tokens, that means we'd be spending about $356/month on downloads, or about $4200/year. It's hard to estimate, because I think Overdrive stats are way down because so many people are on waiting lists, but if Freading doesn't have a lot of the popular titles that Overdrive has anyway, then it might be a wash (not to mention subtracting out all the Kindle users).

The other cost to factor in is a one-time setup fee of $150. After that, libraries only pay for downloads, not a platform fee or annual subscription or anything else.

How it Works for Patrons
Once someone does download a title, they have it for 2 weeks, and then it automatically expires (like Overdrive). At any point after that 2 weeks, the patron can renew the book once (whether it be immediately after the first two weeks, or months later - and see table above for renewal costs). After the one renewal though, the price goes back to regular, and they would need to spend more tokens to check it out a third time.

We haven't decided whether or not we'll go with this product, but I certainly think they have a lot in their favor. The salesman said three libraries in Connecticut are already running it (http://www.westportlibrary.org is one), and I found an article saying their count is up to 50 and lists some other libraries.

And again, check out their FAQ for more information on how it works. Hopefully I got all the details right, but please weigh in if your library is using this - or NetLibrary, or any other ebook service.



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The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore

   February 2nd, 2012 Brian Herzog

Wow, and then there's this video - try to carve 15 minutes out of your day to watch and enjoy:

[video link]

The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore
by Moonbot Studios

Inspired, in equal measures, by Hurricane Katrina, Buster Keaton, The Wizard of Oz, and a love for books, “Morris Lessmore” is a story of people who devote their lives to books and books who return the favor. Morris Lessmore is a poignant, humorous allegory about the curative powers of story. Using a variety of techniques (miniatures, computer animation, 2D animation) award winning author/ illustrator William Joyce and Co-director Brandon Oldenburg present a new narrative experience that harkens back to silent films and M-G-M Technicolor musicals. “Morris Lessmore” is old fashioned and cutting edge at the same time.

The only criticism I could make is this: scotch tape?!?!

Thanks for sharing @echoyouback.



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Kickstarter Project for “Saving Our Public Libraries”

   January 5th, 2012 Brian Herzog

Book: Saving Our Public Libraries: Why We Should. How We Can, by Janet JaiLast week I received an email from Janet Jai, author of Saving Our Public Libraries: Why We Should. How We Can. According to the website, this is "a new book of library-funding success stories and best practices, which has been called an important book by reviewers."

She started a Kickstarter campaign to raise money to give free copies of this book to as many U.S. libraries as possible. Her email was asked me to help spread the word, and it sounds like a worth-while campaign, so here you go.

From her message:

If 1,000 people donate only $10 each, I'll have the money I need to print enough books so I can give them free to all the public libraries in two, three, or more states. Donors vote to decide which states receive the free copies of my book. Donors also receive rewards (some fun and some serious that might be of great interest to one or more libraries).

Saving Our Public Libraries: Why We Should. How We Can is full of proven ways that libraries can obtain more operational funding. Its library-funding success stories (many of which use innovative funding strategies) came from more than 50 library experts across the U.S. The information in my book has never been brought together before. Most of it has never even been published before.

I thought you might want to mention this opportunity in your blog so that librarians can participate and vote so that their state's public libraries receive these free books. So far most of the donors to this campaign simply want to help and have chosen not to receive donor rewards so they will not be voting. That means that a very few votes could determine which states' libraries receive these helpful books. However, kickstarter is an all-or-nothing site. Donations are not charged to donor credit cards and I receive no funding unless I reach my full funding goal, which makes every donation very important. The campaign is starting slowly because of the busyness of the holidays, but many people have told me they will be contributing soon.

To learn more about the value of my book, please go to my website, www.vision-and-values.com/saving.htm. There's a review there from ALA's ALTAFF group and a quote from Marilyn Johnson. Please note that the Ohio and West Virginia state library associations also invited me to speak at their state library conventions this past year.

I've never pledged to a Kickstarter campaign before, so I was curious how it worked. You create a Kickstarter account to pledge your amount, then that links to your Amazon account - but you don't actually get charged until the goal is reached by the campaign deadline. If you're interested, check out the Kickstarter page to get started. The deadline is 9:49pm EST on Sunday Jan 15, 2012.



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Reference Question of the Week – 12/11/11

   December 17th, 2011 Brian Herzog

There's a Party in My Pantry coverThere isn't actually too much to this week's question, but it kept making me laugh.

The phone rings Friday morning, and an an elderly woman's voice asks,

Patron: Hello, can you help me find a book?
Me: Sure, what's the title?
Patron: There's a party in my pant...

At this point she paused for a second. And now remember, this is coming from an elderly woman - which is conflicting with the usual Anchorman association to that phrase. But then she continues.

Patron: It's a cookbook - oh yes, the title is There's a Party in my Pantry. Do you have it?
Me: [checking the catalog] No, it doesn't look like we do. But let me search online to verify the title.

I search Amazon and find that it's only available as a Kindle book. Just to be extra sure it's not actually a print book too, I search WorldCat, which has no matches.

Me: I'm sorry, it looks like that hasn't been published as a printed book, only as an ebook.
Patron: How can you tell?
Me: Well, I searched for it on Amazon, and it only shows a Kindle version, not a print version.
Patron: [pause] Oh. Can I use that on the Nook too?

That line surprised me a little bit - it shouldn't have, but I was still thrown off by the pants party thing. But anyway, I quickly searched Barnes and Noble's website and found that yes, there is a Nook version. I searched our Overdrive catalog, but unfortunately we didn't have it there.

So I told the patron there was a Nook version available for purchase. We talked a little more about why it was only available as an ebook and not a print book, why it cost only $2.99, and what she would need to do to read it. She seemed satisfied, but did mention she was going to ask her son to buy it for her (which again made me laugh, because I'm immature and the image of this mother-son exchange makes me giggle).

I'm sure it's just the time of year, but this was the first of about ten ebook questions that day - mostly "here's my Kindle, now how do I download to it?"



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How to Frighten Young Books

   December 13th, 2011 Brian Herzog

This comic made me laugh:

Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal comic

Thanks Chris.



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“Awful Library Books” Author on Weeding

   December 6th, 2011 Brian Herzog

Weeding List at the Manchester (NH) LibraryRuth from Artifact Collectors emailed me a link to her interview with the author of Awful Library Books, Holly Hibner.

The interview is about the weeding process, the weeded books and what happens to them after they have been weeded. If you like it, please feel free to share it with your readers!

I did like it, so here you go. Most librarians will know the details, but I always like hearing ideas for what to do with weeded books - and of course, the books that show up on Awful Library Books are always entertaining.



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