Book Apps: The Next Ebook Trend?

David's Diary AppWhile publishers, bookstores, and libraries are still struggling to develop, market, sell, and lend ebooks, yet another electronic book format enters the fray.  This new format is the book app.  Not to be confused with an ebook reader app, the book app is the book, usually including multimedia content.

Last month Publishers Weekly announced that Hachette released a David Sedaris app:

Humorous essayist David Sedaris now has an app. His publisher, Hachette, has unveiled the $1.99 David’s Diary app, for sale on iTunes and in the Android Marketplace, which features six animated shorts inspired by his diary entries. Illustrator Laurie Rosenwald, whose work has been in The New Yorker (among other places), provided the graphics and Sedaris narrates each clip.

(David’s Diary app can be purchased from the Android Market and Apple App Store.)

The Encyclopaedia Britannica has long been available online, and now is available as an iPad app.  Users can subscribe for $2 per month or $24 for a year.  You can read more about the app at The Wall Street Journal or All Things D.

Children’s books are also moving into apps.  Two recent iPad releases are Dr. Seuss’s There’s No Place Like Space!: All About Our Solar System and the holiday classic A Charlie Brown Christmas.

The examples above beg the question: How will libraries offer access to these popular nonfiction, reference, and children’s apps?  Like ebooks, could the apps be offered as a limited-time checkout, after which they would stop functioning?  Could libraries lend iPads and Android tablets with pre-installed content?  Or will libraries simply be shut out of book apps altogether?

The Evolution of Google Search

GoogleGoogle talks about the development of its search engine in a new video. From the Official Google Blog:

Our goal is to get you to the answer you’re looking for faster and faster, creating a nearly seamless connection between your questions and the information you seek. That means you don’t generally need to know about the latest search feature in order to take advantage of it—simply type into the box as usual and find the answers you’re looking for.

PTFS/LibLime Acquires Koha Trademark in New Zealand

KohaThe Koha community was abuzz last week with the news that the American company PTFS/LibLime had acquired the Koha name trademark.  Many librarians were upset that a commercial entity had taken steps to acquire the Koha name.

Some background information: Koha is an open-source integrated library system (ILS) originally developed by the Horowhenua Library Trust in New Zealand in 1999.  The ILS made its way to the US and LibLime was one of the companies that sprung up to support it.  Some librarians argued that LibLime fragmented Koha as well.

Via the Koha Library Software Community blog, the Horowhenua Library Trust wrote a plea for help to the Koha and open-source community to help defend against the trademark approval:

The situation we find ourselves in, is that after over a year of battling against it, PTFS/Liblime have managed to have their application for a Trademark on Koha in New Zealand accepted. We now have 3 months to object, but to do so involves lawyers and money. We are a small semi rural Library in New Zealand and have no cash spare in our operational budget to afford this, but we do feel it is something we must fight.

It now appears that PTFS/LibLime intends to turn over the Koha trademark to a Koha Foundation.  In a press release, the company wrote:

Another one of the assets acquired in the purchase of LibLime was an application for the trademark of the term Koha as it applies to ILS software in New Zealand. That application has now been accepted. PTFS/LibLime will hold that trademark in trust as well, and will not enforce it in order to insure that no individual, organization, or company will be prohibited from promoting their services around Koha in New Zealand.

PTFS/LibLime is prepared to transfer the trademark to a non-profit Koha Foundation with the provision that the Foundation hold the trademark in trust and not enforce it against any individual, organization, or company who chooses to promote services around Koha in New Zealand. PTFS/LibLime encourages a direct dialog with Koha stakeholders to determine an equitable solution for the disposition of the trademark that serves the best interests of the libraries who use Koha.

Last Friday, the Horowhenua Library Trust wrote a follow-up announcement that it had received nearly $12,000 in donations and hired a law firm.  It acknowledged PTFS/LibLime’s intent to transfer the Koha trademark:

PTFS have issued a press release saying they are willing to hand the NZ Koha trademark over to a non-profit representing the Koha community. That organisation is the Horowhenua Library Trust, elected by the Koha global community, and we would be delighted to accept that offer and add the NZ Koha trademark to the store of other Koha community property we currently hold in trust ie domain names and trademarks. It would be a very simple matter for PTFS to assign the existing application to Horowhenua Library Trust and we invite PTFS to do so. The Library Trust has never stopped any Koha user or developer or vendor from carrying out their business. Our track record over the last 12 years of releasing the Koha code and supporting the Koha community to go about its business unimpeded is exemplary and we have no intention of ever changing that approach.

While the matter seems to be settled at this time, debate goes on over PTFS/LibLime’s original intentions and motivations for the trademark grab.

Penguin Stops Library Lending of Its Ebooks

Penguin GroupOn Monday, Penguin announced to Library Journal that it was suspending the terms which allow libraries to lend its ebooks.

Penguin has been a long-time supporter of libraries with both physical and digital editions of our books.  We have always placed a high value on the role that libraries can play in connecting our authors with our readers. However, due to new concerns about the security of our digital editions, we find it necessary to delay the availability of our new titles in the digital format while we resolve these concerns with our business partners. Penguin’s aim is to always connect writers and readers, and with that goal in mind, we remain committed to working closely with our business partners and the library community to forge a distribution model that is secure and viable. In the meantime, we want to assure you that physical editions of our new titles will continue to be available in libraries everywhere.

Penguin joins Macmillan and Simon & Schuster in blocking ebook lending.

Read The Digital Shift blog post Penguin Group USA to No Longer Allow Library Lending of New Ebook Titles.

American Libraries: A Guide to Ebook Purchasing

American Libraries offers a brief guide for libraries on purchasing ebooks.  The guide describes how buying (or subscribing to) ebooks differs from that of traditional paper books.  The process is much more complex.

From the article:

Transitioning to ebook purchases in libraries offers many opportunities and challenges. These challenges, however, are not insurmountable. New business models continue to emerge. Changes and improvements are occurring in the industry every day. These changes will continue as publishers, libraries, and vendors experiment with the growing market of ebooks. The most important thing that librarians must do in this changing environment is to articulate clear ebook purchasing goals. With these goals in mind, libraries need to find the content they desire, seek the best price possible, determine sustainable business models, analyze license agreements, and evaluate vendors to effectively purchase ebooks.

Read the article A Guide to Ebook Purchasing.

Principles of Biology, an Interactive Textbook

Principles of BiologyNature Education is set to release its first completely digital, interactive textbook titled Principles of Biology.  It isn’t just an EPUB or PDF version of a print book, but a completely native collection of 200 modules “combining textual instruction, high quality figures, simulations, interactive exercises, self-tests, and formal tests”.  Neither will the book be frozen in its content; Nature Education will make periodic revisions to keep the text up-to-date.  The purchase includes “lifetime access”.

The textbook isn’t an app, but more like a website built with Flash and HTML5 to provide interactivity.

According to the announcement from Nature Education:

As the first major textbook designed specifically for the digital world, Principles of Biology takes full advantage of the many benefits of the digital medium.

    • Integrated Learning Each module integrates text, high quality figures, interactive exercises, simulations, video, and assessments into a single, rich flow of learning for the student.
    • Customization Instructors can easily customize Principles of Biology by rearranging or deleting any of the 200 modules, adding their own material, and turning on and off particular sections within the modules.
    • Anytime, Everywhere Access All content in Principles of Biology is fully accessible on desktop and laptop computers, mobile phones, and tablet computers, ensuring that you and your students can take advantage of the material wherever you are.
    • Real-time Gradebook Each of the 200 modules in Principles of Biology concludes with a multiple-choice online test of key concepts covered. The results from this test feed automatically into a gradebook, allowing instructors to track how their class as a whole is grasping the material … down the level of individual questions and learning objectives.

This ebook model will pose challenges to current ereaders.  Libraries will need to figure out how to catalog and provide access to dynamic electronic materials like this.

The Digital Duchy of Amazonia

Because ereaders and ebooks are still in the adoption phase, many people and libraries have yet to evaluate and purchase them.  Buying that first device isn’t as simple as picking out the model you prefer, it is choosing which digital ecosystem you will join.  We have witnessed this with the development of smartphones.  Beyond selecting a particular phone, you must decide to join Apple’s, Google’s, Microsoft’s, or RIM’s walled ecosystem.  Once you’ve climbed the learning curve, entered all your data, and purchased some apps, it’s no trivial matter to leap the wall and switch ecosystems.

We are seeing this concept of digital ecosystems emerging in the ereader market.  As Steven Levy writes in Wired magazine:

Indeed, [ CEO Jeff] Bezos doesn’t consider the [Kindle] Fire a mere device, preferring to call it a “media service.” While he takes pride in the Fire, he really sees it as an advanced mobile portal to Amazon’s cloud universe. That’s how Amazon has always treated the Kindle: New models simply offer improved ways of buying and reading the content. Replacing the hardware is no more complicated or emotionally involved than changing a flashlight battery.

(That’s why, in a sense, some of the iPad comparisons and cavils you may read today in the hands-on reviews of Fire are somewhat irrelevant in light of this larger issue. Yes, the Fire lacks the industrial-design pyrotechnics that make fanboys foam at the mouth like the iPad does. But who cares? Like a lizard shedding its skin, next year there will be another Fire and in three years the original will look as antiquated as the bizarre-looking Kindle 1 appears today. When you pay $199 for Fire, you’re not buying a gadget—you’re filing citizen papers for the digital duchy of Amazonia.)

When you make that first ereader purchase, you are joining that vendor’s digital world whether it is Amazon, Apple, or Barnes & Noble.  You’ll learn how to use their device, enter notes, create highlights, and even socially share your reading experiences.  Very likely, you will shop in their online store for potentially proprietary-format ebooks (.mobi in the case of Amazon) with your licensed copies stored in their cloud.  Your choice of ereader may also impact whether you can access ebooks offered by your library.  Again, leaping the wall from one ebook ecosystem to another won’t be easily or cheaply done.

Choose carefully.