Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Children's Picture Book Apps Are Not a Part of the Public Library's Story -- Yet

As more e-readers are getting into the hands (and under the tapping fingers) of young readers, picture book apps are gaining a wider audience. But not at the public libraries. To understand a bit more about why, dotMomming reached out to Chicago Public Library Youth Materials Specialist Andrew Medlar. This is the last in a series of posts in our conversation about digital books.

"Apps of all types are a significant consideration in our latest Strategic Plan," Medlar says, "and for the book/media industry at large. We can only offer our communities that which is available in the first place, and many of the great sessions and discussions at this summer’s BookExpo America and American Library Association conferences focused on apps and the fact that while they are exciting, and many are fabulous, no one has yet figured out how to make them able to be checked out through libraries."

Among the library's hurdles is that some of the major publishing houses are resistant to making their titles available to public libraries for e-book lending.

"Several major American houses still won’t even allow libraries to buy their e-book titles even though that technology is readily available—and so the logistics of app circulation simply haven’t been satisfactorily developed," Medlar says.

And while it's the publishing houses dragging their feet, some perceive public libraries to be the staid institutions clinging to the paper era. But that's certainly not the case in Chicago, where the Chicago Public Library's flagship Harold Washington Library is leading the way with its teen-centric YOUmedia space. Through YOUmedia, teens turn to the library to check out tools ranging from digital cameras to laptops, and to collaborate and create with new media.

"The Library is always evolving in how we support Chicagoans in new ways of reading, learning and discovering," Medlar says, "and this is a key area of strength in our past, present and future Strategic Plans.

"The expansion of YOUmedia from its internationally renowned success at the Harold Washington Library Center into more neighborhoods across the City is a prime example. The role of the public library has always been to provide access to information – the ways in which patrons now demand that information has changed (and is constantly changing), so it libraries are adapting to those new formats."

It's an exciting time for libraries as they make the changes necessary to stay relevant in a digital age. And I imagine that doing so under anemic budgets is all the more challenging. So whether it's a book in paper form or electronic, the library is working hard to satisfy the demands of a changing audience.

"Content trumps format, and reading, in any way, shape or form, is a positive, educational, fun, and lifelong activity," Medlar says. "As far as the physical form of the text, for young people it’s not an either/or proposition; they move back and forth between e-books and p-books without a problem."

"Let’s just give them the freedom to pick from all of the great stories out there in the world, however they’re told."

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Young Readers, e-Books, and the Public Library

Like Clifford the Big Red Dog, interest in e-books has grown exponentially over the past year. Figures from June show e-book sales rocketing 167 percent, to $80.2 million, at the 15 houses that reported figures to the Association of American Publishers monthly sales report. And according to Publisher's Weekly, for the first half of 2011, e-book sales were up 161 percent to $473.8 million.

This red-hot streak should continue as new reading devices continue to enter the market and consumers turn on to digital books. So as e-book sales reach the stratosphere, dotMomming was wondering what's happening at the public library. We reached out to Andrew Medlar, Youth Materials Specialist for the Chicago Public Library, to find out.

Numbers for trade paperback sales dropped off in June, down 64 percent, according to Publisher's Weekly, while children’s hardcover sales fell 31 percent. And for the first half of 2011, sales in all the trade segments were off by more than 10 percent. So the trend seems to be clear in bookstores -- digital books are on fire. Is the library seeing the same spike in e-book demand?

"In a word: yes.  In four words: yes, very much so," Medlar says. "Interest, requests, circulation, and budgets for e-books continue to grow exponentially.

"The subsequent challenges then include balancing this with continued strong demand for the many other formats CPL provides, and working with publishers and distributors to make more e-content available to the library market in the first place."

So where are the kids? The adult market seems to be out ahead of children's books, which makes sense as adults have the buying power to make use of reading tablets. But as more schools try out e-reader technology, demand for kids e-books will rise. Are Kindles, Nooks, iPads, and beyond capturing tween and preteen attention?

"Ten percent of e-book requests placed on our website are for teen titles," Medlar says, "and about 1 percent are for materials for kids up through age 13."

So what are the trends Medlar is seeing at the Chicago Public Library?

"Well, in the interest of user privacy, of course, we don’t track who is checking out what," he says. "But it is clear that many whos are checking out a lot of whats.

"Circulation of e-books has been consistently rising, and leading the charge is teen-directed literature, such as series by Meg Cabot, James Patterson, Maggie Stiefvater, Kristin Cast, Suzanne Collins, and more."

And what's ahead?

"Regardless of the age of the reader selecting these titles, this is definitely where the bulk of youth e-publishing and use is," Medlar says.

"This will continue, and the production of e-titles for tweens and younger will certainly grow itself, especially as more schools embrace e-readers. Interestingly, many of the tween titles immensely popular in paper (authors such as R. L. Stine and Erin Hunter, to name just two) are not seeing the same demand in e-formats, so this is likely still to take a while to catch up."

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

How e-Books Can Save Your Marriage

DotMomming is celebrating a glorious alignment of stars over here, and we want to share the joy. It has to do with a few of our favorite things -- the public library, the iPad, and our Spousal Unit (in no order of preference).

Many readers already know the ins and outs of checking out e-books from the library. But for those who do not, we're going to help you get into gear with OverDrive, the library's e-book vendor. And in the process, perhaps we'll restore harmony to your household just as we did at our own.

  • No more fighting over the bedside lamp being on all night, since you can read books in the dark using your e-reader's black screen and white type! 
  • No more enduring your darling's cranky sighs at the sound of your pages turning, since your e-reader's digital pages turn noiselessly!
  • And need we remind you? These books are free!

What's not to love?

And for Kindle users out there, OverDrive is now available for use for the first time. Until last week, digital lending was limited to iPad, smart phone, Sony Reader, and Nook.

To help explain the process, dotMomming contacted Andrew Medlar, Youth Materials Specialist for the Chicago Public Library, to talk about e-books, the library's digital bookshelf, and where the kids are. We'll devote the next handful of posts to our conversation.

But first, the basic mechanics of how to check out an e-book through the public library.

"Patrons are invited to visit the Library’s downloadable media catalog at OverDrive to search and/or browse through our rich e-book collection," Medlar says. OverDrive offers several e-book formats, such as EPUB, PDF, mobipocket, and now Kindle Book. Before attempting to download a book, however, iPad users need to download the free OverDrive app. If you're using a Nook, you'll need to download the Adobe Digital Editions software.

"Once you find a title in which you’re interested, you’ll either be able to add the title to your cart or put the title on hold if all of CPL’s licensed 'copies' are checked out to other users." This step is intuitive, as a button to the right of the book information sits waiting for your click.

"If you place it on hold, you will be asked to provide an e-mail address where you will be notified when the title becomes available," Medlar continues. "If it’s currently available you’ll be able to add it to your cart and proceed to checkout, at which point you’ll need to enter a library card number in good standing and your ZIP code."

And there's more. Can you handle it?

No late fees. The book just "disappears" from the e-reader when the checkout period expires. While we love this feature, dotMomming does realize that we are single-handedly supporting the CPL system through our endless late fees. Will e-books put a dent in the library's revenue stream?

"While the automatic return of e-books does result in fewer late fees for the Library," Medlar says, "we actually see it as a great marketing point for potential patrons."

He's talking about you. Good luck -- in your reading and your marriage.