Living with the iPad Part 1: Changing Habits

 

After I finally convinced myself that I wanted an iPad, I vaguely expected that I would use it primarily as a larger form factor of my older, smaller handheld devices. I figured I would download a lot of the classics and enjoy them on a more book-sized screen. I’ve been playing with my iPad for just under a week now, and I’ve already noticed several changes in my reading – or perhaps more accurately – book acquisition habits.

 

First, and perhaps most significantly, I finally bought an e-book. Heretofore all of my e-book reading has been of out-of-copyright material that I could find on any of a number of e-book websites. However, I finally purchased one with the advent of the iPad. Actually I decided to make the purchase in the week leading up to product delivery, and I settled on Terry Pratchett’s The Colour of Magic.

 

(Here’s an interesting tidbit about this one. I’ve been wanting to read the Discworld series for quite awhile, but every time I check in a bookstore, they never have the first novel. Well of course I could just order it, but who wants to wait? Instead I usually just pick something else. So I went to purchase this title through iBooks, and I was surprised that it wasn’t there. Well that certainly threw a wrench in my gears, so I went for another series only to find that it wasn’t there either. I came back to Terry Prachett the next day, and I found that the book really was there: It was listed as The Color of Magic instead of The Colour of Magic. Interesting little “gotcha” there.

 

Next, I’ve been poking around a bit in an area that I haven’t visited in a long, long, time: comic books. Both Marvel and DC have very nice apps, and the iPad is a great platform for viewing comics. The rich, vivid colors and crisp screen make even old comics seem fresh and vibrant. (And of course a good story is always a good story.) So far I’ve just read a few free comics. I haven’t actually bought any comics yet, and I may not in the future. But that’s not the point. I walk past comic books all the time and never pick one up or give it more than a passing glance. Because of the iPad though, I’ve read a couple of titles in a genre I haven’t explored in years.

 

When I was in the airport yesterday heading for ALA, I walked past the bookstore. Walked past it. Didn’t stop. That’s unusual for me. I actually buy quite a number of books from airport bookstores during waits and layovers. At the very least I spend a lot of time browsing. This time I did neither. I just walked on by with the knowledge that I can grab a lot of titles over the air whenever I like. I’ve done this for out-of-copyright books for years, but now that I’ve made the leap into more recent titles, the world – as they say – is my oyster.

 

Finally, I have to say something about iBooks. I’ve read books on PDAs and smartphones for years. The screen is small, but it works, and I’ve read hundreds of books this way. iBooks is changing that though – not by completely replacing the handheld – but by enhancing it. iBooks provides the option for syncing bookmarks, highlighting, and notes between the book on my iPad and the iBooks application on my phone. In the short term, this has meant that when I wrap up a reading session on the iPad, I can pick up in exactly the same place in my book even if I don’t have the iPad with me.

 

It will be interesting to see how things play out with the iPad over the next couple of months. These are pretty minor changes admittedly, but I’m still at less than a week on the platform. I wonder what the future will bring?

 

Why I didn’t want an iPad, and why I think I want one now

When I saw the iPad preview information, I was struck with a lot of the same impressions that others had: it’s a big iPod Touch. To a great extent, that’s still my opinion. However, several days ago I read a review that (somewhat) changed the way I think about the iPad.

David Pogue, writing in the New York Times, did a two-part review that looks at the iPad from both a techie perspective and an “everyone else” perspective. In his closing, Pogue wrote, “ . . . the iPad is not a laptop. It’s not nearly as good for creating stuff. On the other hand, it’s infinitely more convenient for consuming it — books, music, video, photos, Web, e-mail and so on.” Strangely enough, these few lines made the difference for me.

When I look at a product – computer, camera bag, kayak, whatever – I take a “be all that you can be” approach. I expect the item to have loads of functionality. In short, I expect it to be the be-all-end-all device. That’s unrealistic of course, but I still expect it! So whatever the device, I look at all potential uses to which I might put it, and then I evaluate it based on how well I think it will meet my expectations.

This was the test that the iPad failed when I initially considered it. In my mind the iPad was the PERFECT form factor for a true tablet PC. However, it lacked the one-two punch I consider essential for a tablet: a stylus and good handwriting recognition software. In spite of what Steve Jobs has to say, I can see the value of a stylus, and I wish the iPad had one. I have previously used Microsoft OneNote under Windows XP Tablet PC Edition. The handwriting recognition software was really very good for either print or cursive writing, and I saw a lot of possibilities there. Unfortunately, the PC itself was just too heavy. That’s why I thought the iPad would have been perfect, but alas, no stylus.

But David Pogue’s review made me rethink the iPad. Once I resigned myself to the fact that it’s not a great device for creating stuff, the idea became a lot more palatable. When I think of it as a device for consuming stuff, it makes a lot more sense. Since my first portable device, I’ve read a lot of e-books. The iPad should be fine for that. The browser and add-on apps should make it a good device for consuming lot of other content as well.

This seems to make all the difference to me. In trying to accept the iPad for what it is, I have (somewhat) rejected what I think it could be. And it truly looks like a great device for consuming content.

So . . . maybe I do need one after all.

Surveys about Libraries and E-books

I am conducting two anonymous surveys to gather information from libraries and library users regarding the use of e-books, e-book readers, and e-book software on portable devices such as smartphones. The information gathered will be used to consider ways in which libraries acquire and support e-books and how library users interact with the library in using e-books. The results of the survey will be presented during the International Conference on the Book at the University of Edinburgh later this year.

I am trying to gather data from as many library employees and users of e-books/e-readers as possible, so please consider completing one of the surveys listed below. If you are a library employee AND a reader of e-books, please consider filling out both surveys.

Survey for users of e-books, e-book hardware, and e-book software:
http://www.surveymonkey.com/s.aspx?sm=EHFSuOFp_2fXK_2f_2bjYZ3SI9ZA_3d_3d

Survey for library employees:
http://www.surveymonkey.com/s.aspx?sm=RNCPWl326UK7Y8oPB2af0A_3d_3d

This study has been reviewed by The University of Mississippi’s Institutional Review Board (IRB). The IRB has determined that this study fulfills the human research subject protections obligations required by state and federal law and University policies. If you have any questions, concerns, or reports regarding your rights as a participant of research, please contact the IRB at (662) 915-7482.

Oh, the Irony: eBooks, the iPhone, and mE

<begin rant> Okay there was no reason for writing it as "mE" except that I’m fed up with companies that use funky capitalization to try to make themselves and their products stand out. </end rant>

I’m currently at ALA for the annual conference, and I realized something shocking today. I brought a book with me. A paper book.

Does that sound counter-intuitive – being shocked at the idea of someone taking a book to a library conference of all places? Well it shouldn’t, but for me it is. I’ve owned PDAs and/or smartphones for around 10 years, and one of my very first and very favorite applications was iSilo, a book reader. I’ve upgraded each time iSilo had an upgrade, and it was easily my most heavily-used application. Since I had this great book reader I really liked, when I traveled I just took several eBooks along on my handheld. Less to pack, a variety of books, easy, convenient. I liked it so much and it worked so well for me that I stopped taking books along. Sometimes I would buy a buy while traveling, but I had basically reached the point where I didn’t take them with me anymore.

Enter the iPhone. For various reasons, I just couldn’t stay with the Palm OS any longer. After switching to the iPhone, iSilo was one of the first apps I downloaded. (Incidentally, I was right in the middle of a book when I made the switch.) Unfortunately, I really dislike the iPhone implementation of iSilo’s autoscroll feature. I used it all the time on the Palm. Loved it. iPhone implementation? Not so much. The iPhone’s limited battery life and iSilo’s autoscroll problem have conspired to make me really go easy on actually using the phone. Yeah, that’s right. I’m afraid to use my iPhone too much, because I’m afraid the battery will run down leaving me unable to receive a call or send a text at the end of the day.

So . . . as I was heading out the door for ALA I picked up a paper book I bought in the airport on the way home from my last trip. Totally weird. I bought a new device that I thought would help me enjoy eBooks even more. But the limitations of the device and the program have actually pushed me back to paper. Who would have guessed?

To Be or Not to Be . . . DRM-Free

To Be or Not to Be . . . DRM-Free
McCormick Place West, Room W470b
8:00 a.m. – 10:00 a.m.

Opening statements from speakers

DRM – Digital management of digital objects; the policies and practices that surround the delivery; creator -> resource -> end-user. At the University of South Florida we currently have about 300,000 e-books: NetLibrary, eBrarary, Early English Books Online, etc. If the books are DRM-free, we buy those wholesale. We are buying fewer and fewer books that have barriers to use.

Question from audience: Can you currently buy just certain chapters of a book?
Answer: No

Some Problems with current eBooks
Visual verification
Printing
Having to login after you’ve already been "authenticated"
Software installations

Publishers frequently don’t own the copyright to the material that they’re making available. The author may license the content to the publisher. The publisher may have some control, but they have responsibility for protecting the content as well. For books that run through many editions, authors may not be willing to update the contract to accommodate new technologies.

Many libraries are seeing e-use up and print-use down. An audience comment notes that ease-of-use is a key factor driving this. Panelist notes that some libraries in underprivileged areas continue buying print simply because their clientele don’t have computers at home.

Vendor perspective: There are no standards for DRM. Some publishers are offering DRM-free content on their site, but they’re requiring the vendors to use it! Double standards from publishers.

 

Vendor perspective: There are no standards for DRM. Some publishers are offering DRM-free content on their site, but they’re requiring the vendors to use it! Double standards from publishers.

 

Publisher response: I let my kids do more in my own house than when they go to a friend’s house. When we control the content on our site, we can be a little more relaxed. When we license content to a vendor, we have a responsibility to copyright owners, too.

 

Publisher: If our books are so encumbered with DRM that they can’t be used, libraries will stop using our product. It behooves us to let our decisions be informed by the issues that libraries are facing.

 

Vendor perspective: Quality content still needs DRM. Publishers provide a service that blogging doesn’t really replace. Libraries select and purchase content that has value to their readers. Publishers are still struggling with ebook revenues. Print revenues are shrinking, and ebook revenues are miniscule. The new revenue models are not making up for falling revenues in the traditional models. Although publishers are embracing ebooks, they still have to find a way to survive. Piracy is still a significant problem for publishers. What is the appropriate level of DRM? There is a huge social cost when we lose quality content.

 

Audience comment: When technology comes on board without standards, there are always problems. This needs to be addressed as a joint effort between libraries, publishers, and vendors.

 

Will the market define the standards?

 

Publisher: As a publisher, I can’t see much plausibility in all publishers coming to an agreement on how to implement DRM.

 

Vendor: Springer Publishing is often cited as a positive example in the DRM arena. However, they’re currently up for sale. The argument was made that Springer’s model focused on short-term revenues where other publishers are focusing on long-term survival.

Audience comment: Some countries essentially don’t have copyright laws. They don’t understand the concept of copyright, and they don’t see why they can’t just share everything they find on the Internet.

Audience question: What are some of the different forms of DRM?

Visual verification

Login name and password

File tethering to a certain device

File encryption

Limiting access (viewing, printing, copy/paste)

Watermarking (doesn’t prevent anything, but it serves as an identification)

 

This watermarking approach sometimes links files to specific institutions. If a publisher suddenly sees dozens of files watermarked for a particular institution appearing on freely available websites, they can address security/DRM issues with that particular institution.

 

Problem for publishers with Google Books

The Google Book project requires publishers to make 20% of the content available through the site. This amount is non-negotiable. For publishers of reference works, this is practically untenable because the nature of the work lends itself to snatch-and-grab use. People just need a quick fact and then they move on. If 20% of a reference work is available, this significantly impacts the publisher’s revenue stream.

 

For publishers what is the final measure? Do you get more or less revenue from DRM-free content? Once you have the numbers, then you have a basis for comparison and can make intelligent decisions.

Kindle DX – Go flight!

Amazon is currently unveiling the Kindle DX. Larger screen. More features. Three particularly interesting tidbits:

1) Partnerships with textbook publishers
2) Partnerships with higher ed: Arizona State University, Case Western Reserve University, Princeton University, Reed College, University of Virginia
3) Partnerships with newspapers: The Boston Globe, The New York Times, The San Francisco Chronicle, The Washington Post

Check Engadget’s report for more details.

Another One Bites the Dust

It was announced yesterday that today’s edition of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer will be the final print version of this 146-year-old paper. One can’t help reading the story without hearing the “Print is dead” cries echoing in one’s ears. Amidst all the talk about new business models and transitioning to a new online format, I can’t help thinking that “20 news gatherers and Web producers,” “20 newly hired advertising sales staff,” and “150 citizen bloggers” will never be able to cover the news like an experienced news staff.

We know that the Kindle can deliver content from major U.S. newspapers. Is the SPI “major” enough to merit some Kindle attention? Even if does, you still won’t be able to read it on the plane during takeoff and landing. And therein lies part of my concern with the whole “print is dead” movement. Now don’t get me wrong – I like electronic books. I’ve been through many, and I have about 50 on my Palm Treo now. But there are some places/times where/when my device is not allowed. Beyond that, traditional print books and newspapers never need to be recharged, they never need a network connection, and they never have to be migrated to a new hardware/software platform. I can easily loan my print book to a friend, but I’m certainly not going to loan them my Treo!

I hope that the various facets of the publishing industry can find a comfortable balance before the pendulum swings too far.

(For the record, I first read this story on my Palm Treo when it was delivered through Pocket Express. I read follow-up material on various web sites.)

Seattle P-I to publish last edition Tuesday
Seattle Post-Intelligencer prints final edition in online transition
First big US newspaper goes web only

Kindle 2

After the obligatory period of speculation, Amazon’s Kindle 2 has arrived. It was announced a couple of weeks ago amid much fanfare and hoopla. Initial reviews give it good marks, but time in the hands of actual end-users will tell the tale. It looks like the design has seen some improvements, and I’m glad to see any type of e-book technology make a little headway. Engadget enjoyed a grand unboxing yesterday, so we’re off to the races.

In thinking about e-books, e-book readers, and how libraries might approach this technology, a number of questions come to mind. One question, however, stands out above all others: How do we free licensed e-books from the tethers of vendor web sites? Most of our e-books are viewed through the Adobe Acrobat reader or through some other proprietary format that depends on having a plug-in installed on a desktop computer. While this is sometimes okay for searching technical manuals in the office, this is completely unacceptable for extended reading. Many vendors who peddle e-books to libraries kind of miss the point that THE REST OF OUR BOOKS ARE PORTABLE. If the e-book is tied to a vendor’s server, then users are also tied to that server. That means that the users must have a computer and a persistent network connection to access the content. Even the tiny netbooks out on the market don’t match the portability of a book.

If we can’t get past that question, then the other questions become even more difficult. I’ve read of a number of libraries asking whether they should offer specific devices for accessing their e-book collections. Assuming that they could work out appropriate licensing with a vendor, do libraries really need to get involved in supporting another exotic technology? Maybe – maybe not. Depends on the library, its resources, collections, and the needs of the patron base. Not all patrons will even want to read electronic books, but for those who do, libraries would probably be better served by letting patrons pick their own reading devices. The Kindle 2 and Sony’s Reader are both viable options, but so is the iPhone. As smartphones become smarter, there will be even more options for both hardware and software.

Libraries have enough to do just trying to make sense of the formats. Take a look at NetLibrary’s Full-Text eContent FAQ. In trying to support NetLibrary, libraries are looking at three different plug-ins: Adode Reader (Windows), Schubert-It PDF Viewer (Mac), and DJvu Reader (Windows/Mac). Go to ebrary, and it doesn’t get any better. They have three different versions of a proprietary book reader. Amazon’s Kindle supports Mobipocket books, plain text files, and – you guessed it – Amazon’s own proprietary format. Sony Reader supports PDF, TXT, RTF, SecurePDF, and ePub. Few organizations have the time, inclination, or resources to support so many competing formats.

In spite of all that though, there is a growing market for e-book content. If the publishers could just get together on standards for formatting and server-free licensing, that could do a lot to really help the market take off.

Taking Advantage of Open-Access Digitized Books

I’m sitting in the Innovative Users Group meeting at ALA Midwinter.

The first speaker, Jeffrey Beall (Auraria Library, University of Colorado, Denver) did an interesting presentation on making freely-available open access e-books available through the OPAC. This project builds on the work done by the University of Michigan and Google by providing OPAC records linking to thousands of digitized books. This also draws on work done by the HathiTrust Digital Repository.

This project ultimately resulted in approximately 100,000 new records in the system. This represents potential online access to 100,000 additional full-text items.

Jeffrey pointed out some advantages and disadvantages of this project.

Advantages
Access to great content through the OPAC
Reap the benefits of years of UMich collection development
Collocated with other library resources
Fills gaps in the collection
Gives easier access to material in obsolete and unpopular formats (like microform)
Free

Disadvantages
Content controlled by others, may disappear
Poor metadata quality may make using catalog more difficult

A Big Question
What’s more important: access to great content with bad metadata, or access to fewer resources with good metadata?

Of iPhones and e-books

There are a number of posts floating around that try to compare Apple’s iPhone to Amazon’s Kindle as an e-book platform. The first one I happened across was on a CNET blog. Links to others are listed below.

As a frequent e-book user myself, I have a few opinions on the concept. Over the years I’ve seen several devices and listened to a number of programs that explored the options and applications for electronic books. I’ve seen small, medium, and large dedicated handheld devices that do nothing but e-books. I’ve seen library vendors who offer online e-books in HTML and PDF format for viewing on a regular computer screen. I’ve played with a number of e-book readers that run on Palm PDAs.

One of the most important aspects of any book (electronic or otherwise) is portability. You can easily carry it around with you. You can toss it in a backpack. You can easily carry it on a plane. For me this immediately rules out vendors that expect you to read their content on a desktop or even a laptop computer. (NetLibrary and ebrary, this means you!) For my use, these vendors just miss the point. I don’t care how good their search tools are, how good their annotation tools are, or what utilities they offer for researching within their collections. I. Just. Don’t. Care. If I can’t take it with me, they’ve lost me. That being said, I MIGHT be willing to use a proprietary reader with their collections if I can load that reader on my portable device of choice, but ultimately, if I can’t take the book with me, then just go away.

That turns the conversation to portable devices like the Kindle, Sony’s Reader Digital Book, or any of a host of smartphones. Now we’re getting somewhere. Portability.

For many users screen size (and more importantly, font size) are the deciding factors in whether they can even get comfortable with e-books. I’m currently reading my books on a Treo with a screen that measures 2.5″ diagonally. (That’s just a shade over 1.75″ wide and high, or320 x 320 pixels). This is fine for me. I have an e-book reader I truly enjoy, and I’ve read many, many books on this device. However, that just won’t get it for some people. The screen is simply too small for them to be able to read comfortably. Apple’s iPhone offers a nice improvement over the Treo. This phone’s 3.5″ (diagonal widescreen) design gives more space to screen real estate, and therefore more reading room. Again though, this just may not cut it for some users. Jumping up to the Kindle, users get a 6″ (diagonal) screen that probably jumps more into the realm of readability for a lot of users.

So if you really, really, REALLY want to read e-books, chances are you can find a reader somewhere out there that will suit your style. Great for the end-users, but what about libraries? If libraries want to offer e-books to their patrons, which technology do they go with? Do they use a vendor that offers books that are online viewable online? Do they invest in dedicated readers? Or will the growing smartphone market presage a new wave of readers and e-book formats?

I’m not sure, but I’m holding out for new readers on smartphones. Increasingly people are doing more and more with their phones, and the more they can do, the more they WANT to do. For awhile I carried both a cell phone and a PDA, and I was glad to reach the point where I could carry a single device that combine both functions. (That being said, I do still have three e-book readers on my device, or four if you count a PDF reader. Yeah, I REALLY like e-books). If this is the emerging model, then libraries need new options from vendors in terms of both readers and formats. Or better yet, why not standardize on some of the formats that are already out there? A number of readers already support standard HTML files. Whatever the solution, vendors would do well to make it as easy as possible for libraries to purchase and provide access to e-books. Likewise, vendors should pay attention to smartphone users and find out just how they want to read content on their portable devices.

Other links:

http://www.teleread.org/blog/2008/06/25/heating-up-fuss-over-kindle-vs-iphone-for-e-reading/

http://www.iphonefootprint.com/2008/07/amazons-kindle-vs-iphone/

http://mymediamusings.com/2008/06/26/kindle-vs-iphone-is-it-even-a-contest/