Monday, November 17, 2008

Thing 21: E-Book 2.0, or, What the Kindle Hath Wrought

"Everything's electronic!" "We'll be reading on screens!" "It's the death of the book!!!!"


Yes, the publishing industry has seen a shift in the past thirty years -- first to audiobooks and then (finally) to ebooks -- but the act of reading objects made of bound paper is still going strong. Still, the percentages are shifting, and with the advent of the Kindle and Playaways, it's easier than ever to consume books through digital formats. As we watch newspapers slide closer to a solely-online experience, are we finally crossing the tipping point to the final decline of the printed page? And what place have libraries in this new world?

Cresting the wave of interest in reading online, if we're clever. For an absolutely fantastic example of what can be, check out the New York Public Library's Digital Collections. From a single landing page, NYPL patrons can access library-provided content using every single tool we've covered in this class. However the public wants to 'read,' NYPL can provide something to interest them.

But back to the current Thing. Two projects are underway to create electronic versions of items in the public domain: Project Gutenberg focuses on print manuscripts, while LibriVox tackles audiobooks. Both are free, open-access resources meant to bring even non-commercial publications into the digital age.

There are also low- or reasonable-cost sources of e-content available. The
World Public Library has an astonishingly diverse collection of more than 500,000 PDF ebooks and 23,000 audiobooks in its collections. NetLibrary (a division of OCLC) and Overdrive are electronic content services for libraries; a library subscribes to the service and their patrons gain access to thousands of titles. You can see NetLibrary on the NYPL page above, and the Boston Public Library showcases Overdrive.

In the commercial market, check out Audible. They're currently running a promotion for Boston-area commuters -- sign up for a trial membership & get a free audiobook. If Audible doesn't grab you, take a look at EBooks About Everything.

Discovery Activity
All three of this week's Things will have the same Discovery Activity: choose one of the sources of content listed above, search for items of interest, and post a link and a review of something you find.

If you'd like to Go the Extra Mile for this Thing, please add a word or two on what your vision of what libraries might look like as reading moves increasingly online and in-ear. What will happen as we catch this wave and ride on into the future?

Next, we'll take a look at a single source of online content so vast it deserved its own Thing. Come join me deep in the archives for Thing 22: Quick, to the Wayback Machine!...and everything else at

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