the Kindle lending experience from a patron’s perspective “a wolf in book’s clothing”

Cuneiform tablet on Kindle
[Kindle image by Tim Spalding, thanks Tim!]

I went to a staff meeting on Friday at the local library where I sometimes work. We did some strategic planning, some walking around the building looking at stuff that could be improved, and some “how to download various digital media format” exercises. We use Overdrive via Listen Up Vermont which gives us access to audiobooks and ebooks in EPUB and Kindle formats. I’m pretty okay at this sort of thing so we clicked around and saw how stuff worked and had a few little glitches but basically stuff was okay. I’ve been following the Amazon book lending story through the blogs the past few weeks and I’ve been skeptical but more curious than anything. I don’t have a Kindle but I’ve seen how popular they are and I was curious how this would all work. Well, as some bloggers have pointed out, it sort of doesn’t. Or, rather, it seems to require compromises to our systems and more importantly to our professional values. I’m hoping these issues can be resolved, but honestly if we can’t lend with some modicum of patron privacy, we shouldn’t be lending.

This is all leading up to an email exchange I had with a reader who was wondering the best way to raise concerns with his librarian about the user experience of borrowing a Kindle book from his library to use with the Kindle app on a non-Kindle device. Apparently, while the process to obtain the book wasn’t too difficult, the process to actually get RID of the book once returned [without a lot of pesky "hey maybe you should BUY this" cajoling] was actually fairly difficult. The default settings are, not surprisingly, strongly urging that the patron purchase (not renewal, not some sort of overdue notification) the book that they have just “returned.” I’ll let the patron speak for himself on this process. His name is Dan Smith and this is reprinted with his express permission.
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My first experience at “borrowing a Kindle book from the library” has left me with a bad taste in my mouth. It did not feel like borrowing a book from a library. It felt like a salesperson had sold me a book with a “no-risk free home trial” and was pestering me to buy it at the end of the trial period.

I feel that Amazon’s commercial promotion is excessive, and imposes inappropriately on public library patrons. Would you allow distributor’s rep to stand in the hall, grabbing people on their way to the return slot, saying “Stop! Why RETURN it when you can BUY it instantly for just $12.95?”

Yes, some of the irritations can be sidestepped, and as a savvy user I now know how. But Amazon took advantage of my innocence.

FIrst, the book was all marked up! Dotted underlines here and there on almost every page. It was like taking out a library book and finding someone had gone over it with a highlighter! Amazon allow “library” ebooks to be marked and annotated. Instead of cleaning them up for the next patron, it leaves them in place, and encourages you make your own marks for other people to see. I thought this was just some misguided idea about social networking, but it’s more sinister than that.

I turns out that there is a global setting, “Popular Highlights,” which controls whether you see these marks. But it is on by default! I never knew it was there, because it is only activated when a book has lots of them, and this was the first Kindle book I’ve read that had them. The setting to turn them off is buried, and couldn’t find it right away. Blame me for stupidity, but also blame Amazon, because I don’t think most readers want their books scribbled up, and I think Amazon defaults the setting to “on” to serve their own agenda.

Second, at the end of the loan period, instead of politely announcing that the book would be returned… or offering a renewal… or possibly even sending overdue fines to the library :) … I was instead confronted by intrusive ads, both in my Kindle application and in my regular email, urging me to buy the book from Amazon.

The email made a point of saying “If you purchase ‘The Bed of Procrustes’ or borrow it again from your local library, all of your notes and highlights will be preserved.” So, that’s why they encourage readers to scribble in library books: they want to hold our marginalia up for ransom.

Third, when the book is returned, it does not simply evaporate. The title, jacket and all, remained visible on my Kindle, exactly as if it were still there, but the behind the book cover is nothing but a notice that it has gone back to the library–and a button I can press. Renewal was not an option. The only option shown is to buy it from Amazon.

It looks like a book, but it’s a wolf in book’s clothing.

Fourth, it was hard to clean that ad out of my Kindle application. I could not find any “delete” option. There is an “archive” option, but all it does is move the book into an “archived items” list, where it continued to sit, looking just like the real books I’ve paid for and might want to re-download. Except that if you click on this one, all you get is a choice of “cancel” or “purchase.” Who would want to save that? But neither I nor an Amazon rep was able to find any deletion option within the Kindle application. The rep claims that the actual Kindle device has this capability, but could not explain why the Kindle application doesn’t. I was able to remove it by using a Web browser, logging into my account on the Amazon website, navigating to a “Manage Your Kindle” page, and deleting it via regular Web access. Fine. Now I know. Twenty minutes of my life wasted finding out.

I’ve now gotten a SECOND email solicitation from Amazon urging me to buy this book. How many I more I will receive?

Amazon gets plenty of promotion just by being the only Kindle book source. Their pushy “Don’t RETURN it, BUY it” attitude is out of bounds.

Kansas demands better, moves from OverDrive

“With the need for a new state-wide ebook contract looming, [Kansas State Librarian] Budler began negotiations with current vendor, OverDrive. The contract she received shocked her. “It was the price increase—700% over the last contract that floored me,” says Budler. “I explained that this wasn’t acceptable.”

Information Today outlines what is happening in the state of Kansas as they contemplate moving away from OverDrive with content that their 2005 contract says that they actually purchased. A really fascinating story. Budler admits that OverDrive isn’t the villain here, but that she needs to advocate for her libraries which means getting a better deal for them than OverDrive was able to offer.

Banned Books Week 2011, a web content rundown

It’s time for my semi-regular round up of Banned Books Week websites. You can look at past posts on this topic by checking out the bannedbooksweek tag here or here is a list of the annual posts More on the Chicago Defender.
Here are my old Banned Books Weeks posts: 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009 and 2010. I skipped 2005.

As usual, you get a neat real-time look at what’s going on by following the Twitter hashtag. As usual there are two “main” sites the ALA site at ala.org/bbooks and the bannedbooksweek.org site. ALA has their usual site, links to shopping, links to the main site (which is a 404, oops), links to advocacy materials. They decided to do a virtual read-out instead of an in-person event and I’ve been clicking through some of the YouTube videos on the BBW channel. All the stuff I’ve seen so far seems like it would be what we call SFW [safe for work] and I’m vaguely curious if there could be something so racy that you’d get one of those “You have to be 14 to see this video” warnings up because, hey, that’s its own form of limiting speech. But I think that stuff is only for photos of people in their underwear, or maybe self-reported. The Banned Books Week main site has been up and down today and seems to mostly be pointing to the same stuff. They have a Twitter account but have never used it. The design gets better every year.

Here is the list of organizations who are co-sponsors. Let’s look at their websites.

There is also the Center for the Book in the Library of Congress who endorses Banned Books Week (though no link on their site?) as well as a few organizations who have signed on as sponsors

So I’d cautiously call this an improvement over last year. More coordinated programming, better talking between sites. I’m still looking for a good Banned Books Week Twitter list [i.e. with the sponsors] and if I don’t see one I guess I’ll make one. I’ve been enjoying the YouTube videos. My own tastes this year go to ebooks and thinking about, with the additional layer of middlemen in the ebook world of buying, licensing and lending, what it really means to be banned or censored an an ebook universe. Look for a post about pirates later in the week.

Thief does research, finds hidden passage to secret library and steals books. Old but good.

I’m afraid my burning passion overrode my conscience. It may appear selfish, but I felt the books had been abandoned. They were covered with dust and pigeon droppings and I felt no one consulted them any more. There was also the thrill of adventure – I was very scared of being found out.

Book thief explains why he stole 1,100 ancient books in a hidden room in a monastery library. The theft and the sentencing happened several years ago but just popped on to my radar and resulted in my finding another neat source of library/security information, the library theft category fo the Museum Security Network blog. Current posts are password protected but they become available after a while. Here is their post on what drives people to steal precious books.
Details of the secret room didn’t make the major media, but can be found in this Masters thesis on bibliokleptomania

“While some structural details are uncertain, many accounts agree on certain aspects of Gosse’s methods. The journey inside required him to scale a sheer exterior wall, which led to an attic workshop, which is now part of the hotel. From there, he followed a disused corridor to the next building. At the end of the corridor, he climbed down a very old rope ladder to a small sealed room. By pushing on a portion of the wall, he discovered that a bookcase inside the next room gave way. He then found himself standing inside the library.”

[via]

an ebook is not a book, discuss?

I had a busy week. It wrapped up in the lovely state of Maine where I got to talk about the digital divide and ebooks to a bunch of Maine librarians. The digital divide talk is probably one you’ve seen various versions of, but the ebooks one is more or less new. My assertion is that the problem of ebooks is the problem of multiple perspectives [readers and authors and publishers and librarians don't even agree on the landscape, much less the trees] as well as the problem of metaphors. At its core, one of the difficulties in teaching people about technology is that it’s teaching people to manage real invisible things [files, websites, social content] through a series of metaphors ["folders" "tagging" "friending"] that are more or less complex depending on people’s level of existing knowledge. While the printed word and language generally is something of a metaphor, you can read a book without really having to think about that level of abstraction. We’re not there yet with ebooks and the metaphors confuse the reality, a reality that is still shifting, hopefully moving towards if not some standards, at least some etiquette.

In any case, both talks are here. I got a lot of good feedback on my general topic from Twitter and other social media interchange arenas. Thanks to those who helped me with this, and thanks to the nice librarians from Maine for coming to listen and talk.

What is my hot librarian fantasy? THIS is my hot librarian fantasy.

Sometimes it’s hard to explain why augmented reality apps might be useful in a library setting. Until now. QR codes, and an app that tells you when your books are out of order. Rowr.

the future of the book is ….

The future of the book, the printed book, is up in the air. People stand to make a lot of money if they can convince you that their version of the future of print and reading is correct. Many of us would just like to separate the wheat from the chaff and keep delivering good content to various sorts of readers, from now until forever. The Green Mountain Library Consortium released their statement about Harper Collins this week which, while not as strong as I personally would have liked, I think sends a “hey man, not cool” message and at least sends a “hey we’re paying attention” message which I think is the important part. In the meantime, there are a lot of people who have a fairly good understanding of the general ebook situation who are deciding to poke a bit of fun at the crazy world we’re currently inhabiting. John Scalzi has made an electronic publishing bingo card which, while amusing in and of itself, has a weath of great discussion in the comments.

I’ll note that I spent a good chunk of time over this past week going over my page proofs [again] and yet I have no idea at all what the ebook for my book will look like or even what format(s) it will be available in. I can’t wait for this in-between time to be over with.

A readers bill of rights for digital books

I’m going to be on the road at SXSW for the next week. People who are also going should come to my panel on Friday at 5, or attend one of the librarian meetups. And say hi if you see me, here is my schedule. In the meantime I’ll be keeping an eye on the #HMOD debacle and polishing up places to put this logo. The site, ReadersBillofRights.info, says “Please use these images in support of our work against DRM with the Readers’ Bill of Rights for Digital Books.” Nice list of associated things to read down the righthand side there.

telling it like it is a reading list from 1970

“The Mod-Mod Read-In Paperback Book List was produced in 1970, under the auspices of the Young Adult Services Division, the precursor of the Young Adult Library Services Association. From the titles, it seems to be an ancestor of both Popular Paperbacks and Quick Picks. It was part of a project called “Operation Opportunity;” apparently the Jaycees’ response to the Great Society.”

Read the whole post over at Sara Ryan’s terrific blog.

2010 reading list, a year end summary

I made an effort to make time for reading this year. The combination of this and a lot of airplane time meant more good books read. Here are previous year end lists: 2009, 2007, 2006, 2005, 2004. My booklist lives in a separate blog and it has its own RSS feed.Here’s the wrap-up of what I read in 2010.

number of books read in 2010: 48
number of books read in 2009: 39
number of books read in 2008: 31
number of books read in 2007: 53
number of books read in 2005: 86
number of books read in 2004: 103
number of books read in 2003: 75
number of books read in 2002: 91
number of books read in 2001: 78

average read per month: 4

average read per week: .92
number read in worst month: 2 (Jan/June)
number read in best month: 7 (July)
percentage by male authors: 73
percentage by female authors: 27
fiction as percentage of total: 60
non-fiction as percentage of total: 40
percentage of total liked: 90
percentage of total ambivalent: 9
percentage of total disliked: 1

I read a lot of books on a few topics this year: art history/theft/discovery, cybercrime novels and a few victorian mysteries and some graphic novels. Still not really on the ebook bandwagon. Still enjoying reading paper books in bed. Still finishing a few books I started in 2010, I expect this trend to continue. Wish me luck, and happy reading in 2011!