The usefulness of an e-reader as a portable reader and connected device Print E-mail
By Wilma Kurvink   

Strand two

While libraries have been able to purchase etexts and subscribe to etext libraries for some years, major obstacles were encountered in trying to purchase etexts with the view to transferring these to other devices. The team struck significant difficulties in all aspects of the process – from selection, to purchase, to receiving the etext files and, ultimately, transferring these to an ereader.
 
The majority of issues were identified as being associated with the current deployment of digital rights management, as DRM is embedded in many of the transactions related to purchase. In addition, limited access to titles both locally and globally is affected by restrictive practices in copyright – global distribution of etexts and digital rights management associated with individual texts and their management. 

Trial actions

The team of librarians conducting the trial all tested the ereader themselves in order to put content on the device and become familiar with the device functions. It soon became apparent that certain restrictions were in place in relation to content acquisition. 

How are etexts purchased?

The etexts available at the time of the trial were from a major book-seller, Dymmocks, and from Mobipocket, which is an international online etext provider (mobipocket.com). Another online book provider the team used was eBooks.com.  At this time of the research, Amazon had not released its Kindle and etexts were not available from this source.
 
The booksellers generally made the etexts available in several formats: Microsoft Reader, Adobe Digital Editions, and Mobipocket. The selection and purchase of texts was restricted by the formats in use by the ereader. In this instance only the Mobipocket format was compatible with the ereaders the team had purchased. The EPUB format emerged in the second half of 2009 as a useable format for the ereaders. Even early on in the trial it became apparent that although a work may be available in etext format, it may not be in the compatible format for the device, and choice therefore for the user is restricted.
 
The process of purchasing follows a well-established e-business model of supplying directly to the consumer. The purchaser requires an established login and customer ID. In the case of the bookseller, a purchase could only be made when a personal membership to the store was affirmed. The membership number needed to be quoted online during the purchase process. This purchase model did not allow for institutional purchasing, unless the institution was willing to supply a credit card. The model is difficult to work with at an institutional level, as it assumes a direct link to the ebook consumer. With the elaborate online selling site, the etext publisher/seller assumes the role as intermediary with the reader/purchaser. 

How are etexts distributed once purchased?

Once the etext is purchased it is downloaded as a file to an account space online or what is designed to look like a virtual bookshelf. This is where the etext is stored in readiness to be downloaded to a computer, or directly to a device. In this transaction the computer is in fact also considered a device and has a PID, a personal identification number. The ereader also has a PID specific to it, and users are only permitted a certain number of PID attached to their computer. In the case of Dymocks it was three PIDs, while eBooks.com allowed five devices.
 
The etexts were able to be downloaded repeatedly from the ‘bookshelf – but only to the same PIDs. All devices have the PIDs built in, to prevent loading an etext to several devices, or to ‘issue’ them to a user who has their own mobile device. ‘Lending’ etexts to many is not a possibility in this model.
 
In the case of the Dymocks, confirmation of the etext purchase was followed with an email, along with a receipt of purchase. A link to the file sent in another email, which was the prompt to download the file to the virtual bookshelf. The user ID number needed to be quoted and the computer used for the transaction needed to be the same computer used for downloading the file. It would appear that the computer ID and IP address was checked off as part of the process of verifying the ownership of the file prior to transfer. When transacting this process the team found that at times the book file failed to register, and repeated attempts would need to be made to download the file. After the file was loaded the user could open the book on the computer, or send it via synchronisation with the ereader software to the mobile device.  

What are the restrictions of global copyright regulation?

The impact of digital rights management is evident in a number of the processes to select, acquire, and to distribute the etext file. Another issue the team faced concern global copyright which restricted etext titles in Australia.
The goal of the trial was to establish as close a match with current selections in hard copy so that the users’ preferences and tastes could be accommodated. However, due to global copyright restrictions, the availability of newly-published titles in Australia is very limited. It has been well documented that the Australian publishing industry is highly protectionist with respect to the importation of overseas titles. This is also evident in its approach to etext availability, where rights for etexts for the Australian public have not been negotiated for this county, and when many other countries have proceeded.
 
Hence a title like The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, a best seller, can be seen on the Ebooks.com site, with pricing and other details available. (Fig 13)
 
 
 
Fig 13
 
 
However there is no option to purchase this etext in Australia
 
 
Fig 14 

How are ereaders affected by the restrictions of digital rights management?

ereader mobile devices

The other restrictions related to the inconsistency of the format availability. Some titles were available in Adobe PDF, others in Mobipocket, or in Microsoft Reader, and more recently in E-Pub. Currently, some titles offer a range of formats, but it remains hit and miss as to whether the title one requires is available in the relevant format. The proprietary book reader software by Kindle is the AZW format. Owners of Kindles will find that it can handle ebooks of unencrypted MOBI files, TXT files, or AZW formats. Some issues remain in reading PDF for a number of Kindle models.
 
Further investigations of the range of etext availability for the ereader were hampered by a shortage of suitable titles by Australian authors. In the 12 months since the trial, there has been a significant improvement in the availability of Australian fiction writers; a recent search located some recent titles by Shaun Tan, Kerry Greenwood, Chris Tsiolkas, and Garth Nix. However, these were all in Adobe PDF format which cannot be read in the ereader and adjusted for size or pagination. (Fig 15)
 
 
Fig 15
 
 
Fig 16
 
A more recent development on restrictions and the coupling of devices to specific content owners can be seen in the Kindle/Amazon delivery model. Currently, Kindles are sold at a retail price that is 30% less than 15 months ago, with wifi download direct from Amazon via its seamless ‘whispernet’. The computer is no longer needed to mediate or synchronise the content, and the link is immediate to the supplier anywhere in the world (provided your title is in fact available in Australia). Newspaper content is easily disseminated via a subscription on the Kindle.
 
 
Fig 17
 
We may have reason to believe that, ultimately, a handful of market leaders will dominate the e-content market with a proprietary ereader or similar device to channel and deliver a range of content to consumers. Linear texts such as fiction and non-fiction will be a portion of this. The iPad already assumes that much of what will be delivered will be video-enabled, something that has been foreshadowed by internet news providers such as the BBC and the ABC, where texts are provided in multiple formats.
 
 
(Fig 18)
 
Hence for libraries, the digital rights management becomes problematic at every level of the etext management and acquisition process. It presents technical hurdles at every step, as the very goal of digital rights management is to restrict the dissemination of the file. As such, DRM is locked down in the numerous competing formats, the availability of compatible formats to readers and the proprietary nature of the devices. Moreover, some devices are linked to particular publishers, and the restrictions on purchase options in this model can be unworkable for organisations who would like to deliver etexts to their patrons via an acquisition and distribution model.
 
Lending libraries are excluded from these e-business models, as are other intermediaries such as bookshops or on-sellers. Like the record shops of the 1970s that became the CD shops of the mid-1980s and 1990s, one can only contemplate a decline of these organisations and businesses, or rethink the purpose of a lending library. In fact, from a publisher’s perspective, a lending library may be a liability in terms of DRM, if the management cannot be assured. The lending library may be seen as competing with sales if material is lent for free to users. Hence the logical step for libraries in the etext environment is to devise a model that pays for loans, subscribes to texts, can promote material to users, even generate digital sales, or combinations of all of the above. 

ereaders –applications or software on computer screen

Most ereader software can be read on a computer screen or mobile device. Mobipocket format could be read on any number of PDAs back in 2008, and also produced an appealing screen format for the computer.
Adobe, Microsoft reader, E-Pub are readily accessed on a computer screen. The significant feature of most of ereader applications is that they enable the print to flow though the text and repaginate when text is enlarged or reduced. In addition, for some ereader software, it is also possible to bookmark, to take notes, to search the text and to open the text where it was last opened.
 
These applications mimic the reading experience of a linear text without any significant additions or enhancements. The appearance of the Amigo Reader a month or so ago challenges the current ereaders limited functionality by reconceptualising the relationship with the vendor/publisher, and other readers, creating a social networking environment for readers (www.amigoreader.com).
 
 
(Fig 19)
 
The Amigo Reader enables previews of etext from the supplier’s page, which opens up into the user’s personal reading space. The page will show you which other people are reading your book. In this space, the reader can take notes, create bookmarks and share these with others if they choose. The reader can equally set up book reading groups or join reading groups, as well as share online chat with other readers.
 
 
(Fig 20)
 
Amigo reader is a web-enabled function that requires no software download, unlike Mobipocket or Adobe Digital Editions. This means that it could be accessed from any web-enabled device and the reader could stay connected to Amigo whether on computer or via a mobile phone, PDA or, conceivably, a web-enabled tablet device. Reading would always be accessible, and permanently online. It would not require a download, only web access. As there are no files to disseminate, and storage is with the publisher, there are no issues with the digital copyright or rights management. The digital copy, while it is technically owned by the user, remains online in the publisher’s space.
 
The eBooks.com supplier uses the web enabled Amigo Reader to sell titles to readers, while creating a web 2.0 social networking dimension around the reading experience. At no time does the reader need to download the file, and it is permanently located in the Amigo Reader. The digital repository of works can deliver easily within the DRM framework. Such 'online back-ends enable the management of access to users, and record use of the digital repository. The system equally delivers daily data back to the supplier on trends in users' selections. 

Integrating the etext into the library catalogue

The etexts purchased for the trial were not catalogued as such. While we may have entered the texts for inventory purposes, it seemed pointless as none of the etexts could be accessed by users. The etext acquisition also by-passed our conventional acquisition processes, whereby catalogue records were created when the ISBN is entered on the library management system as one of the first steps in ordering.
 
As the library does not undertake original cataloguing, there was no process to switch into place with a new format. Moreover, as the trial wore on, it became clear to the team that the purchase of etexts online was unlikely to work for our organisation's goals of providing access to titles.
 
Once texts were loaded into the ereaders, it was difficult to track where the texts were, as they were loaded from a user’s personal bookshelf online to the device. So, to track what was on our ereaders, we needed to print lists and keep them up to date.
 
 
(Fig 21)
 
The ereaders, when loaded with material, only display the titles when switched on, and the book title menu is displayed.
 
 
 
(Fig 22)
 
The team regrouped on this issue to explore other ways of generating access to etexts and create a single point of access. The traditional library catalogue is generally bypassed by younger users (Parry, 2010), not only due to its lack of flexibility as a search tool, but also because for most users, information searching is primarily carried out online with a search engine (Rowley & Urquhart, 2007).
 
Catalogues indicate where the text can be found, and provide some details regarding format and edition, but changes in users' expectations indicate that search and discovery systems need to take the place of the conventional catalogue. These systems lend themselves to the immediate display of book content, as well as the streaming of video, newspaper articles and more.
 
The Wesley College Library team had begun implementation of the Aqua Browser© search and discovery platform, and decided that linking our systems to etext collections may prove to be a more effective way of delivering e-content to our students and staff. This is discussed in the next section of the paper.