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

Strand three – Contextual factors

Methodology and actions

For the purposes of our trial we were mainly exploring availability of fiction titles that suited the devices for our users; however a key strand of our work also involved the exploration of non-fiction titles, and text books in an etext format.
During course of the trial, the team approached the College book supplier, made contact and met with educational publishers, etext publishers and publishers of traditional educational content, such as reference works and non-fiction materials who were beginning to create etext collections from their content.
In 2008, the early meetings indicated that the book sellers were uncomfortable and nervous about the etext arrival. Exploratory meetings with two publishers showed that the publishing industry in Australia was not planning for the changes in any coordinated way. One publisher brought a team to meet us whose role it was to develop an etext publishing arm for the company. The team appeared not to have the resourcing it needed to implement strategy and materials production at that point. During the meeting it appeared that the team was not yet resolved on formats or DRM management in a trial. They had little jurisdiction over text books in their role. However, they were keen to trial a library of video learning objects, but less interested in the trial of text books with the college. Upon further examination of titles from the publisher’s website it was clear that no progress had been made to renegotiate the digital rights of existing fiction titles, now out of print, by authors in their stables. Long lists of out of print titles on the publisher’s website bore this out. Cross-checking availability of etext titles of Australian authors with these showed that a lot of work needed to be done in this area.
Another major publisher was approached to release a couple of titles of e-content for the trial, but we were turned down. A chapter or so might have been a possibility, but not an entire work, was the message.
The relative unpreparedness by publishers for the new global environment of etexts is also evident in a recent study by the 2009 University of Melbourne Book Industry study. Competition from other media and territorial copyright rated highest among concerns of the industry, followed by concerns of concentration of ownership, environmental sustainability and the power of internet retailers. Sellers of school text books had no immediate plans for etext sales, with one publisher looking to create learning objects online alongside the traditional text.
eBook Library, EBL and Warners Books provided more innovative and flexible models for libraries. The EBL model involves over 130.000 mainly academic titles which can be incorporated into the library catalogue or discovery system. Books can be hired, or purchased outright. Patrons can select their own titles for ‘loan’ or librarians can choose to mediate the selection. The ‘non-linear’ lending model allows for multiple users in the payment model, which allows a library to meet demand and provide a high degree of specificity when users search online. This is matched with the immediate delivery of quality publishing to the screen – it is literally a case of immediate delivery if the library wishes to deliver it. The online reader that opens up with the EBL etext allows for full text searching, bookmarks, and more. If a book is ‘hired’ for three days, a week or three weeks, it will simply vanish from the user's screen after that period is over. If a user needs to use it later another hire is made. In the case where many users request the same title and the limits of simultaneous use are exceeded, the library can move into a purchase mode to buy the rights to the work and it will be allowed 364 uses per year from the date of purchase onward.
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An extensive management package comes along with the EBL subscription, allowing the library to track all usage and moderate hire or purchase of texts. The benefits to such a subscription are manifest – unlike the hardcopy collections; collection management of EBL library is restricted to only managing the online back-end system – no ordering, and catalogue maintenance, no duplications across branch libraries, overdue processes, stock takes, and book redundancy. Pricing models vary according to what model is selected, but at the heart of it is a subscription model combined with title purchase. Of course, this model of information provision work best if the information needs of the library community are met by the collection of titles, and therein lies a small rub for school libraries, as the majority of titles were suited to teachers' professional reading and the students in years eleven and twelve. The EBL model works better in the online reading, rather than the downloaded title in the Adobe Digital Edition reader.
The Warners Book etext model is a purchase model where texts were bought outright, and again could be imported in the library catalogue from where they would be accessed by students and teachers. The content clearly matches the topic areas in schools from primary to upper secondary school curricula. Purchase enables unlimited and simultaneous use by any number of users. Once the title is purchased it belongs to the library. The material ‘lives’ online in the Warners site, and is accessed from there. Again, the library does not need to store any titles or disseminate them. This becomes an automated process. The online reader is Adobe PDF, and as is the case with EBL, printing within limits, is allowed. Both systems deliver only to a computer screen, or a device that can access the internet.
Currently, both Warners and EBL are being implemented at Wesley College. As a school with laptops from year five to year 12, the etext provision is practical from the point of view of delivering authoritative non-fiction resources where they are needed. In addition, the Warners and EBL library will be easily retrieved once linked with the Aquabrowser© Search and Discovery interface. Our goal is for etexts to sit alongside the other materials – books, videos and articles – where they meet a user’s requirement for information and can satisfy that requirement in the best way possible.
By implementing the etext library in this way we also assume that the laptop may be adequate to read non-fiction in this instance, and rely on our observations of students reading internet texts and other instructions on their computer screens. 

What changes to distribution are envisaged?

In a global environment of rapid technological change it is difficult to predict how etexts will be distributed. The experience of our trial suggests that publishers and internet sellers will compete to deliver the etext in a range of formats and methods. The iPad brings a new dimension to this by virtue of its capacity to provide a range of applications besides the text. In fact, some suggest that we face the demise of text dominance and that multiple streams of content augmented by text is where we may be in a few years. Conventional text literacy will be supplanted by a variety of media literacies.
At present, librarians and consumers will need to come to terms with a variety of formats and devices, with publishers and on-sellers such as Amazon forging their paths independently from one another. A library wishing to implement etext provision would need to implement and manage multiple technical systems of acquisition, access, digital rights management licensing as well as numerous strands of delivery to users. Clearly this will not be a sustainable option if libraries are to survive this change of formats. 

How will content be affected by etexts?

During our trial of the Iliad and Cybook ereaders we did not notice any change to the content of the text compared with hard copy. However, when we look at the shift towards interactive readers such as the Amigo reader and wifi-enabled readers such as the iPad, we see that content will become more multimodal, and social engagement will be facilitated in the model.
A good example of this is the proposed interactivity of Sports Illustrated on the Apple iPad. The model suggests complete interactivity relating to the content, with graphic, textual and video built in. The user will be able navigate the magazine in a hypertextual non-linear way, as though the magazine is responding to him. Information can be shared to social networking sites, which are linked as they are on the conventional internet media.
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Other formats that Penguin and Dorling Kindersley might engage on tablet like devices, suggests that we will interact with our texts in new ways. Here is an example of a proposed model for the Eyewitness Travel Guide. (Fig 26)
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And that interactivity with text will be the norm.
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The models are not yet developed and there is no clear indication when and if the publishers will move towards these models. The appearance and marketing associated with these interactive texts are clearly mainstream and commercial. There may be a new market of consumers for the product, but existing print consumers may not feel the need for engaging with it.
It remains unclear whether these modalities for text are going to be profitable, and how they will compete with traditional hard copy, despite the problems with environmental sustainability for publishers of hard copy print materials. One assumes that if tablet devices become the norm, sufficient market may exist to make the shift toward the etext. However this is not a given as yet. There is also a consideration to be given to the workability and acceptance of mobile readers, as there is a currently a nexus between the device and the content. If the content is not forthcoming for the devices, etexts may pass us by, only to reappear in a completely new way for the next generation. It may be that in a new iteration the linear text no longer will be at the centre of the information, but perhaps a garnish of sorts to link visual video-like experiences, for instance. 

Content changes for academic text

For academic publishing, text book and other linear text, DA Text Services in Melbourne provides options of text bundling – that is, rather than purchasing individual copies of texts, selections can be made from text books to compile a ‘bundle’.
This kind of collection is well suited to university faculties who currently supply photocopied selections to students at a price. A ‘bundle’ to print via Book CafĂ© Machine (at the University of Melbourne Baillieu library) or access online is a convenient way to distribute material. 

What scope is there for working with textbook publishers and the delivery of etext books?

The message is clear that publishers of books, magazines and newspapers are looking to expand their direct marketing to consumers via e-commerce models. This model does not rely on an intermediary such as a library. Our own conversations and dealings with publishers of educational texts indicate that the traditional educational publishing industry is not fully poised to participate in the etext provision, although new organisations such as EBL understand the market for libraries better, and offer flexible models and DRM managed systems to ‘couple’ on to existing library delivery systems.
If publishers are not yet agreed on standardising formats, delivery models, acquisition models for the library sector, there is room for librarians themselves to begin to formulate what formats they require, the desired content, the frequency of use the content may have and the additional modalities that can enhance the experience of etexts.
This requires librarians to work across sectors – schools, academic and public. While the user base may differ, and the products required may be different, all require solutions to fair use of etext, and agreement on formats, standards, and models that improve the provision of quality information to our library users, be they in our library spaces or online. 

New partners for new paradigms

Librarians may also consider that there is an imperative to change the traditional client/provider relationship with publishers and book vendors. As book reading is reported to be on the decline globally (National Endowment for the Arts, 2007), there is a shared goal for both publishers and libraries to sustain and support reading of texts. In addition, while globalisation held out the promise of greater diversity, cost pressures in the publishing industry in the English-speaking world see publishers relying on the marketing of the best seller, where volume generates profits, and title diversity is on the decline. In addition, the Global Financial Crisis generated a downturn in sales, and reported consequences of this in trade journals (Flamm, 2009).
Libraries could partner with publishers, as is currently happening with the Wheeler Centre, to directly market new works, and promote them. This partnership could lead to a revival of the library as a hub, and bring publishers closer to communities.
If libraries and publishers began to serve the readers together, any number of things could be possible. For one, we might begin to address the reasons people read, and the reasons some gifted folk write, and make it possible to connect these people in more diverse ways.