Wednesday, June 15, 2011

OverDrive to Streamline Library eBook Lending, Selection

Library eBook vendor OverDrive announced "OverDrive WIN" today, a major enhancement and simplification of its eBook ecosystem for libraries, which will soon face competition from 3M and others in the rush to meet patron demand for eBooks.

The service will finally eliminate the need for libraries to order or patrons to understand the various eBook or audiobook formats, needing only to select "eBook" or "audiobook". More free eBooks will be added to the OverDrive system, as will free eBook samples from publishers, and the previously announced support for Amazon's Kindle devices.

Two very interesting features were announced that would answer some of the biggest complaints from patrons about the current OverDrive system:
the long reserve lists for titles in the system, and titles missing altogether. New 'always available' eBook collections would allow simultaneous access of titles (rather than requiring libraries to predict the demand for titles and scale their purchases accordingly). Finally, OverDrive WIN would include a patron driven acquisition system to allow readers to immediately borrow or recommend a title.

It all sounds very nice, but we'll have to wait for full details (hopefully including pricing) to be revealed at the ALA Annual Conference next week.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Barnes & Noble's NEW Nook eReader

Barnes & Noble announced the new model of its basic Nook eReader today. In place of the rather heavy two-screen first gen nook, the new model uses a touchscreen and is thinner and lighter (and probably much cheaper to produce) than the original. The new Nook does its wireless using wifi only, replacing the more costly 3G service on the original Nook. The price is unchanged at $139 (unsold first gen Nooks are available for $119).

The new Nook is a little wider and heavier than the new Kobo eReader, but otherwise the specs of eReaders are starting to line up pretty closely. I guess this is the sign of a mature market-- like when cars all started using steering wheels instead of the occasional tiller.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Kobo Announces New eReader Touch Edition

Kobo has announced the Kobo eReader Touch Edition, a 6 inch eInk reader equipped with wifi and a touch screen, with a list price of $129. It continues Kobo's steady progress in building the strong alternative to offerings by Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

This product seems directly aimed at the Sony Reader Touch edition, which lacks wifi and retails for $229-- $100 more than the Kobo.

Sony has set a pretty high standard for eReader touchscreen usability, and it will be interesting to see how the Kobo measures up after it reaches the market in "early June".

Sunday, May 22, 2011

enTourage Edges Off the Stage

enTourage Systems has announced it's exiting the eBook and eBook Reader market, closing the book (sorry!) on one of the more innovative eReaders so far. Literally combining an eInk eBook Reader and a small tablet computer with a hinge, the Edge and smaller Pocket Edge Readers were hindered by higher-than-the-competition weight and prices.

Although it seemed to offer many interesting possibilities for combining reading and study, it never caught on as an e-textbook reader and was reduced to competing head-on with general purpose eReaders costing half as much.

Friday, May 20, 2011

3M Announces Cloud Library eBook Lending Service

3M has announced the Cloud Library eBook lending service, which will be unveiled at the ALA Conference next month. The press release describes the service as combining content from Random House and other "leading publishers" with special in-library Discovery Terminals and, most intriguingly, a "3M eBook Reader for Libraries" that could be checked out to patrons.

This follows rumors that Overdrive was also considering offering a branded eReader device, and looks like competing eBook ecosystems might be developing for libraries.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

eBooks Outsell Printed Books on Amazon

Amazon announced today that Kindle eBooks are now outselling printed books on Amazon US. Coming less than four years after the introduction of the Kindle, and less than a year after eBooks first topped paperback sales on Amazon, it confirms that the book business is making the transition to electronic formats faster than the music business before it.

It's been an astonishing four years, and one can only imagine that the next four will see equally rapid change as the book market becomes centered on eBooks and print retreats into various niches.

For libraries, I think the time frame is important because this market transition is happening so much faster than many of today's cash-strapped libraries can adapt to it. If we don't want to be relegated to niche status as well, we have to re-tool much faster than we have been in the past.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

BN Exec: Publishing to "Totally Shift" to e-formats

At the GigaOm Big Data conference this week, Marc Parrish of Barnes & Noble predicted the publishing business will "totally shift" to electronic formats over the next 24 months, faster than the transition to digital by the music and movie industries. (Presumably he meant eBooks would become the dominant, rather than sole format.)

It's notable that futurist predictions can now being made for radical changes occurring over a period of months rather than years or decades!

An interesting aside was that he projected that 35% of "readers" will own an eBook reader by the end of this year-- however "reader" is defined, it's a reminder that the book market (and libraries) are driven by a relatively small group of consumers.