Nooks and the Print Disabled (the elephant in the room)

I’ve been thinking about the issue of providing access to materials for the hard of sight while balancing those needs with those of the Library and the community. This stemmed from a bunch of comments on the ALA Council Listerv, some in person, and one or two on my blog. The issue is pretty serious, especially since the National Society for the Blind is threatening to sue any library that starts a Nook lending library. I have a couple of thoughts on this whole problem and of course I have some solutions that I’d love to hear your thoughts on.

First of all, let me make this one clear – On many forums I have read that libraries should offer Kindles instead of Nooks. This argument is brought up because some of the Kindle Content and the device itself at least has some features to help the sight impaired. However, this is NOT going to happen. I have a lot of issues with both Kindles and Amazon and some of their practices. They also will not work with libraries in any kind of meaningful way. They continuously change their terms of agreement and if you get one representative to give you the go ahead, you still run the risk of another saying no AFTER you buy all the Kindles. Of course Buffy Hamilton lays it all out here too. I have read way too many horrible library stories against both Amazon and Kindle to use those.

Updated – *I am having people comment that Kindles are NOT print disabled friendly, my paragraph above was in response to messages that people have sent me that said that they were and that therefore we should provide Kindles instead of Nooks. Either way, it’s not a viable solution*

There was a comment on my blog that we force Barnes and Noble to make the device navigable for the blind. I would love this to happen, however I have a doubt that it’s going to happen anytime soon, or soon enough, but I would love people to keep the pressure up so please keep that fight going!

One of my most basic (and least favorite) solutions is that most libraries offer access to the same content through a multitude of other systems that work for the sight impaired. Some of the ones that I can think of are, CD audio books, Playaways, and downloadable audio books on computers and other MP3 devices. If the same content is made available in audio version, would this be a way to ensure that we are properly serving the needs of the Hard of Sight Community? This question admittedly comes out of ignorance, and I’d love to hear people’s thoughts on this specifically.

In California we also have an amazing library that we can get a wide range of materials from for our patrons. The California State Library loans braille, cassette and digital talking books, magazines and playback equipment to Californians unable to read conventional print. I know that this solution may not be the same as the Nooks, but I think people will be able to get the resources a lot faster than they would a Nook since the waitlist for most Nook devices is crazy if Sacramento Public Library is any indication of its success.

Here is my real thought for a solution though. We could offer materials via something like an Ipod Nano. They would hold a high amount of material just like a Nook, but in audio format. If I’m reading these reports right, then I think this would be a very legitimate solution. But really, I’d like to hear people’s thoughts on this before we go out and buy them.

The library (and me), love serving all people in our community and we really strive to do just that. We are navigating a new environment and I would love to hear people’s legitimate solutions before we start running around suing each other. We are here to help each other learn and grow and we can do that together by crowdsourcing some solutions. Help me come up with some solutions team.

Libraries – Arguments for the Check-Out of eReaders.

Great post by Bobbi Newman (eReader circ would solve these issues too)

This is the post where I defend our library’s decision to Loan Nooks and make the argument that we should drop eBook circulation altogether. I know there are a bunch of reasons why people are going to argue that we shouldn’t check out eReaders and not to Drop Overdrive so I’m going to handle each of the ones that I have encountered here. (Later I’m going to argue for all the reasons why this solves all of our problems with eBooks)

We didn’t check out VCR’s why should we check out Nooks?
First, I would make the argument that maybe we should have. Then I’m going to ignore that statement, not defend it, and move on to my real argument. We check out books. The thing that we are checking though really, is not the book itself. We aren’t in the business of giving people access to cardboard and paper, that’s just the container for the information inside and it’s a container filled with information that we are checking out to our patrons. In the same way, the Nook is the container for the information in the digital age. Pre-Loaded Nooks are just a book with plastic and metal as the container instead of paper and cardboard. In contrast, a DVD Player, VCR, TV, Game Console, have no content within the devices. A pre-loaded eReader does though.

I hate eReaders, make them check out a book!
Strangely, I’ve heard this the most. We need to realize that information comes in many forms, some we love, some we hate. Personally I’m not a fan of eReaders either. But that’s not really my job. I’m not here to force people to have the same warm fuzzy experiences I had when I was child, I’m here to provide a service to my community. Specifically, I’m here to allow people to have access to information to help them become the people that they have the power to become. If they want to do it with information contained in an eReader format, that’s what I’m gonna give’em.

Nooks require a computer to upload books from Overdrive
Temporary access to digital books through a clunky program is a bad, horrible model of librarianship and luckily it’s only our first try. We can do better, and we can provide digital content through the circulation of eReaders instead of providing access through a horrible circulation model governed by publishers and a shaky (at best) product. We won’t even need Overdrive and our patron’s won’t need a computer if we just circulate pre-loaded eReaders.

People won’t come to the Library to get eReaderss
Well… I think they will. If they can check out every book on Lizards in the entire library system for their science project with one check-out, or every mystery novel written in the last ten years, or ALL of the current New York Times bestsellers with one trip to the library, then I think they will do it. Also, it solved a problem that the publishers recently whined about on a recent New York Times Article – “Ms. Hirschhorn says the reason publishers didn’t worry about lost sales from library lending of print books is that buying a book is easier — no return trip is needed to the bookstore.” Problem solved.

Anyway, those are the big four arguments that I have heard against circulating eReaders at a library. But I am 93.4% convinced that this is the model that we need to follow in the digital age. If you want hard statistical evidence of its success rate, get on the waitlist for a Nook at Sacramento Public Library. The wait for those is as long as my… Well, It’s long.