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.

Librarians, Tell Amazon to Piss Off And Go Buy Nooks!

Libraries need to get away from Amazon and Kindles and jump on board with Nooks. I’m not saying this for any reason except that Barnes and Noble is a much better company for libraries to partner with. If you want to see reasons why you shouldn’t bother with Kindles, then you should watch this video from Sarah Houghton But I’m not going to make that argument myself. I’ve had enough with all that. Instead I’m going to tell you all the reasons that I loved working with Barnes and Noble to get our eReader lending program going with a collection of Nooks. I’m not even going to defend the collection itself (I’ll do that in another post)

First of all, this whole thing started because someone just called my library one day and offered us $4,000 from a Cable Co-Op grant for no good reason at all. They just wanted us to use the money for some kind of technology. I offered the idea of eReaders and they went for it. Not only did they go for it, but so did my administration (since they didn’t have to pay for it anyway).

Click here for Sacramento PL's Guide to Nook Lending

So, I spent about 6-7 months procrastinating and watching the eReader environment play out for a while and it didn’t look like it was going well. The Kindles/Overdrive/Amazon/Publishers debacle was killing my enthusiasm for the project. I researched what I thought was everyone’s experience with Amazon and Kindle because using those was my original intention. Buffy Hamilton told me about her experience with Amazon and so did a bunch of other librarians. They had everything from really positive experiences to really bad ones. Soon, I realized that the very bad stories started to outweigh the positive few and I was getting worried. I started to HATE this project and put it off even longer.

Finally, I found out about Sacramento Public’s Nook Lending collection at the California Library Association Conference and I spent some time watching their presentations and talking to the Barnes and Noble reps that were there. They were enthusiastic to work with libraries and librarians to put these collections together. They had ideas and wanted to share them. They spoke candidly and told me all of their concerns with the pressure from publishers and what I should expect in the future.

A couple of weeks later I called my local Barnes and Noble and I got exactly the same treatment! I couldn’t believe it! I was guided to the closest Barnes and Noble with a Community Relations Manager (CRM – Key word to me being “Community”) who then guided me through the whole process of ordering the maximum number of Nooks I could order, while balancing with gift cards for the purchasing of eBooks from the website. They are even coming to our library to give my staff a hands-on training on how to use the Nooks. They even went so far as to offer to teach classes to the public about how to use the Nooks! To say I was impressed was an unimaginable understatement. I know they’re just trying to sell more Nooks, but they won me over! Also, they bought me and the employee that I brought with me a coffee. Nothing buys a librarian’s love like free coffee.

If you want to start a Nook collection, call your local Barnes and Noble and ask to speak to a CRM (Community Relations Manager). If your experience is half of what mine was, this would make them the best vendor on the planet.

Starting an E-Reader Lending Library

This is my grant narrative for the East Palo Alto E-Reader Lending Library. This opportunity arose because a neighboring library had a friends group with unspent funds from a grant. The money needed to go towards the implementation of some kind of technology. Basically, I know that a few other librarians have started some kind e-reader lending library and I wanted to jump into the e-reader fiasco sooner rather than later (we saw what happened to borders) so I put this grant idea together.

Short Description –
A set of E-readers with high-demand subject-specific content pre-loaded to check-out to community members.

Long Description -
The East Palo Alto Library, as a branch of the San Mateo County Library, seeks to create innovative and exciting collections to engage our users in ways that meet their changing needs. We have established unique collections as part of the East Palo Alto Library that includes a Seed Library, circulating laptops, and a newly implemented Guitar Lending Library. By expanding our unique collections to pre-loaded and high-demand subject-specific e-readers we are seeking to engage the public with resources that they may otherwise lack access to. Some of these non-fiction resources would include career- and job-seeking guides, as well as cooking, entrepreneurship, business management, and travel guides. Besides non-fiction, the East Palo Alto Library has a high demand for some genres and authors of fiction materials as well. Some of these include many urban fiction series, mysteries, thrillers, and various authors within these genres. These kinds of collections can help adults with their educational and recreational resource needs.

Besides providing e-readers with content that is exciting to adults, some e-readers would be pre-loaded with many titles and genres that would interest children and teens. Children are growing up in the information age and are considered information natives in the ways in which they interact with digital mediums. With this understanding we can appeal to the techno-appeal of digital environments by providing student resources, picture books, early-readers, and fiction materials for both teens and children.

It is also becoming increasingly evident that seniors are re-discovering the joys of reading through the use of e-readers. These devices are becoming more simplistic to use for those older adults not familiar with digital media and as the boomers (who are techno-savy) age, we are seeing an increase in retirees with strong computer skills who are enjoying reading on digital devices. Also attractive, is that the easy-to-read e-ink text on the devices can be effortlessly increased in size for easier reading for individuals who may have hardships of sight.

E-readers also lend the library with interesting and new opportunities for collection development. The “collections” kept on the e-readers can vary widely and because an e-reader can hold up to 3,500 books, many varied collections can be kept on one e-reader. These collections are easily and cheaply interchanged if needed and can be supplemented with many of the free e-book resources found online as well as through access to the library’s Overdrive digital book resource. These kinds of innovations will allow the library to continuously interchange collections while not being forced to throw away or weed existing collections thereby creating a greener organization as well.

My big questions that remain are…

  • What percentage of funds do I put towards the pre-loaded e-reader collection?
  • What percentage of funds do I put towards e-readers?
  • And most importantly, which e-reader do I purchase?
  • The third question seems to be the most difficult one to answer. Do I go with popularity (Kindle), ease of use (Nook), more exciting for children (Nook Color), and there are so many other variables that I really don’t know where to begin to start researching this. So I purposefully left out, which device I’m planning on purchasing.

    More info…
    If you haven’t followed ALL the e-reader debate in its all encompassing and over-passionate glory (neither have I, it’s just too overwhelming) here are some good places to start.

    Stephen’s Lighthouse
    Amazon to Launch Library Lending for Kindle Books

    Heather Braum
    Discriminating Against Libraries 26 ebook Circs at a time

    Jason Griffey
    EBooks Dominate as Most Popular Format?

    Librarian in Black
    Questions we should be asking about Kindle Library Lending

    Librarian by Day
    Some Questions for Overdrive and Amazon about the Kindle Lending Library

    Agnostic Maybe
    Houston We Have a Problem

    Librarian in Black
    EBook User’s Bill of Rights

    Librarian By Day
    Publishing Industry Forces OverDrive and Other Library eBook Vendors to Take a Giant Step Back



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