library[1] “Oliver” at the Krafty Librarian has coverage of a discussion from a recent webinar concerning how libraries and librarians are relating to e-books. Though he mainly comes at the issue from a medical and academic librarian’s perspective, the points he mentions are largely universal to all types of libraries.

A large part of it was factors relating to the “Tower of E-Babel” problem we’ve mentioned plenty of times before. DRM with arbitrary restrictions on what can be done with particular books, differing platforms with different access requirements. How books can be found via catalogs and search engines was also a consideration.

A couple of other issues had to do with how the books are sold. Some publishers feature package deals that annoy librarians who don’t want to pay for books they don’t want. And sometimes the content of books is different between printed and electronic versions, with one version having material the other lacks.

The librarians noted that these issues affected not only them, but also caused varying degrees of difficulty for patrons seeking to make use of the material—especially professors using it in classes. I find it interesting that most librarians don’t seem to be concentrating on books for specific reader devices such as the Kindle or Nook. They’re more focused on curriculum and need, and find that a lot of people still read them on desktops or laptops.

As I mentioned a little while ago, my time in the tech support trenches has re-emphasized to me just how tricky the morass of differing e-book formats and availabilities we have today can be for those who aren’t technically-inclined. I find it interesting that even librarians, the information-retrieval specialists of our time, are running into similar issues.


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