Rethinking virtual libraries

Rethinking virtual libraries

I usually write about product updates and eBook projects that are happening at Datalogics.  This blog is different.  This will be part of my effort in writing about what is going on in the eBook world at large. To me, it is important to share not just product news, but our thoughts and interests with a broad audience including our customers. I welcome your feedback and comments.

My library card has been expired for (I am embarrassed to say) at least 3 years now? The library is literally a few blocks from my house, easy walking distance, but…

My major roadblock is time and effort. Without saying a lot, I drew the analogy of going to brick-and-mortar stores vs. visiting online stores. I admit that when I could make a trip to the library in the past, it was always inspiring to immerse myself in shelves of books and magazines, and satisfying to bring books back (until they were overdue because I either forgot, or got too busy to return them on time). I was very excited some years back to find out that my city library offers eBook services. I like eBooks, not just because I work and breathe in eBooks, but because the convenience is a big draw for me. However, after reading a few, I stopped. eBooks are hard to find, and if I find one, they tend to be out of circulation, and if all of the above problems are solved, there is the process of figuring out which app I want to use to read these books. So I have kind of given up on borrowing eBooks from the library.

This is perhaps why I am really excited about Library Simplified, the result of the collaborative work by a group of public libraries in the States led by the New York Public Library (NYPL). To understand the significance, one has to perhaps understand more how things currently work for libraries and how that affects the good or bad experiences of patrons.

Most public libraries in the United States license content from one of the three large content providers: Overdrive, Bibliotheca, and Baker-Taylor. Each has built a complete solution that can protect and deliver eBooks to patrons on behalf of the library. There are three brands of apps in the market for patrons to choose from to read borrowed eBooks, depending on where the content comes from. This has worked very well to get eBooks into libraries, and over the years, the apps  and content selection have gotten a lot better. It might not feel revolutionary, like how we think that Amazon has revolutionized the retail business, in truth, it has played a key part in participating libraries to the digital age and offering services that millions enjoy – as evident by the millions of downloads each month.

Library Simplified helps bring together content from all sources and aggregates the delivery of this content through a simple app.  Furthermore, with the mix of open source and licensed technologies, a library will have access to these technologies to create apps.  Patrons can use these apps to sign in to the library, browse,  and discover eBooks. They can then use the same app to get and read the eBook.  Not only will this app help deliver a wider selection of content to patrons to improve circulations, it can finally enable the libraries to bring  digital experience to their patrons, directly.  Not to mention that there are tons of free eBooks made available through open eBook projects.

We have yet to see adoptions outside of the NYPL but the potential is immense. Although I still have to brave the unpredictable Chicago weather to get my library card renewed, the trip would be worth it as I’m looking forward to trying out eBooks again from my city library, should the app be made available, wouldn’t you?



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