ALA panel summary: Leading with Ebooks

A few weeks ago at the ALA Annual Conference, Mirela Roncevic, an NSR contributing writer, organized a panel discussion about leading with ebooks.  Panelists included:

  • Jamie LaRue – founder of the Douglas County Libraries Model, a library platform for the management of ebooks.
  • Elizabeth Joseph – recently appointed Coordinator of Information and adult services at The Ferguson Library in Stamford, Connecticut
  • Stuart Smith –  Open Road; featured speaker on Huffington Post Live and is a contributor to multiple literacy blogs.
  • Terry Kirchner – Westchester Library System, Terry has taken the digital leap and fully embraces the potential offered by ebooks.
  • Michael Rockliff set out to become a librarian, and is now Director, School and Library Sales & Marketing at Workman Publishing Company, where he remains happily ensconsed.
  • Yoav Lorch is a writer turned entrepreneur and founder of Total BooX, his third startup.

I enjoyed the initial presentations from both Roncevic and Lorch,  They both agreed to share their slides, which are available here:

Mirela led with a discussion on the difference between a manager and a leader. She provided several examples with regard to ebooks.  For instance, managing ebooks might include words like build, limit, copy, accept, control, or take.  But, leading with ebooks would look more like these words:  create, expand, originate, challenge, inspire, and give. This, of course, relates to both publishers and libraries.

Mirela proposed four concepts on how to lead with ebooks:

  • Think like a READER
  • Promote the AUTHOR
  • Value the BOOK
  • Enable READING

Yoav’s presentation (link to slides above) focused on the art of reading, reading without boundaries, reading without restrictions and rules, and so on.  The visuals in his slides say it all – a patron locked out of the convenience store, a car trunk limiting the space one can use, a book with a self-destruct system set to a timer, and an unavailable wikipedia entry due to 39 holds.

Yoav also discussed alternative solutions, the freeing of content, the focus on connecting readers with books and READING, and alternative solutions that could be part of this ecosystem.  He highlighted, of course, the work of TotalBoox and the ability to use data to make decisions.

Some highlights from the panel conversation:

  • The reader views new reading technologies with the experience of old (print) reading. We need to challenge the assumptions of old paradigm and then develop a mature model. We seem to be stuck in the “first wave” of ebook technology. Total Boox is an example of a company in the “second phase,” one who is challenging the old paradigm.
  • Our current tools are not designed for a new generation of readers. They are designed for designers. The expectations of readers often are crushed. We seem to be creating tech barriers instead of removing them.
  • Marketing ebook content is everyone’s task today. How are we mating ebooks to a reader? Authors do this through social media, creating author videos that might show the life of an author, link to reviews, or related websites.
  • A librarian on the panel commented on the Total Boox model in regard to marketing. With the Total Boox model (paying only for pages read), knowing when a person stops reading a book can help us to foster reading. We can put something more exciting on p. 20 if we see a trend that many stop reading at that point.
  • Total Boox representatives didn’t think the use of that data would be so detailed. He felt it would take librarians a while to learn how to use the data provided by Total Boox, but that knowing which chapters are read could help collection development decisions in future.
  • Publishers are flailing about. Use data can help them flail about in a more organized way.
  • Several panelists supported the idea of fragmented reading, which doesn’t require cover to cover reading.
  • Overall, many felt that one model of reading won’t dominate, that there will be varied ways of reading.

American Libraries also published a summary of the panel discussion.  It’s available here:  Total BooX Hosts an ALA Panel in Las Vegas: New Ebook Strategies for Librarians and Publishers.