I’m Tired of Talking About eBooks


ebooks2Is this what it felt like to those librarians in the profession when the internet came about?  When I started this blog in 2008, I felt like I would never run out of things to write about.  This profession is so varied and vast, how could we possibly cover it all?  Now, all I read is more and more about eBooks.  Certainly, this is something we all need to talk about, because libraries are getting royally screwed, but I also feel like being so singularly focused on one thing that’s not really working out, is talking the wind out of my sails.

Perhaps I’m alone in this, but I don’t think I am.

My state library consortium recently reallocated half of the state database budget to buy eBooks. Now reference librarians are being asked, “what databases do you absolutely need to do your job?”  Of course, that’s not a guarantee that we’ll get to keep them, it’s just important to have all the facts before doing the chopping.  I realize that the role of the public library is shifting away from reference as we knew it, but do we really want to just become an eBook borrowing website?

The funny thing is, eBooks only make up tiny part of my day-to-day, but I think about them constantly.  Lately, I’ve been spending the bulk of my time weeding, shifting and buying physical books.  Patrons keep me busy requesting books, locating books and asking for recommendations but only a very small number ask me about downloading.

A recent New York Times article about eBooks included this line, which actually made me laugh out loud, “How about the immensely popular novel “Fifty Shades of Grey” by E. L. James? Thirty-three people were waiting for the e-book on the Seattle Public Library’s site.”  In my library system, there are over 500 holds for the physical copy, and less than 100 for the four eBooks.

This blog has been lying fallow for a while, because it seems like as a profession, we are only having one conversation these days, and I’m just as much to blame as everyone else.  I’m challenging myself, and you, gentle reader, to bring something else to the table.  We can still fret over eBooks, that’s certainly not going away, but lets focus on something else as well–something positive.

8 Responses to “I’m Tired of Talking About eBooks”

  1. 1 Robert

    So true!!! We (meaning everyone) need(s) access to authoritative databases…not more e-book fluff fiction. It’s the old google-will-solve-everything position. Tut.

  2. 2 Paula

    I’m curious why we don’t hear m/any authors commenting on the topic.

  3. 3 Melanie

    If only people understood what reference really does. People are always amazed when they get help with something they didn’t think fell under the banner. Reference isn’t just for research in giant dusty tomes!

  4. I asked library advocate and Harper Collins author Marilyn Johnson for her opinion when the HC debacle first started, and she has been very vocal about her displeasure with the whole thing:

  5. I’m so tired of the discussion too. It’s just as bad in medical libraries…ebooks are supposedly the hot thing, yet I can’t get a physician to touch it with a 10 foot pole. But it’s the only thing my vendors are pushing. That and mobile apps. It’s hard to explain to vendors/other librarians that not every library is technologically or financially, or even emotionally, ready to make that jump.

  6. @Lizy It’s exactly like that at the university where I work. We’ve bought tons of eBooks for students to use for research, and they want nothing to do with them. This age group should be the ones that want e-content the most, but they also often print out any articles they find and only want to deal with paper books. Honestly, if all of your research is e-content and Ebsco goes down 1 hour before your paper is due, you quickly learn that electronic may not always be better.

  7. We’ve started providing e-books on our website (and more recently downloadable e-books) and they are very popular as most of our users are remote. If they are UK based they can borrow books by post which takes time in the post and involves postal charges, but we don’t lend outside the UK so this service is invaluable to our growing number of overseas members and students.

  8. I remember a few years ago when manufacturers tried to introduce e-books and failed miserably. I think this was back when I was in Library School which was in 2000. Then the manufacturers went back to the drawing board and made a comeback.

    When I tried and tested the first generation of the Nook e-readers my first impression was that it could be a little better. I am a heavy reader. I knew that the reader was hard to navigate. But when the first generation nook color came out or it might have been another generation nook before it, I think it was a major game change. It got people more interested.

    I think that as librarians we should begin to move slowly in regards to purchasing and incorporating e-books and readers into our libraries. There is one fundamental point we are missing. The e-books are way too expensive. The e-book is an electronic format. The publisher is not incurring any costs or the costs are low compared to the printing of paper and the transport of books to the store. So why then, are so many newly published e-books cost almost twenty dollars?

    Public Libraries and Librarians are MAJOR forces in the publishing industry. The publishing houses and bookstore chains are steering this e-book conversation in the way THEY want it to go. Which I believe will cost the libraries money in the future.

    Librarians are doing the publishers a BIG favor. I order new books every spring for summer reading. I market books by suggesting titles to patrons. I order the popular series books over and over again because they go missing. Also I order books that run in double digit volumes such as the japanese manga. My library orders multiple copies of books, because we have multiple branches in our library system. Think about it all of us across the country are doing the exact same thing. Bottom line is that librarians are a top source of marketing and INCOME for publishers.

    How DARE any publisher tell librarians and libraries that we are only going to allow libraries purchase 26 copies of e-books!!

    Please forgive me I can be long winded. Thank you for allowing me to post.


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