Saturday, November 7, 2009

E-book technology is accelerating. Libraries understanding and use of this technology needs to keep pace

While I’ve been traveling much of the last month (I apologize for the lack of postings), much has been happening that is worthy of note in the area of e-book technologies.

Barnes and Noble
introduced their new Nook e-book reader, a device bearing many similarities to the Amazon Kindle, but with some notable advances. These include a portion of the screen that will display color, the ability to lend books you’ve bought to friends, the ability to read entire books for free in a Barnes and Noble store using a wireless connection and last but certainly not least, support for MP3s, PDF’s and ePub and PDB files. These are all significant new advances and the device, which is to be available late this month (November) will further accelerate the adoption of e-books by readers.

Of equal importance is another announcement this week by Marvell and E Ink of a new agreement that “raises the technology bar. This is a total platform solution—including Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, 3G modem, and power management. The Armada e-reader has the potential to deliver the first mass market product accessible and affordable to billions of consumers around the world." Speculation is that instead of the current $250 price for e-book readers, this new technology will bring the prices down into the $100 range.

The pace of technology advancement in the area of e-books is accelerating rapidly and as a result, it is going to change reading habits, methodologies, research and discovery of people. These are all places where librarianship should and can be playing a leading role. With that statement in mind, I’d encourage you to read the article in the October issue of American Libraries magazine entitled “
E-readers in Action”. The article, which highlights the efforts of Penn State to use e-books raises many valid issues concerning the use of e-book technology in libraries. But after reading it, I would ask you to think about what could have been done differently in this case to have made this a more satisfactory experience both for the readers and the library? I personally see quite a few things I would have done differently. Before I put forth my ideas, I invite yours. Comment on this post and I’ll follow up with another post summarizing your ideas and sharing my ideas on what libraries need to be doing to successfully use this new technology.