Library prepares for shift from paper to digital books PDF Print E-mail
Written by KAREN NADLER COTA Sentinel Lifestyles Editor   
Saturday, 19 October 2013 08:32
Where libraries are concerned, the future is fast becoming the present, and the two look nothing alike.
"In three years, 80 percent of all the books being published may only be available online," Wood County District Library Director Michael Penrod told members of the library Board of Trustees during their monthly meeting Tuesday.
He heard that shocking estimate of the timeline on the inevitable transition from paper to digital at a recent conference of the Ohio Library Council, where the director of the Cincinnati Public Library quoted statistics from a meeting she attended with U.S. publishers.
Penrod describes the 80 percent in three years prediction as "a glacial shift in how people access information," equating it to the staggering effect of the ice age on life on earth.
The most immediate challenge that presents for libraries is the way that the big publishing houses currently price ebooks and make them available to libraries - or not.
According to a handout received by the trustees:
• Penguin makes titles available to libraries for a one-year term at a fair price, but copies expire one year after purchase.
• Harper Collins allows libraries who "purchase" an ebook to lend it only 26 times total. Then they must buy that same title again.
• Macmillan sells 1,200 older titles only; the lending period is two years or 52 times.
The problem is made worse by the fact that not all of the most popular titles are made digitally available to libraries to begin with.
Of the top three books currently on the bestseller list, the number one title is Bill O'Reilly's "Killing Jesus." The library price in paper is $35.99, Kindle price is $11.04 and the ebook is unavailable to public libraries.
The number two book, "Catastrophe 1914" by Max Hastings is $35 in paper, $11.99 on Kindle but a whopping $85 as an ebook for libraries.
"Cuckoo's Calling" by Robert Galbraith (J.K. Rowling) is $28 in paper, $5.99 on Kindle and $78 as a library ebook.
The New York Times' Oct. 13 nonfiction hardcover bestseller list has 16 titles, of which six are unavailable to libraries outside New York City, including numbers one and two on the list.
"We need a pro-business, pro-library solution," Penrod said. "The Ohio Library Council is asking for a very narrow change to the Fair Use Doctrine," which was upheld by the Supreme Court way back in 1908. It stated that when you buy a book it is yours forever to do with as you wish, including loaning it to someone else.
"It's the time limit that bothers me," Penrod added, the idea that "after a year you have to buy the book again" to be able to keep loaning it out.
Penrod also told the board about problems the Ohio Library Consortium, a group of over 200 libraries statewide, has been having with its online catalog system. The system was down, on and off for three weeks during the last month, with users in and outside the Wood County library system "unable to access our own catalog." The fault lies with a Utah-based company that oversees the consortium system and has been outside the local library's control, he said.
The Bowling Green library's recent restoration of the 9 a.m. hour of opening has proved popular. Currently, between 50 and 65 patrons a day come through the door during that first hour, Penrod reported.
Walbridge Branch Library supervisor Matt Mehling was praised for bringing about a brisk increase in programming since he came on board within the last year. The library, which had hosted one book discussion a month, now has three discussion groups. There are weekly arts programs, movie nights, and a new video game club for teen boys which Penrod said is very popular.
Board President Brian Paskvan reported the library's Carter House is getting a lot of use. Penrod agreed, noting it brought in $1,800 in rental income during August and September, the first two months that public rentals were allowed, which is sufficient to cover expenses.
The Carter House's recent third open house was attended by more than 100 people.
The board also learned:
• A new Ohio Digital Library will debut on Nov. 7, replacing two previous digital libraries which are merging.
• During winter 2014 the WCDPL will again be a tax-preparation site manned by volunteers trained by the United Way.
• Sometime in January the BG Chamber of Commerce will hold a business After-Hours event at the library on the topic of cyber-security,

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