ebooks, libraries, and the discount rate

Evolution of Readers
Creative Commons License John Blyberg via Compfight

The other day I was listening to a Planet Money podcast episode, and they were talking about a new-to-me financial term: the discount rate. As they described it, this is “the rate you use to size up future costs.”

This morning I read a blog/essay by cartoonist Dave Kellett (who draws the nerdy-fun comic Sheldon) which argued that ebooks in libraries would be the death of the traditional publishing industry. As he put it, “The internet has shown, again and again, that the average consumer always tends toward the cheaper, faster solution. And all things being equal between delivery systems, there’s no debate which one is more advantageous for the individual: The borrowed copy.”

Not long after reading this essay, I attended a training session by one of our ebook vendors, during which at one point they mentioned that the cost for MUPO books (multiple simultaneous user access; essentially a site-license) as being only 150% of list price, which in their words is a good deal. I held my breath for a moment, as I knew the cost of MUPO had been contentious in internal discussions in the recent past. However, the moment passed without comment.

All of these bits and pieces began churning in my mind until finally I reached a rather shocking to me conclusion: 150% of list price for unlimited simultaneous user access is an amazing deal, particularly now that these ebooks are becoming more functional for the users.

Think about it — for the cost of half of a second copy, any number of our users can view, download, print, copy, and even read the same book at the same time. In the print world, at best you might get four people reading the same copy a book at the same time if you could smoosh together close enough and the font size wasn’t too small. Or, you’d buy multiple copies for class reading assignments that would then end up being discarded when the curriculum changed.

How could I go from thinking that ebooks shouldn’t cost more than print to thinking that MUPO pricing is a good deal? Well, my discount rate changed. When I thought about it from the perspective of copies saved rather than prices increased, it made the cost difference seem less heinous.

webcomics I think you should be reading

Earlier this week I shared with you recommendations of webcomics that the panel at RavenCon recommended, which were, for the most part, new to me. Here is my current list of must-reads:

  • Alien Loves Predator – using action figures from the Alien and Predator movies, this comic tells the story of two guys who are friends and roommates in modern-day NYC
  • DAR: A Super Girly Top Secret Comic Diary – autobiographical, irreverant, and geeky
  • The Devil’s Panties – autobiographical, irreverant, and geeky — and frequently located at science fiction & fantasy conventions
  • Girls With Slingshots – “two girls, a bar, and a talking cactus”
  • My Life In A Cube – office humor, often drawn on used office materials or other found objects
  • Questionable Content – indie rock, coffee, hipsters, and complicated relationships — also, wicked funny
  • Sheldon – about a young, geeky genious living with his grandfather, a talking duck with an adopted lizard, and a pug — I don’t know what it is about the writing, but it cracks me up every time
  • Shelf Check – social commentary and public library worklife
  • Unshelved – written by a librarian, drawn by a cartoonist
  • User Friendly – poorly drawn, but often rather amusing glimpses of the trials and tribulations of working at a small ISP
  • Wondermark – historical line drawings remixed with a healthy dose of humor and pacing
  • xkcd – “a webcomic of romance, sarcasm, math, and language”

shhh, kitty! (#12 & #13)

In which I reference reviews of a memoir by a librarian and a book of cat excuses.

I finally finished reading Scott Douglas’ Quiet, Please: Dispatches from a Public Librarian this week, and right after that, Everyday Cat Excuses: Why I Can’t Do What You Want by Molly Brandenburg arrived in the mail. I’ve found that Saturday morning is the best time for me to write, so yesterday I worked on writing the reviews of both, which have now been published on Blogcritics.

Quiet, Please:

I am a university librarian at a small private school, but I still felt the sting of his between the lines reprimand. Librarians sometimes need a wake-up call to remind ourselves of what it is that we are supposed to be doing — providing information and resources to all of our users. So often we place roadblocks to prevent that from happening, and many examples of that are in Douglas’ book. As he shows, these roadblocks mainly stem from a rigid adherence to rules versus considerate compassion and an understanding of the user’s needs.

Everyday Cat Excuses:

The cartoons are simple line drawings of stylized cats in minimalist locations. The captions are in block print, and occasionally there are thought balloons for the cats. It is a cartoonist representation of deadpan humor, and it works well, considering the subject.