VLACRL Spring 2011: Building an eReaders Collection at Duke University Libraries

They started lending ereaders because they wanted to provide a way for users to interact with new and emerging technologies.

Speaker: Nancy Gibbs

They started lending ereaders because they wanted to provide a way for users to interact with new and emerging technologies. The collection focus is on high circulation popular reading titles, and they do add patron requests. Recently, they added all of the Duke University Press titles, per the request of the university press. (Incidentally, not all of the Duke UP titles are available in Kindle format because Amazon won’t allow them to sell a book in Kindle format until it has sold 50 print copies.)

They marketed their ereader program through word of mouth, the library website, the student paper, and the communications office. The communications press release was picked up by the local newspaper. They also created a YouTube video explaining how to reserve/check-out the ereaders, and gave presentations to the teaching & learning technologists and faculty.

For the sake of consistency and availability of titles, they purchase one copy of a title for every pod of six Kindle ereaders. Amazon allows you to load and view a Kindle book on up to six devices, which is how they arrived at that number. For the Nooks, they can have a book loaded on apparently an unlimited number of devices, so they purchase only one copy of a title from Barnes & Noble. They try to have the same titles on both the Kindles and the Nooks, but not every title available for purchase on the Kindle is also available on the Nook. Each of the books purchased is cataloged individually, with the location as the device it is on, and they will appear to be checked out when the device is checked out.

When they first purchased the devices and were figuring out the local workflow of purchasing and loading the content, the tech services department (acquisitions, cataloging, etc.) were given the devices to experiment with them. In part, this was to sort out any kinks in workflow that they may discover, but also it was because these folks don’t often get the chance to play with new technology in the library as their public service counterparts do. Gibbs recommends that libraries purchase insurance options for the devices, because things can happen.

One of the frustrations with commercial ereader options like the Kindle and Nook is that they are geared towards individual users and not library use. So, unlike other ebook providers and platforms, they do not give the library any usage data regarding the books used, which can make collection development in these areas somewhat challenging. However, given that their scope is popular reading material and that they take patron requests, this is not as much of an issue as it could be.

Side note: Gibbs pointed out that ebook readers are still not yet greener than print books, mostly because of the toxicity of the materials and the amount of resources that go into producing them. EcoLibris has a great resource page with more information about this.

CIL 2011: Three Keys to Engaging Digital Natives

Speaker: Michelle Manafry

It doesn’t matter how cool you are, at some point you will find yourself sounding like your parents. “In my day, we had to look things up in the catalog.” That’s okay — there differences in the generations.

Tara Hunt says, “Andy Warhol’s saying, ‘everyone will be famous for 15 minutes’ has changed to ‘everyone will be famous to 15 people.'” This did not start with the internet. It was already heading that way from the therapist’s couch to Jerry Springer. It’s no surprise that reality TV is so popular.

It might seem dangerous to be sharing so much information, but it also provides the opportunity to crowdsource for good.

One way libraries can blur the lines and bring the social aspect to their communities is by using social sign-on instead of anonymous browsing or a lengthy registration process. This allows them to integrate the users’ social community into the website and take it back to their social networks. They can become your advocates out in the world.

This generation is interested in knowledge sharing, not knowledge hoarding. For example, the trend of haul videos on YouTube shows a very engaged user base. This is innovation on their own terms. Quirky is an organization/site for social product development. Users submit ideas and the community decides on which one will be created and sold. Not only do the inventors earn money, but also the people who were involved in deciding on the product, because nothing gets made if no one will buy it and the selection process is a huge part of the product development.

Knowledge alone is not power. Knowledge shared is power. We ignore this at our peril.

This generation has more faith in the things it is involved in creating. This generation is interested in interactions, not transactions.

Social capitalism is an emerging economy based on ratings and interactions. We need to be aware of and involved in this new economy. Many libraries are adopting ways to engage with users, from resource guides to chat services.

#11

I’m Off Then: Losing and Finding Myself on the Camino de Santiago by Hape Kerkeling

I’ll bet you thought I forgot about this whole 50 books thing. No, it’s just that once again, my intentions are much more noble than reality. I have also been rather poor at reporting on the books I’ve read this year, but most of the time, I assume I’m the only one who really cares about all this, anyway.

#11 is I’m Off Then: Losing and Finding Myself on the Camino de Santiago by Hape Kerkeling, translated by Shelley Frisch. This one landed on my doorstep the other week as the latest in a slow trickle of review books coming in from Library Journal. (You can search for my recent reviews, if you’re so inclined.) A little uncertain about it at first, I quickly found myself lost in the story and read it cover to cover in one sitting.

Kerkeling is a German comedy performer of some renown. Not being up on my European comedians (aside from nearly memorizing all of Eddie Izzard’s routines on YouTube), I hadn’t heard of the fellow before this book. After failing to track down any recording of a performance in English or with subtitles, I gave up. Considering that my German linguistic skills are virtually nil, I’m not surprised I hadn’t heard of him before. (If you are interested, Amazon has a short interview with him in English.)

The book is essentially the diary he wrote while hiking the Camino de Santiago in 2001. It’s not strictly a recording of events and people from the pilgrimage, but the stories he tells about his background and prior experiences add import to the things that happen to him on the trail. By the end of the story, I felt as though Kerkeling was a long-lost friend with whom I had recently reunited over a cup of coffee. In many ways, this book reminded me of Kelly Winters’ Walking Home, and that is a good thing.

Pandora Town Hall (Richmond, VA)

Open question/answer forum with Tim Westergren, the founder of the Music Genome Project and Pandora Internet Radio.

June 29, 2009
approx 100 attending
free t-shirts! free burritos from Chipotle!

Tim Westergren, founder of Pandora

His original plan was to get in a car & drive across country to find local music to add to Pandora, but it wasn’t quite as romantic as he thought it would be. On the way home, he planned a meetup on the fly using the Pandora blog, and since then, whenever he visits a new city, he organizes get together like this one.

Tim is a Stanford graduate and a musician, although he didn’t study it specifically. He spent most of his 20s playing in bands, touring around the country, but not necessarily as a huge commercial success. It’s hard to get on the radio, and radio is the key to professional longevity. Eventually, he shifted to film score composition, which required him to analyze music and break it down into components that represent what is happening on the screen. This generated the idea of a musical genome.

The Music Genome Project was launched in 2000 with some seed money that lasted about a year. Eventually, they ran out of money and couldn’t pay their 45 employees. They tried several different ways to raise money, but nothing worked until some venture investors put money into it in 2004. At that point, they took the genome and repurposed it into a radio (Pandora) in 2005.

They have never advertised — it has all been word of mouth. They now add about 65,000 new listeners per day! They can see profitability on the horizon. Pandora is mainly advertising supported. The Amazon commissions provide a little income, but not as much as you might think they would.

There are about 75,000 artists on the site, and about 70% are not on a major label. The song selection is not based on popularity, like most radio, but rather on the elements of the songs and how they relate to what the user has selected.

Playlists are initially created by the song or artists musical proximity to begin with, and then is refined as the user thumbs up or down songs. Your thumbs up and down effect only the station you are listening to, and it effects whatever the rest of the playlist was going to be. They use the over-all audience feedback to adjust across the site, but it’s not as immediate or personalized.

They have had some trouble with royalties. They pay both publishing and performer royalties per song. They operate under the DMCA, including the royalty structure. Every five years, a committee determines what the rate will be for the next year. In July 2007, the committee decided to triple the ratings and made it retroactive. It essentially bankrupted the company.

Pandora called upon the listeners to help them by contacting their congressional representative to voice opposition to the decision. Congress received 400,000 faxes in three days, breaking the structure on the Hill for a week! Their phones were ringing all day long! Eventually, they contacted Pandora to make it stop. They are now finishing up what needs to be done to bring the royalty back to something more reasonable. (Virtually all the staffers on Capitol Hill are Pandora users — made it easy to get appointments with congress members.)

Music comes to Pandora from a variety of sources. They get a pile of physical and virtual submissions from artists. They also pay attention to searches that don’t result in anything in their catalog, as well as explicit suggestions from listeners.

They have a plan to offer musicians incentives to participate. For example, if someone thumbs up something, there would be a pop-up that suggest checking out a similar (or the same) band that is playing locally. Most of the room would opt into emails that let them know when bands they like are coming to town. Musicians could see what songs are being thumbed up or down and where the listeners are located.

Listener suggestion: on the similar artists pages, provide more immediate sampling of recommendations.

What is the cataloging backlog? It takes about 8-10 weeks, and only about 30% of what is submitted makes it in. They select based on quality: for what a song is trying to do, does it do it well? They know when they’ve made a wrong decision if they don’t include something and a bunch of people search for it.

Pandora is not legal outside of the US, but many international users fake US zip codes. However, in order to avoid lawsuits, they started blocking by IP. As soon as they implemented IP blocking, they received a flood of messages, including one from a town that would have “Pandora night” at a local club. (The Department of Defense called up and asked them to block military IP ranges because Pandora was hogging the bandwidth!)

Why are some songs quieter than others? Tell them. They should be correcting for that.

The music genome is used by a lot of scorers and concert promoters to find artists and songs that are similar to the ones they want.

Could the users be allowed more granular ratings rather than thumbing up or down whole songs? About a third of the room would be interested in that.

Mobile device users are seeing fewer advertisements, and one listener is concerned that this will impact revenue. Between the iPhone, the Blackberry, and the Palm Pre, they have about 45,000 listeners on mobile devices. This is important to them, because these devices will be how Pandora will get into listener’s cars. And, in actuality, mobile listeners interact with advertisements four times as much as web listeners.

Tim thinks that eventually Pandora will host local radio. I’m not so sure how that would work.

Subscription Pandora is 192kbps, which sounds pretty good (and it comes with a desktop application). It’s not likely to get to audiophile level until the pipes are big enough to handle the bandwidth.

Variety and repetition is their biggest areas where they get feedback from listeners. The best way to get variety is to add different artists. If you thumb down an artist three times, they should be removed from the station.

They stream about 1/3 of the data that YouTube streams daily, with around 100 servers. Tim is not intimately familiar with the tech that goes into make Pandora work.

[The questions kept coming, but I couldn’t stay any longer, unfortunately. If you have a chance to attend a Pandora Town Hall, do it!]