Sharing new ideas, resources, knowledge and technology to keep abreast of new development in reference service field

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Does your Library need the iPad?

From what I've heard, iPads could be helpful in a library environment. If you are investing in an eReader, this tablet with its touchscreen capability, ergonomically handy size, and overall legibility make the iPad a savvy choice.

According to David Pogue's First Look at the Apple iPad, in his post to The New York Times,
"The iPad as an e-book reader is a no-brainer. It’s just infinitely better-looking and more responsive than the Kindle, not to mention it has color and doesn’t require external illumination."
Its multi-functionality gives libraries new possibilities in our search for new services for our patrons. You can surf the web, expect all of the same functions you get from a laptop or desktop, and even get all of the features you would from an iPod or iPhone, and introducing, iBooks. From the get-go, you can browse the Apps store with 140,000 apps.

Here in inner-city Worcester, most of our patrons are not going to be able to afford their own iPads. We have such a clamor here for use of the Internet, I have an idea that the iPad would be popular. It is important to consider security issues, and I believe we could exercise some positive groupthink, and find a solution.

As Librarians, we need to get used to our never-ending responsibility to examine our trajectory. The web is going mobile. Getting computers and the Internet was a huge step forward, but change in the world hasn't come to a halt. We need to stop catching up and take the lead. I challenge you, today, to think about ways the technology could work, before you list the reasons why it wouldn't.


Bruce Princeton said...

My initial reaction when I saw the Apple iPad was confusion. What functionality does this device offer over and above the Apple iPhone? And what market is Apple aiming this device at?

Rick Levine said...

> iPad a savvy choice
Beware the marketing machine that is Apple. And Amazon and Barnes & Noble and…

First, I'm sure the iPad's screen is quite beautiful, and it may well be preferred by a lot of users. However, the E-Ink© technology of the dedicated readers has its advantages: It is explicitly intended to be an alternative to the traditional backlit LCD technology, providing a display that is more "book-like," and for some, better-suited for long stretches of reading without producing eye strain.

Hardware aside, the real problem for libraries is that all of these devices (with the notable exception of Sony Reader) "marry" the user to the respective vendors' paid content. As a result, the library has quite literally nothing to offer a patron walking with a Kindle or a Nook. So far, Sony is the only vendor that supports a "library model" of digital rights management, making theirs the only devices capable "borrowing" library books.

The proprietary devices may not be altogether useless to libraries, at least in the short term. Given the level of interest among patrons, some libraries are circulating Kindles for demonstration and evaluation purposes, often dedicating different devices to particular genres, or even moving a limited number of titles from one device to another (a somewhat gray area in terms of licensing). While this is a valuable service to patrons who want to see what these readers are all about, it's quite inefficient as a long-term lending model, since a single loan ties up many titles, or a single title ties up a very expensive device.

It makes far more sense for both libraries and patrons to invest in a Sony product. The library could circulate the devices either with preloaded books it owns or "custom-loaded" OverDrive titles. The patron who owns her own Reader can buy books or subscriptions from Sony and borrow library books from OverDrive.

I don't intend to shill for for Sony, but the fact is that they are thus far the only company interested in accomodating libraries and library users. The other players in the market are free to get in the game at any time, and maybe they will if they see sufficient demand.

CMRLS has Kindles, Sony Readers and a Nook available to member libraries for evaluation. See what's available at and submit a request to borrow at

Finally, if I may indulge in a shameless plug: NELA's Information Technology Section will present a day-long program on this very subject of e-books and other non-print technologies on June 11 at the Portland (ME) Public Library. Watch for details in the coming weeks.

- - -
Rick Levine, Technical Specialist
Central Massachusetts Regional Library System
8 Flagg Rd., Shrewsbury, MA 01545
voice: (508) 757-4110 x308 fax: (508) 757-4370

Rick Levine said...
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jillian said...

Part of the draw of the iPad is that it combines several different devices into one.

CMRLS Regional Reference Center, Worcester Public Library, 3 Salem Sq, Worcester MA 01608