When I visit my local library and look for a specific book, I might be lucky and it’s on the shelf, if I am less lucky it’s not at my local library, but is available from another library. If I am unlucky then someone else has borrowed it and though I can out in a reservation, I have to wait until it is returned.
This is one of the disadvantages of having just a single copy of a printed book. Of course one of the advantages of the digital ebook is that it would be possible to make and lend it to as many people who wanted it… or so you would have thought.
My local library service, LibrariesWest have recently launched an ebook lending library. It uses Adobe Digital Editions so works fine with the Bluefire Reader app on the iPad, so no need to worry about having a proprietary ebook reader.
However I was a little taken aback when I looked at the range of books available to find that most of them were out on loan!
I couldn’t actually download a digital version of the book I wanted as it was on loan to somebody else. Now the reality isn’t that the digital file is on someone else’s computer and not available, no of course this is a DRM limitation placed on the library service by the publishers.
The publishers have taken the traditional business model they have used with libraries before with printed books and applied it to digital ebooks.
So if someone “borrows” an ebook, then it is not available to anyone else. This isn’t a technical restriction, it’s a business choice.
It wouldn’t surprise me if the business model only allows the books to be borrowed for a certain number of times before it “wears out”.
I am sure that LibrariesWest could spend a lot more money and have ebooks that can be borrowed by multiple users all at the same time.
What this does tell us, is that we are still at the start of the ebook lending model and at this stage publishers are trying to duplicate a traditional business model in the online world. As with a lot of other traditional business models, this will change at some point in the future.
I have reviewed the ebrary App for the iPad, and a few people asked if there was an Android version? ebrary is currently working on an Android app, in the meantime it is possible to read ebrary e-books on your Android device. You can of course read e-books on the ebrary platform through a browser on your Android device, however this requires a live internet connection, which is fine if you have wifi, or unlimited data.
Using Adobe Digital Editions on your computer it is possible to download e-books from ebrary and transfer them to your Android device using a compatible eReader application, myself I used the Aldiko app as a “bookshelf”. You can then read these books offline without needing a constant internet connection.
Alas it isn’t possible to download the books direct to your Android device, you will need to go via your computer. There is a “bug” that stops you downloading direct to your device, this may be fixed at some point.
You will need to first download and install Adobe Digital Editions and then sign up for an Adobe ID. This will allow you to “authorize” transfers from your computer to your Android device. On your device you will need to install a compatible eReader application. I used Aldiko as I already had it on my Google Nexus One.
Start Aldiko on your Android device, then connect to your computer and where necessary turn on USB storage.
Having connected your Android device then start Adobe Digital Editions, it should recognise your device and add it as a “bookshelf” to your library after you have authorised the device.
Once this is all done then you can go onto the ebrary platform, select the book you want to read, click the download link.
There are a few options, you can download a DRM-free PDF containing part of the book, or a DRM’d copy of the whole book.
It will download an acsm file, open this file and Adobe Digital Editions will start to download the book from ebrary.
Once downloaded you merely need to drag the book from your library to your Aldiko bookshelf, this will then transfer the book from ebrary to your Android device.
You can then read the book on your Android device. Remember though you only have the book for 14 days before the DRM “expires” the book and then you will need to delete the book.
As for the reading experience, well this isn’t a true e-book experience and I found it quite difficult to read the book on the small screen of the Google Nexus One.
However on an Android tablet with a larger screen I suspect the experience would be as good as reading on the iPad.
This is a regular feature of the blog looking at various Apps available. Some of the apps will be useful for those involved in learning technologies, others will be useful in improving the way in which you work, whilst a few will be just plain fun! Some will be free, others will cost a little and one or two will be what some will think is quite expensive.
This week’s App is ebrary.
Researchers now have an optimized way to experience authoritative content – both online and offline – from multiple sources including e-books that their institutions acquire from leading publishers and materials uploaded and integrated by librarians.
I have a bit of a passion for e-books. It’s not about replacing paper books, much more a way to provider greater access to books at a time and place to suit the learner.
The e-Books for FE from JISC Collections enables FE Colleges to start with e-Books through the ebrary platform.If you can it makes sense to provide authenticated external access, either through Federated Access or Athens.
One of the disadvantages of the ebrary platform was it was browser based, though that meant you could easily access the collection through a PC or a Mac, it did mean that it was either not possible or challenging to read them on a mobile device.
Recently ebrary have added a download feature to the collection, this means you can download either 40 pages as an unprotected PDF or the whole book for a 14 day loan using Adobe Digital Editions. This means you could transfer it to some e-book readers such as the Sony Reader.
ebrary have just released an iPad and iPhone App. What surprised me was how much better the app was for reading books than the browser based platform on the iPad.
Disappointingly the only way I could get the app to work was to link my account on ebrary that I use with Federated Access with my Facebook account and then link the App with my Facebook account. There didn’t appear to be a way of logging into the App using Federated Access (and I also believe it isn’t possible with Athens either). I guess there is a technical reason for this, but this could cause problems if your institution blocks Facebook for staff or learners (or both).
The app doesn’t “hold” the authentication for very long either, so as a result you do need to re-authenticate on a regular basis. So it’s not like you can authenticate at home and then use it in college, you would need to authenticate across the college network. Though if staff or learners have a 3G iPad then they could just use 3G to authenticate and then go back to wifi to access the book!
In my own college that wouldn’t be an issue, learners would have access to Facebook over the student wireless network and though we do block Facebook to staff, staff who have an “academic need” to use Facebook can get the block lifted. Using Facebook to access ebrary would be a legitimate “academic need”.
Once authenticated you can search and browse for books as you can on the browser platform.
The books download page by page which on a slow connection can be frustratingly slow. It makes much more sense to download the books, but to do that you need an Adobe ID for the Adobe Digital Editions. This is in addition to the other IDs. I can imagine that this could be complicated for learners in having to combine various IDs to use the app. Also if they have been using Ebrary purely through IP authentication on campus they may not even know they need an ID to access the books.
The books are quite large too, the ones I looked at were in the 70-100MB range which on a slow broadband connection will take a while to download. Once downloaded though, moving between chapters, or flicking between pages the experience is so much faster and better than trying to read the books “live” having to download each page. Also it doesn’t require you to re-authenticate so making it much easier to read books on the move. However once you have downloaded a book and it expires you don’t seem to be able to download it again!
I am looking into this limitation. You can return a book early, so I am guessing that is one limited solution. I have managed to re-download an expired book, but I suspect that there may be a watiing time before you can “borrow” it again. The ebrary help does cover some of this, but as the ebrary platform can be used for a variety of books and collections, the help isn’t always specific to the e-Books for FE or the iOS App.
You can copy and paste text from the e-books and what I do like (as it does in the browser) is it adds the appropriate reference to the pasted text. This makes it much easier for learners to understand and recognise the importance of referencing the text they cut and paste.
I will admit that the ebrary app is not perfect, but it does work and it does allow you to access the ebrary collection from your iOS device, there is an app for the iPhone as well as the iPad.
If you are subscribed to the ebrary collection, have a Facebook account and have an iPad, then get this app.
Get the ebrary app in the iTunes App Store.Update: The app has now been discontinued.
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