This week I'm off to the Scottish E-books conference this week thanks to a sponsored place from MmIT. I'm really looking forward to both the conference and visiting Edinburgh as well as meeting a few new librarian people.
As someone else is paying I felt it only right that I do a bit of swotting up on e-books beforehand. I've been a bit neglectful of my favorite subject recently and am long over due a post on the subject anyway. I thought I'd take the opportunity to do a round up of some of the most relevant news since I last did a serious post.
One of the biggest developments has been in the Apple price fixing case with three publishers agreeing a settlement with the Justice Department in September. Although Penguin, Macmillan and Apple continue to fight the accusations the settlement will see customers who bought e-books from the other 3 publishers receive a partial refund for their purchases. Amazon have already started contacting customers who have bought eligible e-books and will in all likelihood be reducing the prices of relevant Kindle books now that it is no longer tied to the agency model.
Back on the right side of the pond there is equally big news in the form of the government review into e-books in libraries. Now I'm not really a fan of the government sticking it's nose into the e-book situation like this, they've been all to keen to take a step back and keep their distance as councils cull library services across the country. However if the review results in a resolution to the stand off between publishers and libraries then it's got to mean progress, certainly we don't seem to be getting anywhere ourselves. What I worry about is the lack of understanding of the role of libraries displayed by the government and therefore the sustainability and feasibility of any outcomes from the review. It'll be too easy for them to see e-books as a cheap replacement for expensive buildings and staff without really thinking the long term problems through.
More recently there has been other developments with Amazon as they announced the introduction of their e-lending scheme for UK Prime members in mid October. Allowing Prime members to borrow 1 book a month the scheme is hardly a serious rival for libraries but it does raise a couple of questions. With Amazon approaching publishers to opt into the scheme a few have asked whether publishers can do so without first getting agreement from authors. Also, given that Amazon seems to rolling out schemes previously proved in the US, will we also soon see an Overdrive / Amazon collaboration in the UK similar to that in use in public libraries in the US.
There's other news of various importance and scale. Avon's imprint are launching DRM free e-books in response to demand for books that can be read across a variety of devices. Not huge news in itself but yet another example of a small publisher going down the DRM free route.
There are also a couple of commercial e-lending enterprises launching in the UK that could pose a threat to public libraries plans for e-books. Bilbary is already live and a similar service, Oyster is in the pipe line. The press describes them as subscription based e-lending service similar in nature to Spotify for music. Having had a quick look around Bilbrary I'm not sure where the e-lending process comes in as it seems the books I found were only available to purchase. Maybe I'm not looking hard enough or have missed something. It'll be interesting on Thursday to see what other people make of these services.
I'll be tweeting during the conference and writing a blog and a piece for the MmIT newsletter afterwards. I hope more than anything that I'll learn a lot while I'm in Edinburgh, I have high expectations for the conference given the high profile of e-books and e-lending over the last few months.