As part of a wider emphasis on digital publishing and the relevance of humanities scholarship, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) are giving new life to out-of-print humanities books. In January the two organizations announced a new joint pilot grant program, Humanities Open Book, which will help publishers identify important out-of-print works, secure rights to them, and convert them to EPUB format ebooks freely accessible under a Creative Commons (CC) license. Awards range from $50,000 to $100,000 per recipient, and will cover a period of one to three years.
Officials at Amazon believe subscription-based ebook consumption is an inevitability, and will continue to invest in and build the company’s Kindle Unlimited service as part of an effort to stay ahead of the emerging trend, Russ Grandinetti, senior VP, Kindle, at Amazon explained during a candid general session interview on January 14 at the Digital Book World Conference and Expo 2015. In a separate panel, publishers expressed enthusiasm for Oyster and Scribd as discovery platforms.
In what at first looked to be a decisive move in the direction of open access (OA), Nature Publishing Group announced December 2 that it would officially adopt two initiatives that would provide access to articles previously available exclusively by subscription. But the new features come with restrictions that many see as a nod to OA in name only, and Nature News quickly corrected its initial headline, which read “Nature Makes All Articles Free to View”—but not before it was picked up by a number of news and social media outlets.
In my last two columns I explored what I called the “mess of ebooks” and explained what I want from library ebooks. In this column I want to discuss a possible future that could be good for libraries and for publishers. Right now everything is in flux. Publishers are understandably wary of selling Digital Rights Management (DRM)-free ebooks to libraries, and the patron driven acquisition (PDA) model some libraries want might not be sustainable for publishers. Libraries are struggling to buy books at all. The library ebook market is in a state of flux. There’s opportunity in chaos, though, and the opportunity here is to create a future that’s good for everyone, from publishers to library users.
SELF-e is the partnership between Library Journal and Charleston, SC’s BiblioLabs. BiblioLab’s product, Biblioboard, is a platform that seeks to bring (among other things), self-published works into the library ecosystem. I spoke recently with Hallie Rich, Cuyahoga County Public Library’s Communications and External Relations Director, about the library’s pilot project with the platform.
Simon & Schuster (S & S) last week announced that it will no longer require libraries to offer a “buy it now” option with the publisher’s ebook titles. In theory, these buy it now links enable patrons to avoid long holds lists while ensuring that a small percentage of their purchases went to their library, rather than to an online retailer such as Amazon. However, many libraries and municipalities have policies in place prohibiting this type of arrangement, and others simply find the library-as-retailer concept objectionable or even unethical.