Friday, 1 June 2007

ebooks - audio books - chapter 2.

Well - seems like I started something with that last post, or more precisely, when I posted a comment on it to the NZ Libs [New Zealand’s Librarians list serve] - and asked if anyone else in New Zealand was working on something similar - or was this really such a big deal , as the "European first" quote below seemed to imply.

Well it turns out my librarian colleagues/sources in New Zealand had very little sympathy with this idea: moreover, it transpires that not only do Auckland University and Victoria University have substantial collections, both Wellington and Auckland Public Library are well advanced in their plans to offer this kind of service.

Both of these are opting for Overdrive. It reckons it has 50,000 eBook titles, and 10,000 audio books. These in turn, again according to the site, can be integrated into the ILS, and the library web site.

Leaving aside the University end of the discussion for the moment, and while applauding the innovation of the vendor, and the keenness of Auckland and Wellington to follow their customers to the platform , I do think there are a few points worth pausing over.

First, by definition, the Overdrive offer is a discrete collection - i.e. the vendor chooses what is in it, and presumable negotiates the rights. So, presumable this collection is very USA centric?

In other words, are there any New Zealand , or Australian /Pacific titles in there - or are we once again bound on the post colonial wheel of mega-publishing trends.

So, where are the New Zealand stories? And how can we get these into these kinds of collections? One place to start is to ask what already exists, either commercially, or in heritage collections.

For example, way back when Adam was a toasted teapot, an Auckland company, Word Pictures, spent blood trying to sell New Zealand audio books out through the then traditional distribution channels, which, in the end, defeated them. That archive must still be around - and it included dozens of New Zealand titles.

On a different front, I also had a note from the Royal New Zealand Foundation for the Blind. They have recently run a trial of a new digital talking book player that downloaded books directly from their server via a broadband internet connection into the player in the home of the library client.

This is an amazing piece of innovation - yet again, because they have a very different rights framework, it is unlikely that this material will end up in the ipods of the next generation reader/listener, whose attention we are all keen to attract.

And speaking of iPods, from what I can gather, the Overdrive offer uses Microsoft media player, and the DRM is also tied to this platform. Apparently there is an option to format shift, but I'm struggling to see how that works without endangering the license?

Then we have the collection of New Zeland radio material that has been built up over the years - as well as the extraordinary amount of audio material held in the likes of the Turnbull and the Hocken libraries.

So many questions, and it's a Friday! But let's go for the burn and ask one more.

First, by the look of it, the Overdrive offer isn’t cheap. According to a brilliant ACT presentation, [note the link- here - launches a Word document] , they paid a $40,000 establishment fee plus a $17,150 per annum hosting fee.

As Geoffrey Palmer used to say to Kim Hill when they met on National Radio, "these are not trivial matters Kim!" In fact, these kinds of numbers would bring tears to the eyes of some of the smaller library authorities both here in New Zealand, and elsewhere?

But wait, isn’t help at hand here? Isn't this what EPIC, the New Zealand nation wide consortium is in the business of making happen? From yet another response to the NZ Libs list serve, it would appear that while they are sympathetic, there is precious little enthusiasm to pick up and run with this challenge, at least in the short term.

But can we wait for the mid and long term? The reason I posted the German story in the first place was, inter alia, because I was entranced by the line in the story, "Young users use Web 2.0," said Hannelore Vogt, manager of the Würzburg city library, referring to the popular term which describes an ecosystem of user-centered online communities. "And they rightly expect from us Library 2.0," she said.

The fact that Hannelore Vogt might well be talking well encrusted Bavarian toffee is of no account [ i.e. downloading an audio book isn’t web 2.0 ] but if the concept of Library 2.0 is about moving with customers and patrons in and around the rich eco system of new digital opportunities, then, not only am I on this bus, I'll carry the lunch boxes down to the lake when we stop for tea!

But is Overdrive the only lake with a picnic spot? Seems to me, after 17 years in Aotearoa that we have no shortage of picnic spots of our own - i.e. if the will and the way is present, why can’t we build our own ebook and audio repositories?


Donald said...


The costs don't sound enourmous - although the content is a little not to my taste. My guess is that costs such as these are always going to be out of reach for individual city or regional libraries.

Another facet of the same old problem for me - until NZ Libs start leveraging their scale on a national basis, the economics of the digial library will remain beyond them.

Maybe we just do an amazon and dis-intermediate them - have a single national e-library that you can access anwyhere [even through your old local library].

Anonymous said...

Hi Paul,

I watched the thread on NZ-Libs with interest - how few direct answers you got .... although I could tell we were all trying hard not to be too defensive ...

One thing however - it may just be a semantic niggle, but remember that we aren't Europeans and we don't live in Europe, so no matter what great things we are doing in NZ, Germany can go ahead and claim their 'European world first'.

Anonymous said...

I've seen the digital player for the RNZFB. It's not pretty but it is pretty cool (I'm so envious, I want one now.) Yet, as you said they operate within tight rights guidelines so those books will never be available to the general public. I'm not sure whether they've decided to continue along that path just yet or go with CDs and follow the example of overseas foundations. It would be very exciting if they decided to go straight to digital.
I'm sure I've seen examples of individual libraries, especially in the States, offering audio books via the internet...oh wait, that was via Overdrive too. Looking at this example I hope the Library 2.0 kids are patient!
Oh, and re possible lack of NZ content in Overdrive - you have to start somewhere right? :)

Karlos said...

Saw an interesting related post on, looks like OverDrive are keen to get local content...

Check it out -

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