Overcoming e-book 'stagnation'

With so few Swedish language e-books available, Stockholm Public Libraries developed innovative responses, including working with partners to produce their own e-books.

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The Stockholm Public Libraries' response
Since 2010 the Stockholm Public Libraries have been working hard at coming to grips with the conflict between a growing public demand for e-books and the devastatingly low percentage of e-books available in their stacks. The overall conclusion: instead of waiting for a print oriented publishing market, paralysed by its anxieties for possible loss of market shares, let's get the job done ourselves!

The first step was to optimise the mobile library UI for e-reading. In May last year a mobile web app was launched that makes it considerably easier than before to search, download and read e-books. Now the searching and downloading of e-books can be done directly in the library mobile web app, and without leaving the library UI.

The second step was taken when Stockholm Public Libraries, in cooperation with the self-publishing company Publit, started producing their own DRM-free EPUB e-books and PoD books.  In 2011 a partnership was initiated with the Swedish independent publisher Vertigo. Just recently, a collection of the noble peace prize winner couple Alva Myrdal and Gunnar Myrdal, was digitised and made available to the public for free, and without encryption. These titles can now be downloaded in EPUB format from the Stockholm Public Library website and from Apple's iBooks, for free and without encryption.

The third step will be to explore the potential with EPUB 3, an open format that has the potential to move e-reading from a disclosed and lonely activity towards an open, creative and social experience.

In brief, Stockholm Public Libraries response to e-book stagnation is to:

  • Cooperate:  we can't do it on our own, let's find strategic partnerships, for e-book openness and innovation.
  • Digitise: let's not just sit and wait. If nobody else seems keen on digitising, well, then we do it ourselves.
  • Integrate: making literature accessible for everybody in 2012 is not just about digitisation, it's also a question of packaging and integration of the content in user friendly and flexible user interfaces.
  • Engage: let's explore the potential of co-creating new content together with the users of today: the prosumers.

Stockholm Public Libraries website: www.biblioteket.stockholm.se
SPL Digital Library blog: http://bloggar.biblioteket.se/digitalabiblioteket/

Picture by kodomut via Flickr.

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