ALA and ebooks in the big cities

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June is always hot for us. For one thing, I live and work in Washington, D.C., so I suffer the consequences of locating the nation’s capital in a swamp. (Please, no wise cracks about D.C. being a multi-dimensional swamp, not only in terms of weather, but also a political swamp, talking-heads swamp, and a swamp of gridlock if there is such a thing.) But for the American Library Association (ALA), there’s an operational reason why June is a hot time: our biggest conference, with well over 20,000 attendees, occurs in late June. Thus, we are in the throes of conference preparation—meeting agendas, PowerPoint presentations, catering menus, background papers, and the like.

The American Library Association 2013 Annual Conference logo

If you should find yourself in Chicago at the upcoming ALA Annual Conference, note that our Digital Content Working Group (DCWG) will have a program on ebooks. Look for us in the convention center room S502 on Saturday, 1 – 2:30 p.m. DCWG Co-chairs Robert Wolven and Sari Feldman and I will talk about DCWG activities of the past months and directions for the coming months. The session then features a panel moderated by Wolven that focuses on some of the topics for which libraries can take direct action or work together towards solutions. Two of these topics are the role of libraries as publishers or as facilitators of self-publishing by their patrons, and how libraries can engage in the ALA, Future of Libraries, Digital Content, and Ebookspreservation of ebooks and other digital content. The panel comprises Clifford Lynch, Coalition for Networked Information; Nate Hill, Chattanooga Public Library; and Rebecca Kennison, Columbia University. As a reminder, these themes also are explored in our just-released supplement to American Libraries magazine that focuses on digital content.

Another activity at the Annual Conference is the unveiling of a new component of our advocacy strategy. Many authors view libraries in a favorable light. Indeed, a number of authors attribute their love of reading and writing to early-life experiences in libraries and with librarians. ALA is engaging authors to amplify our message that libraries are essential in the ebook ecosystem and, in fact, serve a net benefit to publisher interests. In Chicago, we will release information about this initiative.

Finally, I just want to note that several of us participated in the recent Book Expo America (BEA). ALA President Maureen Sullivan participated on a panel organized by the Association of Authors’ Representatives. As I describe in my report about this panel, one highlight was the supportive commentary towards libraries made by panelist Carolyn Reidy, CEO of Simon & Schuster.

This was my first BEA. Wow, it is a fabulous event. I only wish I had time to really explore the author talks and signings, panel sessions, and exhibits. Still, I had a bunch of productive meetings with publishers and other organizations in the publishing ecosystem. And as always, it was great to be in New York City. On each trip, I try to visit someplace new. On this trip, I ventured to the Theodore Roosevelt Birthplace National Historic Site (28 East 20th Street), definitely worth a stop to see an historic house with period furnishings. However, the visit even had a bit of relevancy to Digital Book World, as President Roosevelt was himself a voracious reader and prolific writer and instilled the same in his children. I wonder what T.R. would have thought about the advent of ebooks?

Ebooks and Faustian Bargains

Alan S. Inouye

About Alan S. Inouye

Alan S. Inouye is director of the Office for Information Technology Policy (OITP) of the American Library Association (ALA), based in Washington, D.C. Since 2011, he also serves as the program manager of ALA’s Digital Content & Libraries Initiative. Prior to ALA, Alan was the coordinator of the President’s Information Technology Advisory Committee in the Executive Office of the President for three years. Earlier, Alan served as a study director at the Computer Science and Telecommunications Board of the National Academy of Sciences for seven years. He completed his Ph.D. at the University of California at Berkeley.

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