E-books and how publishers charge for them is a subject appearing in many news stories the past few months. Considering the large investment we have made in e-books, this is something we have been following closely.

After a long process, Meadville Public Library in conjunction with the other eight member libraries of Crawford County Federated Library system have begun offering free e-books at ccfls.lib.overdrive.com.  Soon after we started offering free e-books, we created a survey that asked: “Does the library pay more or less for e-books than regular books?”  More than 80 per cent of respondents said we pay the same or less.  The response is not surprising.  It is logical to think that because publishers do not have to print, assemble, ship and distribute an e-book, they would sell for less than the price of a printed book.

The truth is actually quite different.  E-books cost us $60 to $105 per title, when both the purchasing and licensing costs are included. In addition, we have to pay a yearly licensing cost, which in 2013, will be about $15.00 per title.  Not only do we have to contend with high prices but also restrictive rules. For example, we can only purchase e-books from one vendor, Overdrive.

OverDrive, at the request of the publishers, requires that every patron download Digital Rights software that enforces the rules and restrictions they (the publishers) have imposed.  The result is to make our product, “free e-books,” much harder to access than e-books from Amazon or Apple.  At Amazon, with one click, an e-book will magically appear on your Kindle.  At the CCFLS eStacks site, you have to download special software and then go through many screens to download the book.

There is no doubt that e-books are more profitable for publishers.  A recent article in the Wall Street Journal reported that e-book profit margins are 50% while print margins are 10% or less. Even more telling,  Simon and Schuster reported increased profits last quarter even though sales decreased.  Simon and Schuster also reported record sales of e-books during the same quarter.

People ask if it costs so much and the rules are so onerous, why do it?  To be relevant, we have to provide free access to information in formats the public is using.  I can imagine the last time such a disruptive change took place, when scrolls were replaced by books, a similar discussion took place. If scrolls cost less than books, should now our whole collection be in scrolls?  Of course not.  New “disruptive” technologies always change the rules by which we live.

I understand that publishers are trying to protect their rights. However, the cost to purchase and the rules on e-books are much more restrictive than print books.   Recent events make one ask if these rules are truly to protect the publishers’ rights or are they meant to discourage individuals from using free e-books from public libraries? The answer  to that question will affect the free flow of information for the next 20 years.




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We recently posted a survey on the CCFLS website asking patrons to tell us a little about their e-book reading habits. We had just over 130 responses. We will be using the information to help us decide what books to purchase for the CCFLS eStacks. We’d like to share the responses with you. The discrepancies with vote counts comes from the ability to select more than one answer in some questions or patrons not answering every question.

Question 1: What kind of device do you use to read e-books?

With 114 votes, just under half of the respondents use a Kindle. Computer and iPad, iPhone, iPod touch users were tied. Other kinds of devices listed were Sony Readers and Android phones and tablets.

 Question 2:  What kind of Fiction books do you want to read?

Mystery/Detective was the strong winner in this question with 32% of the 217 votes. Romance, Sci-Fi/Fantasy and Young adult books were the next highest at 16-17%. Write-ins included Historical fiction, Classics, and Graphic novels.

 Question 3:  What kind of Non-fiction books do you want to read?

Biography/History and How-to/Arts & Crafts took the lead here with 19% and 18% respectively out of 284 votes. Beyond that, the choices were fairly evenly spread with True Crime and Nature slightly ahead. Write-ins included Essays, Green living/Urban farming, and Travel.

 Question 4:  Where should we spend most of our e-book budget?

With two choices and 121 votes cast, 54% said they would rather have current best-sellers which cost more and would therefore mean fewer books while 45% said they’d rather have older titles and more books.

 Question 5:  How much do you think we pay for e-books?

MPL Director John Brice deals with this question in his column if you want more information on e-book pricing. With 120 votes, 40% said they thought e-books cost less than print books, 46% said they cost the same, and only 13% correctly said e-books cost us more.

 Question 6:  Please let us know a bit about you:

The largest number of respondents were females between the ages of 35 and 64 (44%). Women in general won out here with about 70% of the 119 votes.


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Now that spring has arrived, those of us who garden entertain thoughts of preparing and weeding beds for flowers and vegetables. Just like a garden, a library needs to be weeded to remain healthy and vibrant.

Because there is a finite amount of space on the shelves and because materials are added weekly, outdated and obsolete items must be discarded to make room for the new. The process of removing books and other materials from the library’s collection is called weeding or if you prefer, spring cleaning. Though weeding is a continual process, the main floor staff is conducting an extensive evaluation of all the collections. This involves removing each item from the shelf and evaluating it based on factors such as age, condition, relevancy, and accuracy and then determining if it should remain in the collection. Anyone who has walked among the stacks on the Main floor in the last two months may have noticed a little more room on some of the shelves and more books on display. We are about one-third of the way through the process and hope to have it completed by November.

Some areas, such as poetry, literature, self-help and cooking remain relevant much longer than books on medicine, politics, and science. Certain items are replaced yearly and include study guides, income tax aids, almanacs, and encyclopedias. Some books, unless their condition warrants removal, are not discarded. These may include local history and local authors.

You may ask, what does the library do with discarded material? If an item is in good condition, it more than likely will end up in one of the library’s book sales or on Amazon’s Marketplace. Be assured that many of the books which are removed from the shelves do find new homes. There are some items however that do not find new owners and are recycled. So if you have a favorite book that is not in the library any more, you may find it at the next book sale.

Please stop by the Main Desk to say hello and let us know how we are doing with our spring cleaning.


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E-books are big. You’ve probably heard about them in the news, seen them advertised on TV and online, even read about them already in this newsletter.  Our new collection of e-books through OverDrive, the CCFLS eStacks, are not the only way Meadville Public Library provides you with electronic information, however.  The Reference collection has been moving toward e-books for a while now.   In fact, some of the first e-books available at MPL were in the Reference collection.   Through the Electronic Resources page ( http://meadvillelibrary.org/resources/electronic-resources), you can access a number of databases but also many e-books.  Some publishers allow online access to the e-book version when we buy the print book.  For example, Magill’s Medical Guide is a six-volume set covering a wide range of medical issues.  Salem Press also has a Masterplots series if you are looking for overviews of literary works.  A new addition, Ancestry and Ethnicity in America, is available both in print and electronically.

The Gale Virtual Reference Library is our largest reference e-book collection with topics ranging from biography to business, education to environment, history to religion. Some of the books are only available online while others duplicate our print collection.

We also have a number of test-prep e-books available through the county system in the Learning Express Library.  This database allows you to take practice tests, as well. Lastly, eBooks on EBSCOhost offers a selection of fiction and non-fiction titles.

So, the next time you’re in need of a little knowledge, check out our Electronic Resources page.


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With warm weather arriving early this year, many find they’re ahead of schedule on their spring clean-up chores, so why not take a break and read a good book!  James Patterson’s 11th Hour, the 11th novel in the Women’s Murder Club series is just out.  Look for Alexander McCall Smith’s new book, A Conspiracy of Friends, a continuation of his Corduroy series coming in June, along with Bad Faith by Robert Tanenbaum, Blood Line by James Rollins, and Never Tell by Alafair Burke.

June 4th starts our Summer Reading Program with many games and activities for young adults.  This year’s young adult theme “Own the Night” will have us solving mysteries, making ghost story journals, and creating art from fingerprints along with many other planned activities.  For more information, stop by the Fiction desk and pick up a bookmark listing all the summer activities.  We hope everyone will join us for another exciting summer as we “Own the Night” together


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This summer’s theme, “Dream Big, READ!,” will explore all things nocturnal – the nighttime sky and its constellations, dreamers, and nocturnal animals. This year’s Children’s Summer Reading Club begins June 4th and lasts until August 3rd.
Artwork for this year was created by Brian Lies. His fans will remember his bat books; “Bats at the Beach,” “Bats at the Library,” and “Bats at the Ballgame.” He has also illustrated other authors’ books including the Flatfoot Fox books and Finklehopper Frog.
The summer program is open to children from toddlers to those leaving sixth grade. Incentives and activities will make this an inspiring nine weeks for the whole family.
All craft activities will have a nighttime flair. Each arts & crafts program will be divided into two activities – one for younger children and one for older elementary-aged children.
Special programs include the annual pet show on July 7th and a visit with owls and other birds from Tamarack Wildlife Rehabilitation and Education Center on July 24th.
To participate, a child must be a member of one of Crawford County’s libraries. Preschoolers and summer visitors will receive a summer card. A special reading sky chart will be issued to record each reader’s and listener’s progress through summer reading pleasure and prizes.
For every library book read, children will get a stamp on their sky chart. Preschoolers must listen to two books to get a stamp. For every four stamps, a prize may be selected from the display case. When 12 stamps have been collected, participants qualify for two chances to win one of the Grand Prizes. The drawing for these prizes will be during our Summer Reading Club Party scheduled at 10 a.m., August 4th.

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I have been thinking a lot lately about industries that were swept away by the horseless carriage 100 years ago.

In 1900 there were many companies that made buggy whips and corsets (one of them, Spirella Corsets, was located here in Meadville.) Both industries were eventually wiped out when the automobile was introduced and became popular in the early 1900′s. Women who had to start a car themselves couldn’t bend over to crank the car’s starter if they were wearing a corset. And as for buggy whips well, no need for one of those when you had an accelerator on your horseless carriage.

Technology has advanced to the point where most individuals have access to a computer from which to receive information or download books; those with a personal computer can do this anywhere there is cell phone access. A description of this technology just 20 years ago would have seemed like magic.

So how are our libraries going to cope with virtual books as demand for the old-fashioned book slowly declines? A very good question and one we have been contemplating for months. We know that certain members of our community would love to have down-loadable books accessible to their electronic reading devices. Unfortunately, publishers and copyright authors are not making it easy for libraries to retrieve their electronic materials. In addition, funding is a real obstacle for the public library since purchasing electronic books means having to cut back on purchases of traditional materials.

So although introducing electronic media in libraries is difficult and a challenge in libraries today, MPL has been making some progress in this area with the introduction of Playaway books in the Children’s Department. The audio books allow the user to listen to a complete book through ear buds or even a sound system.

In addition, we have linked our on-line Patron Catalog to the more than 10,000 books of the Guttenberg Project. By going to our web site and searching for a title published before 1927, you can follow the link and download both electronic books and/or versions of the book. In the next few months we’ll install new software that will allow our patrons to access more than 5,000 electronic books made available through the Pennsylvania Power Library Project. Most of these books are older titles (1960-1990) dealing with non-fiction topics.

Finally, we are hoping to introduce more popular and newer books electronically by the end of this year or the beginning of 2012. Though we have yet to select a provider, our specifications require a supplier who will provide us with materials in all popular formats including E-Pub and PDF. Though our plans are not yet complete, we are committed to making sure that Meadville Public Library does not become an anachronism. I have a picture of a horseless carriage on my desktop that reminds me of just that every day.

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Spring in Pennsylvania means different things to each of us. For some it is sunshine (on occasion), for others, warm weather, rain or flowers. For Meadville Public Library it is the anticipation of another decrease in funding from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. The reduction in the library subsidy will affect the library’s budgets, but until the final proposal is passed, the impact will not be known. Our patrons have shown overwhelming support for the library through the years and I am sure it will continue during these unsettled times.

On a more positive note, with spring comes the preparation of flower and vegetable gardens. I will not mention specific titles but suffice to say we have added new books on both topics. Remember that new books (those purchased within the past six months) are just inside the doors under the windows and across from the main desk.

We have added many new movies to the DVD collection, including the following: Black Swan, Chasing 3000, Downton Abbey, Echo an Elephant to Remember, Get Low, Howl’s Moving Castle, Nowhere Boy, Pillars of the Earth, Secretariat, The Social Network, and Waiting for Superman.

These and many more are available at the main desk. Please remember that an adult library card is necessary to check out DVDs and videos. Hope to see you @the Library.

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Spring is finally here and with it many activities at the library. We started with a “Civil War Day” held in fulfillment of a grant we received last year from the National Endowment for the Humanities and the American Library Association. Patrons who attended the program were treated to a visit with local re-enactors of the 150th PVI Bucktails group. The women of the group gave a Civil War era fashion show and played dulcimer music throughout the morning. A presentation by Dr. Barratt, an historian with the Crawford County Civil War Roundtable, and Civil War era games for kids in the Children’s room were also part of the festivities.

The grant given to the library includes 20 books and a set of DVDs on the Civil War. If you’d like to learn more about the Civil War, these items and many others can be found throughout the library.

May brought a book signing by the young author, Brenna Thummler. Her book entitled, From Alligators to Zippers, was written and illustrated as part of her Senior Project and uses each letter of the alphabet to give a brief history and tour of Meadville and the surrounding area. Her book is available for checkout and can be found in the Young Adult section of the library.

June 6th starts our Summer Reading Program with games and activities planned for young adults and prizes for all. This year’s young adult theme, “You Are Here,” will have us touring the world with weekly crafts and activities from many different countries. For more information stop by the Fiction desk and pick up a bookmark listing the summer activities. We hope everyone will join us for another exciting summer as we explore the world

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This summer’s theme, “One World, Many Stories,” will allow children to sample the cultures and stories of the whole world. The 2011 Children’s Summer Reading Club begins June 6th and ends August 5th. Rafael Lopez is the creator of this year’s art work.

The summer program is open to children from toddlers to those leaving 6th grade. Incentives and activities will make this an inspiring nine weeks for the whole family.

All craft activities will have an international flair. Each arts & crafts program will be divided into two activities: one for younger children and one for older elementary-aged children. The annual pet show will be held July 9th at 10 a.m. in Diamond Park. Co-sponsor of the pet show is Ainsworth Pet Nutrition, the Home of Dad’s Pet Care.

To participate in the reading club, a child must be a member of one of Crawford County’s libraries. Preschoolers and summer visitors will receive a summer card along with a special reading passport to record each reader’s and listener’s progress throughout the summer.

For every library book read, children will get a stamp on their passport. Preschoolers must listen to two books to get a stamp. For every four stamps, a prize may be selected from the display case. When 12 stamps have been collected, participants qualify for two chances to win one of the Grand Prizes. As long as children continue to read or listen, they can qualify for more chances to win Grand Prizes. The drawing for these prizes will be during our Summer Reading Club Party beginning at 10 a.m. on August 5th.

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