Rise of Digital Books

I found a good article called, “Books born digital”, by Lance Eaton (Library Journal, May 15, 2009). In short, Lance summarizes the rise in the publication of digital content linked in part to what users want but also to the rising costs of publishing paper books. This phenomenon is already well known and has also been documented before. Does anyone remember the hype surrounding the first only digital book published by Stephen King? Getting back to his article, Lance highlights some excellent points that are worth restating.

  1. Digital content has allowed for numerous extra features. The movie buffs among us can attest to this fact. Most dvds come loaded with special features. This tendency has now moved beyond movies to that of ebooks, audiobooks, or television series. For example, popular television series now have their own blogs, webisodes, Internet sites, or other such extras scattered throughout the web.
  2. Publishing often bundles multiple formats. If you buy a movie, you might also get the digital copy along with a URL to the movie’s website that has extras such as webisodes or even the screenplay. Sometimes, PDFs accompany MP3s or CDs. These digital combo packs try to entice the consumer and his/her multiple gadgets from the iPhone, mp3 player to a Kindle 2.
  3. Digital or digital exclusive publications help promote the paper published versions thanks to the all the hype and extras people have access to via the web.

With all the variety of formats, Lance brings up some good questions. What are the legal ramifications of the various types of access to these formats? What types of access will be involved? How can integrated library systems adapt in order to incorporate these formats that do not compete but really compliment each other?

In reference to the last question, I found or I hope that RDA will be able to deal with these multiple formats. In a sense, if I run with the television series example, the series itself on a DVD, the webisodes, the transcripts are all related. It is a difference of carrier, media type, content type, as well as manifestations or expressions to use FRBR speak. If we can relate these in the catalog, then it helps the user find as much information as possible on whatever topic. This is particular useful since a lot of this digital content is scattered throughout the web.