Update: Amazon has agreed to give us at least one more Stanza–it's at the App Store now. After that? Who knows? Also see another update, from September 24, 2012. Stanza apparently won't work under iOS 6 despite early impressions to the contrary.Further update: Say good-bye to Stanza and hello to the Marvn e-reader app..
I had amassed zillions of ePub-format books for the program. But Amazon apparently has decided to kill Stanza; no update so far, at least. The program rudely crashed after I upgraded my iPad. Profit over readers' needs and the permanence of books, right? It was in the grand tradition of Amazon's having earlier abandoned lockers where readers could store books in the Adobe PDF format. I'm baffled why Amazon bought Stanza and its developer, Lexcyle, except to kill this potential Kindle rival.
Luckily I enjoyed a happy ending in this case. The original programmers behind Stanza had come up with a program to easily transfer books from iTunes to another part of my computer (link updated in May 2012—also see here and here), and I sent the files to my Dropbox folder, which is WiFi-accessible from just about all all my machines and will store books for all e-reading programs. Just the same, this was a good scare. Most e-books lovers would have lacked the technical ability to do the transition—they probably wouldn't even have known of the rescue program. Apple stored the books in iTunes under cryptic file names, which the transfer software could miraculously unscramble.
Some lessons here for public and academic libraries and the Digital Public Library of America (DPLA)? Definitely. And here they are:Do not trust vendors on issues such as e-book formats or digital rights management or, in Stanza-style cases, even the ease of transferring files. Treat vendors fairly, and use them for technical services when this makes sense. But libraries should work toward the time when they can deal with publishers directly and when they can store books on their own servers and, if possible, with their own DRM. My own dream scenario would be no DRM, though I'm a realist. The core format standard for e-books, of course, could be ePub, which the International Digital Publishing Forum has just updated with Version 3.
A technical services organization, shared by two separate but intertwined systems, for public and academic libraries, could go a long way toward the above goal. Hello, DPLA?
Meanwhile kudos to the Kansas State Library for asserting the right to transfer OverDrive e-books to servers of another company, 3M. Of course, the ideal solution would be a transfer to library-controlled servers, which the technical services organization could run itself or in partnership with the HaithiTrust and/or the Library of Congress.
Furthermore, in cooperation with the IDPF, the technical services organization should come up with standards to make it easier for readers to synchronize ePub books across all their tablets, phones and other gizmos, just as Amazon does, even if this isn't a format matter per se.
I realize that the DPLA has not ruled out doing any of what I propose. But given the size of the Amazon threat—especially with the unveiling of the Fire, the econo iPad rival optimized for maximum consumption of Amazon-supplied books, movies and other media—the DPLA really should care more about these issues. Separate academic and public systems, given their different priorities, would help. But that's no reason why the two couldn't work together on the technical issues, which, if neglected, will mean even more power for Amazon and perhaps eventually even the death of public libraries.
Note: I've started using WordPress's full-screen mode for composition (having earlier relied in LiveWriter) and I discovered that this post went "live" earlier than I intended; sorry about the typos. Here's to the "Visibility" button.
And a message to Amazon: Surprise us—do the IOS 5.0 update. But I've still been deprived of the use of Stanza in the meantime, which backs up my point that libraries, not vendors, should control their destinies. Hey, nothing dogmatic against you guys. I'm looking forward to my Fire. Now—if you'll only do ePub!
Among the possible Stanza substitutes for ePub books: Bluefire Reader (vendor site here) and eBookMobi (more info here), both available through the Apple App Store and iTunes. Trouble is, they still lack all of Stanza's customization features, and eBookMobi could stand a little more polish.
- Stanza e-reader NOT a sure bet for iOS 6, alas (updated)
- Say good-bye to Stanza and hello to the Marvin e-reader app
- More criticism of e-books as they exist today in the library world
- Amazon’s zapping of customer’s Kindle library shows why we need library-provided ‘content lockers’ for e-books and perhaps other media
- WaPo article on e-book crunch at public libraries is must-read for DPLA Tech Aspects Workstream members and others