Stanza e-book software now dead for iPad owners: Lesson for libraries and DPLA

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..

Stanza software, one of my favorite ways to read e-books, is dead for those of us running  IOS  5.0, the new operating system for the iPad, the iPhone,and iPod Touch machines.

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.

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9 Comments

on “Stanza e-book software now dead for iPad owners: Lesson for libraries and DPLA
9 Comments on “Stanza e-book software now dead for iPad owners: Lesson for libraries and DPLA
  1. No reason that DRM free ebooks are unrealistic. All my game books are sold by their publishers as DRM free PDFs. All my technical books I buy from the publishers as DRM free ePubs or PDFs. Only fiction is in the ghetto, and even there you can find options, like Baen Webscriptions, or authors that have clued into selling direct in open formats.

    • Wilhelm, I absolutely share your intense disgust with DRM, but here we’re talking about library books with expiration dates, rather than about retail books.

      There might still be ways around the usual DRMed files, of course. For example:

      1. You perhaps could have a Web-based arrangement with some kind of caching–for offline reading–with restrictions. But even then some content providers might object. And we’re still talking about access control even if it’s not the usual kind.

      2. There’s also the possibility of a permanent checkout approach, as I’ve called it—under which patrons could download a certain number of books that they could keep forever, as long as they didn’t share them. But for budget reasons, there might be a restriction on how many books the patrons could check out this way. The good news is that OverDrive even now lets library patrons burn audio discs for permanent use.

      3. The DPLA is very wisely talking about open content. Libraries among other things could purchase rights for unlimited use. Trouble is, the big houses might not go along, especially when it came to modern classics.

      David

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    • Kiermel, I'm happy for you. Me, I've switched to the Marvin app since it has capabilities missing from Stanza. Also, different users may be in for some nasty surprises when they use Stanza even under IOS7. Not everyone uses the same features of the program. Keep us posted if things change at your end.

      Thanks,
      David

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