Sunday, September 12, 2010

No Shelf Required (edited by Sue Polanka) Book Review

Reviewed by Michael Pastore, author of 50 Benefits of Ebooks: A Thinking Person's Guide to the Digital Reading Revolution.

No Shelf Required: E-books in Libraries
Edited by Sue Polanka
ALA Publishing, September 2010
ISBN: 978-0-8389-1054-2
Paperback, 200 pages, $ 65.00 (10% discount to ALA members)
Book's Web page:

Archimedes, the Greek DaVinci who enriched Greek culture with dozens of discoveries and inventions, is best known for sitting in his bathtub and shouting "Eureka!" when he instantly grasped how to determine if a king's crown was fake or made of solid gold. I had my "Eureka!" moment, just days ago, when I finished reading this new book edited by Sue Polanka. For two years I had been wondering how I could learn more about this topic, without reading hundreds of articles or getting an MLS. No Shelf Required is the best available source for the latest information about ebooks in libraries.

Why should librarians have a deep knowledge about the world of ebooks? ... An August 5 article in Newsweek magazine, titled "Farewell, Libraries?", hinted that because hardcover books are now selling less than ebooks, shelves of books would be disappearing, causing significant changes in our nation's libraries. The article does not report the other side of the transformation. Ebooks are great for libraries in many ways, including the most important one: how to get more patrons through the doors and using the library's resources. In the year between 2008 and 2009, the Vancouver Public library issued 60,000 new library cards; librarians there credited ebooks as the key factor in this significant surge.

No Shelf Required is indispensable for librarians and publishing professionals; a number of the chapters are also of interest to scholars and to general readers who want to better understand this changing electronic world. The book contains nine chapters, all written clearly, and each chapter covering an essential topic.
—James Galbraith gives us a history and overview of "E-books on the Internet" that is at once exquisitely well written and succinct.
—Jackie Collier and Susan Berg write about "Student Learning and Ebooks", answering questions such as "How can e-books be used to help students learn?".
—Shonda Brisco, in her chapter "E-books in the School Library", discusses how school librarians can overcome a number of practical challenges to bring ebooks to their schools.
—Amy Pawlowski, in "E-books in the Public Library", covers the nitty-gritty about the variegated vendors and producers, formats and delivery methods; and explains the keys to success in implementing an ebooks program.
—Lindsey Schell, in "The Academic Library E-book", explains the key issues and obstacles for academic librarians, such as vendors, licensing, funding, sharing, ADA compliance, and DRM.
—Carolyn Morris and Lisa Sibert, in the book's longest chapter "Acquiring Ebooks", provide a thorough description of the ebook acquisition process, which is far more complex than purchasing printed books.
—Alice Crosetto, in "The Use and Preservation of E-books", explains how to understand various data associated with ebooks, and discusses important preservation initiatives called LOCKSS (Lots of Copies Keep Stuff Safe), and Portico,
—Emilie Delquie and Sue Polanka, in "E-book Standards", tackle the immense problem of lack of standardization, expertly review the existing standards (in EPUB and XML) and discuss other issues such DRM, metadata, SERU, DOI, and more.
—Rolf Janke, in the concluding chapter "The Future of Academic Book Publishing: E-books and Beyond", offers a keen analysis about how academic publishers can make the difficult transition from print publishing to digital.

For its comprehensive coverage about a complicated topic — a theme that is so important it could help every library to survive and thrive — No Shelf Required should be required on every shelf. To keep up with the latest about ebooks in general, and ebooks for libraries, follow Sue Polanka's blog, also called "No Shelf Required", here:

—Michael Pastore is a novelist, and the author and/or editor of a number of non-fiction books including The Ithaca Manual of Style, The Zorba Anthology of Love Stories, and 50 Benefits of Ebooks: A Thinking Person's Guide to the Digital Reading Revolution. A new (2010) edition of 50 Benefits of Ebooks will be released by Zorba Press on September 15, 2010.