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Thursday, July 29, 2010

Artists, Studios Say No to iTunes, Digital Content

With so many studies charting the growth of the digital music scene, we thought we would take a step back and examine those albums not getting swept up in the race to go digital.  As highlighted in our blog story about CD albums dominating the market over digital albums, music albums on CD offer the highest quality audio at the best price, typically include supplemental content like lyrics and artwork, and as physical product, cannot be lost in hard drive crashes or data dumps.

That all being said, there are several additional reasons as to why some of music’s most acclaimed musicians and reputable studios refuse to go digital.

The Beatles
Digital users are most likely to notice this glaring void from iTunes first and foremost.  Everyone from The Wall Street Journal to BBC News has written about iTunes lack of the Beatles’ discography.  According to Apple Intelligence blog 9to5 Mac, the Beatles’ label EMI has yet to work out a deal with iTunes that best suits both businesses’ needs.

According to a 2008 The Wall Street Journal article, Aussie rock band AC/DC “has consistently sold more than one million CDs in the U.S. alone, year after year,” and they refuse to give up their album catalogue to iTunes.  Whereas with the Beatles, the label has refused to relinquish the discography, with AC/DC the actual band has taken issue with iTunes.  To summarize quotes from guitarist Angus Young reported on Edible Apple, the band feels their albums need to be listened to in their entirety.  Singles downloaded on iTunes, they feel, do not do them justice as artists.  9to5 Mac also quotes Young, who compares his band’s albums to paintings—something that cannot be sold in pieces.

Garth Brooks
These musical acts all agree with AC/DC in regard to their albums being singular pieces of art.  In an interview with BBC News, country superstar Garth Brooks explains, “‘we do albums, we have always done albums.’  Referring to songs from his 1990 album No Fences, he continues: “‘Friends in Low Places is not Friends in Low Places without Wolves or Wild Horses.’” 

Bob Seger
Bob Seger’s manager Ed "Punch" Andrews adds to Brooks’ comment on 9to5 Mac, explaining that certain musicians’ songs are not meant to share the stage in a user-made compilation from iTunes.  He furthers, saying he hopes albums will one day hold the importance they did 30 years ago. 

With Tool, it’s not just their albums—which feature “eight-minute-plus epics that often flow one into the next”—they consider art, but the album’s packaging as well (9to5 Mac).  Their albums are intricately packaged and contain inserts and cover art that dazzles the eye.

Glenn Frey
For Eagles’ guitarist and solo artist Glenn Frey, the issue with iTunes has a great deal to do with money.  According to The Wall Street Journal, after manager Irving Azoff explained that royalties from iTunes were not as high as expected for Eagles’ album sales, Frey did some math and found that the iTunes royalties amassed thus far equated to roughly 39 minutes performing in Kansas City.  Purportedly, this math aided Frey in his decision to not release his solo albums to the digital market, unlike the Eagles, whose albums are available online.

Kid Rock
No one has heated up the iTunes debate quite like Kid Rock.  The Wall Street Journal, 9to5 Mac, and Edible Apple have all reported on Kid Rock’s holdout from iTunes and the success his albums have experienced without the digital market’s help.  According to the Telegraph, Kid Rock’s holdout has nothing to do with cost.  He knows going digital would be cost-effective in terms of eliminating packaging and distribution. 
In an entertaining BBC News article from 2008, music reporter Ian Youngs explains that Kid Rock’s holdout has everything to do with what he feels is an outdated and unsuccessful system: “‘So the internet was an opportunity for everyone to be treated fairly, [Kid Rock explains] for the consumer to get a fair price, for the artist to be paid fairly, for the record companies to make some money.  But they stuck to the ‘old system.’” 

King Crimson and Def Leppard
While Def Leppard’s latest album, Songs from the Sparkle Lounge, is available from iTunes, their greatest works—like Hysteria and Pyromania—remain absent from the digital music realm.  King Crimson’s presence is non-existent on iTunes besides one track from the Children of Men soundtrack.  As to why, 9to5 Mac reports that they could not find a public explanation for either band.

Bottom Line
Because albums from these acclaimed musicians cannot be found online, consumers must venture out to look for physical product.  This creates an opportunity for libraries to further fill the needs of their patrons, especially since brick-and-mortar stores usually lack the needed shelf-space to support deep and varied discographies.

Midwest Tape Can Help
With this bottom line in mind, we did some thorough research and compiled a collection of nearly 100 CD albums not yet available digitally.  Click here to browse the Top Albums Not Found On iTunes collection now on


Monday, July 26, 2010

Kindle Sales Stats in Context

Jeff Bezos, founder and CEO of, recently released a statement announcing that sales of Kindle eBooks surpassed hardcover sales during the first half of 2010.

The statement touts the following facts:
  • Over the past three months, for every 100 hardcover books has sold, it has sold 143 Kindle books.
  • In the past month, for every 100 hardcover books has sold, it has sold 180 Kindle books.
  • Charlaine Harris, Stieg Larsson, Stephenie Meyer, James Patterson, and Nora Roberts have each sold more than 500,000 Kindle books.
Overall, Kindle eBook sales may be increasing, but it is debatable as to exactly how much more popular the new format is in comparison to hardcover books or how much of an impact this product is making in the global book market. Guy LeCharles Gonzalez of Digital Book World points out in his blog story, eBook vs. Hardcover: Beyond the Headlines, that the true success of eBooks compared to hardcover books is uncertain without specific purchasing information.

For example, it is not clear which titles consumers are buying as book selections vary between formats. A large percentage of eBooks for sale at have never been published in hardcover format. Romance novels, which account for a large number of Kindle eBook sales, are generally published as paperbacks. Additionally, readers who already own hardcover books from powerhouse authors may be purchasing their old favorites in the eBook format. Furthermore, Amazon’s consumers are immediately more inclined to purchase eBooks over those who prefer brick-and-mortar stores or other online venues as Amazon “attracts an online audience that is more inclined to be early adopters of new reading technology” (Gonzales, 2010).

However, even as eBooks are gaining ground over hardcover on, print editions of books are still far from losing their major place in the market. According to the American Publishers Association, industry-wide sales for print book editions are up, with hardcover books up 22% year-to-date and adult paperbacks up 16%¹. And according to Sarah Weinman at the Daily Finance (as cited by Gonzales), on average, eBooks make up for less than 1% of any given title’s total sales². For example, Gonzales cites Publishers Lunch stating that James Patterson has sold 1.14 million e-books to date worldwide. Of those, 867,881 were Kindle eBooks. However, in comparison to the more than 205 million print copies sold, Kindle eBooks only account for roughly 0.4% of Patterson's overall sales³. Looking beyond Amazon’s press release, it’s clear that largely consumers still purchase print books.

As Gonzales shows, companies—via press releases and reports—can selectively share data to shape public perceptions and thus support their sales goals. Luckily, the continuing dominance of print books allows ample time for libraries to research and develop digital platforms before altering their core format preferences.

What do you think of Amazon’s recent press release? What research has your library done on eBooks? What is your library doing with the new format?

Additional Reading  




Monday, July 12, 2010

Libraries, eBooks, and the DRM Debate

As eBooks—and consequently eReaders and iPads—become more popular, it is only natural for patrons to look for their digital reading materials at their public library. However, distributing digital content may be more difficult than librarians initially thought. Sarah Houghton from San Jose Public Library chronicles some of the complications she has run into with eBooks on her blog, Librarian in Black. After struggling to load an eBook to her smartphone, she finally concludes:
“Why was my entire experience frustrating? DRM. The hurdles, apps, restrictions wouldn’t exist if there was no DRM.”
What is DRM?
“Digital Rights Management (DRM) is a generic term for access control technologies that can be used…to impose limitations on the usage of digital content and devices” (Wikipedia).
Essentially, DRM is used to prevent the transfer of digital content, in this case eBooks, between unauthorised devises. Peter Hirtle in a LibraryLaw discussion on the legality of lending eBook readers explains that most eBooks have license agreements and DRM technologies that prevent the lending of content. Therefore, libraries struggle daily with distributing eBooks to patrons, mostly due to the lack of cohesion between the many different DRM technologies. And as eBooks increase in popularity, librarians are likely to face additional difficulties.

What can be done?
While there’s much debate over how companies can protect their digital content while ensuring the utmost usability of library patrons and consumers alike, Houghton in another Librarian in Black post calls for change sooner rather than later: “we need organized lobbying to eMedia companies and publishers to create library-friendly licenses, use policies, digital rights management, and formats so that libraries can continue to act as the great sharers and equalizers in their communities.”

Additional Reading
Ebooks and Libraries: Like Peanut Butter & Chocolate or Oil & Water?
advocacy and econtent (i’m also a frustrated ebook user)
Library eBooks can be Frustrating!
eBooks and DRM: libraries advocating for what?
Librarian in Black on “Frustrating” and eBook/Audiobook Downloads
Libraries and ebooks: tough issues that it’s time to debate

What’s your stance on DRM? What experiences have you encountered with license agreements and DRM technologies?

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Bill C-32, What’s the Skinny?

Parliament’s latest attempt to reform copyright legislation has been met with caution and criticism from the public. Bill C-32, Parliament’s third attempt at copyright reform since 2005, proposes changes to the Copyright Act, originally passed in 1921. It aims to further protect artists and copyright holders in the Digital Age.

However, there are a few restrictions that concern libraries. The proposed legislation still restricts the copying of materials for research and education proposes, frustrating both academics and educators who were hoping for a relaxation on rules pertaining to educational materials, such as books and films. As law firm Lang Michener explains:
"The Bill permits libraries to distribute [printed] materials digitally; however, the library must take measures to ensure that the client only prints one copy of the digital form, does not communicate the copy to another person and ensures that the copy is destroyed within five days after using it."
Lang Michener continues, noting that “digital distribution is only permitted if there are no digital locks on the materials.” Digital locks are “technological measure(s) designed to prevent copying.” As the bill states in section 30:
(5.02) A library, archive or museum, or a person acting under the authority of one, may, under subsection (5), provide a copy in digital form to a person who has requested it through another library, archive or museum if the providing library, archive or museum or person takes measures to prevent the person who has requested it from
(a) making any reproduction of the digital copy, including any paper copies, other than printing one copy of it;
(b) communicating the digital copy to any other person; and
(c) using the digital copy for more than five business days from the day on which the person first uses it.
This restriction could prevent libraries from distributing potentially popular titles to their patrons, forcing them to look elsewhere for digital materials.

The bill, which can be read here, must still pass through legislation before a vote is scheduled in Parliament. For a summary of the bill and what it changes, Lang Michener has a comprehensive outline of the bill here. You can also read more about the bill at CBC News.

What’s your take on Bill C-32? How are your patrons and librarians reacting to the proposed reform?

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Mobile Technologies to Push Library Limits

According to mobile industry analysts, global mobile data traffic is projected to double every year through 2013, increasing 66 times between 2008 and 2013.[1] As the mobile industry continues to grow, libraries will be faced with the decision of whether or not to support the information needs of their distant patrons by including services available to mobile devices.

The technology currently exists for a user with a simple 3G connection to access e-books and multimedia content via their local public library. Additionally, potential users can continually stream available content to their Smartphones on demand as long their devices have access to networks.

However, while these technological capabilities exist, it is questionable whether this trend will catch on in libraries. In a recent policy brief, There’s an App for That! Libraries and Mobile Technology: An Introduction to Public Policy Considerations, Timothy Vollmer, a consultant to the American Library Association’s Office for Information Technology Policy, discusses the relationship of mobile technologies between libraries and their patrons.

In the brief, Vollmer explains the challenges libraries may encounter in the mobile merge:
  • Overly restrictive Digital Rights Management policies and licensing will narrow the rights of patrons to access and manipulate legally acquired content.
  • The privacy of patrons could be compromised; unsecure networks may leak lending information to marketing firms and law enforcement officials.
  • Personalized services may be lost in translation. Mobile devices lack the capabilities for librarians to physically show patrons useful material.
Regardless of these roadblocks, Vollmer says, many libraries are already starting to embrace mobile technology and its growing potential for increased services:
  • Mobile online public access catalogs that allow users to browse and search library databases for books, movies, and music available for lending. With this, patrons are also able to view their holds, fines, and checkouts.
  • Mobile collections that offer streaming music, films, images, and other multimedia through partnerships with third-party content providers such as Overdrive.
  • Mobile databases that give patrons on-the-go access to various scholarly web portals like PubMed for Handhelds.
  • Mobile applications that provide information on hours and locations of libraries. Additionally, patrons are able to place items on hold via their mobile device.
  • Text messages that notify patrons of upcoming due dates and material availability. Some libraries even offer, “text-a-librarian” services for patrons with simple questions.
What do you think about libraries incorporating mobile technologies into their services? Does your library support mobile technologies? If so, what services does your library offer?