Q: What kinds of libraries do audience members work at?
(About half and half public and academic libraries, with a few school and special)
Q to panel: How do you make your money? The service? The device?
Potash: We’re a solutions provider. Libraries came to us and said this is what we want–as much popular stuff as possible. We want to control presentation and use. Two revenue models: system fees for integration with ILS and Marc records; partnerships with publishers to resell material (digital costs are lower than print); can also provide a digital repository with no content. Like a digital vending machine you can set up exactly how you want. 9000 audio books from many publishers, many in foreign languages.
Celeste: We make things and sell them. Licensing content and reselling it in a new form. Or working with the publisher to distribute their content. Business model uncomplicated, too. Tech support on the product gets done by Playaway, not the library.
Harrison: OCLC is a membership, non-profit org. Subscriptions by libraries. And licensing agreements with publishers. Access is part of what is provided.
Q to Potash: Relationship with Creative (what kind of players). How are people listening to your content? A: We’ll offer the whole Creative line, including a high end video player and low-end 256 mb zen nano pluses. A: Usage. A million audiobook downloads so far, many thousands per month. Design based on libraries saying over and over that patrons want to listen in cars. Easiest solution: download and burn a standard CD (not all suppliers were willing to do this). 1/3 listen on PCs or notebooks, 1/3 on portable player, 1/3 burning to CD. Publisher sets permissions and libraries select what to buy.
Q: What would you have to do to get that on an iPod? Potash: Apple needs to license FairPlay DRM. (I am unable to represent how artfully he expressed the idea that it is technically very feasible to create iPod content employing a standard CD…without in any way endorsing it or associating his company with it).
Q: From a consumer perspective it’s Publisher Rights Management. Consumers who want to will evade the DRM. This sets up a leapfrog effect. Do you see any way around this? (Panel clears its collective throat).
Harrison: Subscription DRM model is content goes out and “comes back”, i.e., expires–which is the library model. The trick is to get users, publishers, and libraries comfortable with a solution.
Potash: There are industry standards efforts to make it possible to interoperate DRM schemes. (Mention of French DRM legislation, which would have required open DRM). There is some consumer pressure now. This is not a unique problem: see Blu-ray vs. HD-DVD formats. Any CD plays anywhere. With audiobooks you have to check and see. Industry standards may fix this. Not there yet.
Q: On devices. Where are the publishers on this? Are publishers unhappy with Playaway? Celeste: It’s similar to a book: you have bought one object which also is better branded than a digital file. On DRM: ours is plastic. Apple is the leader because the customer needed the content and a way to play it: a closed solution. Without iTunes the iPod would not be as popular. You need content and player, a simple solution. “The content is the hero.” The player is nothing without content.
Q: On Playaway. What’s it’s battery life? It runs on a AAA battery and has a headphone jack. It’s a flash-based player. Re-usable by vendor. Pretty durable.
Q: From Ipsen: On batteries. Have you had request for a rechargable battery? Celeste: It’s simpler this way. And nobody has complained that it needs a battery.
Q: For Potash, on partnership with Creative. Doesn’t that acknowledge that you need a device? No. A million downloads without a device tied to it–people have devices that can play this stuff.
Q: What about video? Are you positioning yourself to do video in the future?
Potash: The most important personal device to work with is the cell phone. Newer phones with screens will work with the download service. This is the platform for multimedia. Dial into the library and resume listening to where you were via an 800 number.
Harrison: Agrees. You have to expand the media options. OCLC wants to work on the content libraries have in their collections and bring that into netLibrary. Speech transcripts, historical photographs, anything. Bring it all into a single unified experience.
Celeste: Patents pending on audio and video. How to make it simple. Working with Texas Instruments, the producer of 60% of cellphone chips. My fifteen year old son lives in a different world than I do. But physical books are not going away. The physical experience of a book is part of the experience: and likewise with other kinds of content. Make it simple and immediately accessible.
Q: For Celeste. What kinds of partnerships and how will it affect us? Many kinds of relationships. Whatever works for you–we won’t force you to work with us in a particular way.
Q: What about netflix model for Playaway? Celeste: Sure. We’re learning about how things circulate from our library partners.
Q from Ipsen: Demographics. 44 and older. Are there urban vs. rural differences, large vs. small libraries? Potash: Very popular. The #1 county in Ohio was Holmes County, which is mostly Amish. You can’t stereotype. Adoption is broad-based rural and urban. In Hawaii ILL is by boat–immediacy is important to service. Folks in Cincinnati drove to Cleveland to get library cards so they could download this stuff–it’s 250 miles. Harrison: Agreed. Very broad-based. Not segmentable.
Q: on non-fiction, will breakdown into units continue?
Potash: possible to download only one chapter, or to flip through a table of contents. Popular for Bibles and foreign language learning materials. Working with publishers to make audio searchable. Harrison: Audio full text searching will be available in future. Average time in an ebook is 5-8 minutes; we don’t know for audio.
Q: In rural areas, lots of customers on dialup. How do you serve these folks? Harrison: Two different encoding rates for smaller file sizes. Also caching to let download managers work. Potash: 11-12 hours is 200 megabytes. This makes being able to download a 10-15 mb piece.
Q: Have you thought about Bittorrent or P2P? Potash: We’re not having speed problems.
Q: Are there any studies on audiobooks and accident rate? (laughter). Potash: You may accidentally learn something. Cellphones are probably more dangerous.
Ipsen: Devices are very personal and many people have specific devices for specific purposes. One unified device may not be a solution: some people may not want audio on their cellphones. Libraries may need to be flexible about means and methods.