Friday, February 25, 2011

E-books in libraries

I have posted on some of my concerns about libraries, e-books, digital rights management (and its associated software), and the fact that libraries are now purchasing "access" or licenses, and not items protected by the copyright law and doctrine of "first sale rights." Some of those concerns were framed by the way some libraries are using Netflix.

Tom Peters did a great historical survey on ALA Techsource in a post called E-Book Lending Clubs. (It is very much an irony that it hit the web just a day or two before the HarperCollins thing blew up!)

Infodocket was first on my radar screen to pick up the latest. [It is a new blog from folks with good blogging/library pedigrees.] Their post (It's Always Something) makes some good points.

Eric Hellman gives a good overview of the e-book industry and some of the issues from the publishing perspective. He ends his post with an interesting observation:
Even if the lending models of today turn out to be transitional, they help everyone involved become comfortable with library ebooks. Once the library ebook experience becomes embedded in our everyday lives, readers, publishers, authors and librarians will be able to recognize the novel digital distribution models that benefit everyone.
Maybe the transition is already beginning. But let's hope that the publishers listen to the backlash and do something for libraries rather than to which is what it seems that they are starting to do.

It seems that this issue has now become a huge concern. Here is the story as reported in Library Journal: HarperCollins Puts 26 Loan Cap on Ebook Circulations. You should read the comments.

Joe Atzberger has a succinct post and summary.

Stephen Abram posted about an article on "The Subscription Economy" where he notes some of the positive aspects and draws the analogy to what libraries are doing with serials (which also worries me, even as I weed the collections here at work). What he does not mention are the negative aspects/problems with the subscription model. What do you do when the organization which sold you the subscription goes bankrupt, or in Internet tradition, just disappears leaving only a "404 Page not found" message?

Some of my concerns are also related to what Lorcan Dempsey talks about as the university's curatorial role. In some ways you can substitute "library" for "university." What is our curatorial role, and how can we fill that role when all we have paid for is a license, and not the property rights? I don't know the answer, but I do know that it is an important question to resolve.

David Lee King is asking for input/ideas on the topic. He summarizes things nicely in Let’s Play Rent-A-Book!

Finally, one of my Louisiana colleagues has posted her thoughts about the HarperCollins plan. (Nice post, Emilie!)

Well, it was finally, except that Sarah Houghton-Jan posted more extensively her thoughts. She is quoted in the LJ article cited above. She issues a call to action. For me the most quotable paragraph is this one:
I cannot over-emphasize that we are in trouble my friends. The lack of legislative leadership and advocacy in the last decade has created a situation where libraries have lost the rights to lending and preserving content that we have had for centuries. We have lost the right to buy a piece of content, lend it to as many people as we want consecutively, and then donate or sell that item when it has outlived its usefulness (if, indeed, that ever happens at all).

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