Friday, November 30, 2012

Ebooks - It's been a while since I griped

We have been working very hard at HPL on physical projects involving real shelves, books, and other stuff outside the Internet world.  I know!  Shocking, isn't it?

<rant>During that time I have been watching the "Big 6" publishers continue to treat libraries as their enemies in the ebook world.  And while I am sure that no one pays much attention to my little blog, let alone my rants, I feel remiss for not railing on a daily basis about this ridiculous state of affairs.

Honestly, where does Simon & Schuster think avid readers find out about new authors?  Where does Penguin or Hatchette think new authors get a try and then a following?  Who do they think spends 24/7 thinking of ways to get more people involved in more reading?  And I mean thinking of more ways to get EVERYBODY reading, regardless of means.  I love book stores.  Book stores do some of this.  But they have to stay alive by selling the most popular.  Who helps them with that?  They promote books and authors.  LIBRARIES promote reading and readers.  Apparently though, we're the enemy.  We're going to suck away the meager revenue stream from the big publishers.  Honestly, if that's what they believe, then they are the enemy of readers.

Ebooks "last forever", so how can we make libraries ever buy another copy?  Library patrons will just borrow the library copy whenever they want to read.  Hmm...why not ask us to work out a plan?  No?  You'd rather just turn books into licensed content and sell it and choke off any potential for growth?

Here's the crux of the problem (besides the lure of filthy lucre).  From ALA:
Why are e-books treated differently than print books?
As content migrates from physical to digital forms, the typical access model shifts from
purchasing to licensing. Digital music and online journals represent examples of this shift from the last few decades; e-books represent the latest form of content to make this transition. As licenses are contracts, libraries receive the rights articulated in the agreements. The usual ebook license with a publisher or distributor often constrains or altogether prohibits libraries from archiving and preserving content, making accommodations for people with disabilities, ensuring patron privacy, receiving donations of e-books, and selling e-books that libraries do not wish to retain.
They key is in that paragraph.  Control over the content (contract vs. purchase); the "purchaser" - you, me, a library, no longer "owns" that thing we thought we bought.  Thus, no one can loan it, resell it, or collect it.  But why is that ownership so important?  Collections like those created by libraries are important not just for preserving the past but for creating new ideas and inspiring new stories.  Writers and researchers create from what is available to them.

Too bad the big publishers won't work out a deal.  Libraries want to participate and are willing to pay to play.  Too bad they are so focused on preserving a possibly already-lost corner on the market.  That old chestnut about catching more flies with honey than vinegar is going to come back and bite them.  Libraries could help them flourish in the ebook age and I'd wager we as a group would strike a bargain on almost every issue in that quote above.  Will it happen?  I doubt it.  And everyone - you, me, authors, publishers, and libraries will be the poorer for it. </rant>

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