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Ebooks: Why are you for killing libraries?

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1timspalding
Feb 5, 2010, 1:46am Top

I thought I'd open up a topic about ebooks and the future of libraries and ebooks. As response-test I propose my just-blogged "Why are you for killing libraries?"

Those are my opinions anyway. What do others think?

2krolik
Feb 5, 2010, 4:29am Top

Your description sounds depressingly plausible. And I'm convinced that the ripple effect of the loss would be considerable.

My anecdotal claims: as non-resident American, I enjoy traveling when I return to the U.S., which often involves driving thousands of miles across many states. Wherever I go, I can almost always count on the public library as an oasis. Europe has nothing like American public libraries.

As a writer of books that don't sell very much, I'm grateful that some libraries offer shelf space and access to readers that I couldn't get otherwise. It's not about the money--there isn't much--but rather a chance to be part of a cultural conversation. Many, if not most writers, are in the same situation.

As an anonymous guy who walks through the door, I'm grateful for a clean well-lit place that is not an escape from the tumult outside but a way to get a grip on it. That's the main reason why libraries matter a lot to me. The resources go beyond books, or reading initiatives for children, or meeting spaces for civic groups, etc.--as nice and important as those may be.

One thing that has struck me is how much American libraries deal with things that are important but not nicey-nice. It's where homeless people get warm and use the bathroom. It's where poor people get internet access. It's where strangers get good directions and information. Librarians wear many hats. You can get your tax forms and filing advice at many libraries. (They don't only cost taxes--they help people pay them.

I grew up in a small town which was not particularly wholesome or sweet. There was no bookstore. The main cultural activity at school was the marching band. (Nothing wrong with marching bands, OK; but they're not for everybody.) I probably learned more of importance to me at the library than I did at school.

What to do about libraries losing their "first sale" advantage? I can only hope that it's not a foregone conclusion. The technology is changing so fast that this anticipated model might be replaced by yet another. Or, maybe a middle ground? Just as there are institutional rates for periodicals and book purchases, maybe libraries can defend such a possibility for new products.

In any event, people shouldn't lose sight of the fact that libraries are more than "just" books.

3reading_fox
Edited: Feb 5, 2010, 4:52am Top

Haven't been in library for many years, and don't really expect to in the near future either. So I won't mourn their passing, if they do go, anywhere near as much as bookstores which are at least more plesant places to be than online shops. Unlike libraries.

I'm totally not convinced however that ebooks will have much effect on libraries. On their fiction shelving maybe. But we're a long way away from an effective non-fiction ebook reader. The main attraction of libraries is that they have old stuff in them. pre-google information. This is unlikely to ever make it into electronic form.

Finally of course many libraries are moving with the times as they should. There are ebook libraries, and the program is growing - lending ereaders, and lending timelimited copies of ebooks.

I'm also not sure that the librarians group is actually the best place for this post - because you don't want the insular feedback from librarians, you want the input of patrons. What do they want/expect/need from a library. If there is no demand for your services, however appealing they once might have been, then libraries demise is inevitable. I really don't see ebooks having much effect on this.

4dweller88
Feb 5, 2010, 5:15am Top

We're going through this process of change here where I work in the UK in central London. Everything is being geared for the inevitable onslaught and uptake of e-books.
Krolik, I agree with everything in your post. A lot of the library usage is similar here in central London. They are for a lot more than just books, but I want to argue for books also being a very important part of the future of libraries.

reading_fox I want to mention here that even though non-fiction e-books aren't happening yet, that has not stopped librarians from severely reducing our stocks.

My major argument against reduction of books on the shelves (especially non-fiction sections which seem to be treated with the most disdain by withdrawl-happy librarians) is that by displaying a large variety of books in one place one can end up picking up books one had no intention of reading. Amazon has its lists and "other people also liked" sections but they don't lead people to that book that "other people didn't like" which may be the book that blows your mind. Random discovery will be gone for good. Also libraries often stock older books that are out of print. E-book version of out of prints may well be published, but there will be gems lost along the way. I see it happen more and more as the librarians trawl away truly important historical books and sell them on the book sale for 50p. Also these older books will not be pumped and promoted on the front pages of the e-book stores/catalogues. In a library they are democratically present side by side with the others (apart from a small new book section which doesn't dominate reader choice).

Anyway I'm lying here in bed with flu or (libraryitis)I hope my post was of interest.

5HoldenCarver
Feb 5, 2010, 7:32am Top

"My major argument against reduction of books on the shelves (especially non-fiction sections which seem to be treated with the most disdain by withdrawl-happy librarians) is that by displaying a large variety of books in one place one can end up picking up books one had no intention of reading."

Except, by and large, people don't. A large variety of books on shelves, where you can only see their spines, is intimidating to many - they don't know where to look. While you and I may have no problem browsing and enjoy it, sadly we have to realise that we maybe aren't the majority. This is especially important to consider if we're trying to attract new borrowers. That is, the library has to appear less intimidating and more attractive.

What people do look at is displays. Take out a metre of packed shelving and put display shelves in instead, where the books can be displayed face out. These are far less intimidating, and people can actually see the books at a glance, be intrigued by covers, pick books up, and take them out. That's how readers, more often than not, discover new books they may not have found otherwise. Themed displays - "If you liked X, try Y", "Scandinavian Crime", "Author of the Month", etc. are much more analogous to Amazon's lists and 'people also bought' features than a mass of shelving.

I don't know about your library, but in our library system, older books that are out of print are more often than not withdrawn from general shelving and sent to the central county store (or a local store, in some larger library cases where they're lucky enough to be able to do so).

This is because, visually speaking, old books don't appeal to borrowers - a fact I've tested a few times where possible, when we've had copies of a first edition hardback going back to the '60s or '70s and a recent paperback, I've put both on display to see what happens. More often than not, the paperback has gone out sharpish and the hardback has been left untouched for weeks.

Taking the hardback of the shelves at that point is only common sense, as it frees up space for new books that come in, and sending it to the store means it remains in the system so those who want to read it can still request it. True, other books get withdrawn and sold for cheap, but these books are never last copies, they're always ones where multiple copies still remain in the library system. At least around these parts, anyway.

To put my remarks into context, I've been working at a library for five years, mostly on the frontline. I speak directly from experience and from what I've observed our readers doing. And what I've seen time over time is this - readers only go to the shelves *when they know what they're looking for*. It is displays where they take a chance, and where the overlooked and the unusual can be made to bubble to the top and be taken out. This is where books can be democratically presented. Not in the stacks, where they are overlooked and ignored.

My own view for the future of the library system? I'd like to see more buildings along this model: a large, open, main floor, with not much shelving, but many different displays. Lots of tables so people can read, study, etc. The children's library in a separate room, so children can be noisy without disturbing others. And the bulk of the books? Stored in stacks in floors above (or below, either will do) from where they can be called up by people who want them. Nor will the books be lost down there if not called, as the staff can rotate the displays frequently to give as many books as possible their moment in the sun.

There are other ways of driving library usage too. The library I work with is increasingly offering more and more courses to people, in effect now being a library slash learning centre. I'm not against it if it works, but I do worry, at the moment, it may alienate traditional library users. Again, in the model I mention above, these courses would have their own rooms in the building so as not to do so. But at the moment, they're held in a corner of the building while we await movement on building a room or similar for them, which isn't ideal.

6foggidawn
Feb 5, 2010, 11:40am Top

Going from paper to ebook is a much bigger change than going from CD to MP3. For that matter, going from paper to ebook is a much bigger change than going from vinyl to MP3. In all cases with recorded music, some sort of device was always necessary (a record player, a CD player, a computer). Not so with books -- to read a paper book, I need no special equipment. To read an ebook, I need a computer or a reader. I think this is one place where the comparison between the publishing industry and the recording industry really falls down. While I think that ebooks will continue to grow, I think that paper books will be in use for a long time yet. Maybe I'm just blindly optimistic, but I don't think libraries are in huge danger from ebooks. If the time does come when there are no more paper books, I think that the shift will be so gradual that libraries will have had plenty of time to adapt.

7Felagund
Feb 5, 2010, 1:09pm Top

>2 krolik: "Europe has nothing like American public libraries. "
Huh? Would you please elaborate on that? As a European librarian myself, I'm very curious about the great features of American public libraries that we might want to emulate ;-)

8msladylib
Feb 5, 2010, 1:52pm Top

#3 Perhaps you should visit a few libraries. You say the bookstores are more pleasant places to be, yet you haven't been in a library for many years! Seems to me, then, you have no basis for comparison.

9Storeetllr
Edited: Feb 5, 2010, 2:34pm Top

I'd be devastated if libraries disappeared from America. It would leave a huge gaping hole in our cultural landscape that no amount of ebooks would be able to fill. I agree about libraries being oases. They also offer many services you can't find in an e-reader, online book seller, or brick&mortar book store: literacy tutoring, book clubs, childrens' book hour, lectures on literary and other artistic subjects, accessibility of folios and other old books that are no longer available, and photography repositories, to name a few.

I love the Los Angeles Central Library, not only for the books and services but also for the art and architecture of the building. I actually moved in part so I could be closer to it. (I live 2 blocks away.)

Libraries are good for the soul.

ETA that I am not a librarian, so maybe I shouldn't have posted here, but I go to the library so often that many of the librarian's greet me by name. Also I worked as an adult literacy tutor for a couple of years at the library. Anyway, forgive me for sticking my two cents in, but closing libraries is a hot button for me.

10krolik
Edited: Feb 5, 2010, 2:37pm Top

>7 Felagund:
Sorry if I was presumptuous. That was a rather sweeping statement. I'm most familiar with France, with a little experience in some other countries. I shouldn't pretend to speak for all of Europe.

That said, the American features I was thinking of would be things like opening hours which include evenings and Sundays. This is a great help to people with day jobs and is also more family friendly. Also, free internet access. It's a great help to the poor and to travelers. Nowadays public wifi is changing the picture, but in the 1990s and early 2000s when I was traveling in the U.S., I depended greatly on public libraries. In many places, where the free internet was supposed to be for locals, librarians kindly gave me a temporary card. And, though this is less tangible, the particular gesture was symptomatic of a pervading atmosphere of general goodwill. The implicit question when I walked in the door was how can we help you use our stuff? I didn't have to justify myself or beg. Sometimes my reception over here has been considerably more laborious.

As for university libraries, the big difference is opening hours and access to stacks. In addition to the question of evening hours and Sundays, my university library in France simply closes down for part of the summer. (At precisely the time when some students are hustling to finish their MA theses for defenses in September.) Even more seriously, for most of the collection, to touch a book involves a tedious and inefficient procedure of filling out cards and waiting for the requested material to arrive. There are practical reasons for this (lack of sufficient funding for enough staff) but the unintended consequences, I'm convinced, run deep and are intellectually pernicious. There is a negative mentality about letting students touch books . Moreover, it leaves no room for serendipity, for letting people pull down books at random and discover. It's the equivalent of telling someone, "OK, you can use the internet, but only for specific word searches,which will go through another party. No surfing allowed!"

edited for italics

11LolaWalser
Feb 5, 2010, 2:44pm Top

#10

Sections of university libraries in the US and Canada are also off free access to students, or sometimes to anyone except some of the library staff. A lot of material may be in storage too.

Anyway, the OP talks about public, not university libraries.

12krolik
Feb 5, 2010, 3:07pm Top

>11 LolaWalser:
True. But I know from experience that I can crash plenty of university libraries where I don't have any plausible connection and start grabbing at goodies. It's quite enjoyable.

13Felagund
Edited: Feb 5, 2010, 3:12pm Top

>11 LolaWalser:
Actually, krolik was the OP (in message #2 - and no offence was taken over the broad statement, by the way: I was just a bit surprised)... and although he was talking about public libraries, I don't see any problem bringing university libraries into the picture. Sometimes, you can even find libraries that provide both services!

As for opening hours, I agree it's a problem. It's fairly hard to find professional people who will agree to work at night or on week-ends (even when it's not on a frequent basis). In university libraries, the opening hours can be extended by hiring students, but the service isn't the same.
Regarding Internet access, you have to remember that in Europe, communications used to be quite expensive (regular phone, ISDN, the beginning of ADSL) until the beginning of the 21st century. For example, we don't have free local calls - at least not in my home country. Today things are different (thankfully).
Finally, I'm very happy to say that the stated criticisms against European university libraries are becoming a thing of the past (they already are in many universities): free access to the shelves is becoming the norm when feasible. And librarians have also come to understand the need for a better coordination between the academic calendar and their own private agenda.

14HoldenCarver
Feb 5, 2010, 3:17pm Top

Can't speak for all libraries in the UK, but can for the ones in the authority I work for.

"That said, the American features I was thinking of would be things like opening hours which include evenings and Sundays."

The particular library I work at opens late two days a week, though not on Sunday. Other libraries in the authority open late up to five days a week, and a handful open on Sunday.

Extended opening hours depend very much on whether there's local demand for it. There's no point opening late if no-one's going to come in. It's typically the much more urban libraries that open late.

"Nowadays public wifi is changing the picture, but in the 1990s and early 2000s when I was traveling in the U.S., I depended greatly on public libraries. In many places, where the free internet was supposed to be for locals, librarians kindly gave me a temporary card. And, though this is less tangible, the particular gesture was symptomatic of a pervading atmosphere of general goodwill. The implicit question when I walked in the door was how can we help you use our stuff?"

Free internet access is available at most libraries in the UK through the 'People's Network' system. Library members can log on using their own library cards, while people without cards can be logged on as guests for the time they need. As you say, those requiring guest access are often tourists or travellers, and personally speaking I'd be mortified if any of these came into our library and felt they couldn't use our internet.

15ZoharLaor
Feb 5, 2010, 3:31pm Top

Haven't we learned anything from the fall of the record companies?

They told us "buy what we sell because we will not make what you want".
How did that work out for them?

The world is changing, evolving. E-books won't kill the libraries but just change them.
Granted, it might not be the “library” we know and love (including myself and my wife) but it will still be there, but in a different form.

From reading on-line forums and talking to friends who have e-readers the consensus is that with an e-reader, you read more.
That is something we should embrace.

The smart librarians will realize this and accommodate to their customers instead of trying to stop progress and the inevitable.

16LolaWalser
Feb 5, 2010, 4:09pm Top

#11

I suppose it's going to vary greatly in time and place. One couldn't crash the stacks at the U of Toronto's branches I use, for instance, because the access is cardholder only. And I wasn't allowed, as a grad student, into Harvard's Widener library although I was a visiting researcher there (eventually resolved, but no question of simply "crashing" it, even with all the paperwork and cards I carried).

I've experienced all kinds of public library opening hours in the US, usually varying from branch to branch too, in one city. There are no universal rules, and not all public libraries are open late or on weekends.

As for comparing public systems in Europe and the US (or North America), past the core book et al.-lending capacity, they don't fulfill exactly the same role, that's for sure. For one thing, the notion that libraries serve a charitable role in providing some support to the homeless--you just don't see hordes of homeless people in European cities. Or even a handful. In fact, I can't remember ever having seen a homeless person, a person living in the street, in Europe, as far as I could identify one. Not on a street, and certainly not in a library. Maybe they drown them. In contrast, one of my favourite branches here in Toronto is beset by the homeless gathering around the nearby soup kitchen, hostel and the centre for addiction treatment; it was similar in Manhattan, although Giuliani's police kept the tide low, especially around fancy areas. In New Orleans I once witnessed a man who was known for sleeping through his days in the main library break out one evening (they had locked him in inadvertently), by sending a couch through the glass wall on the second floor.

I left Europe before public internet access became the norm in libraries anywhere, but insofar it exists, clearly the closing of libraries is going to affect users anywhere. Otoh, from a strictly touristic viewpoint, it seems to me internet cafes are still more abundant in Europe than in the US, so that, if you don't happen to be internautically equipped in person, you can get to your e-mail etc. with some ease and a not too great a cost, even if you're poor.

And then there are all kinds of community and unemployment and social welfare centres which cover all of the services provided in the US by the libraries and then some--computers, info and job search help, tax etc.

So, overall, I think the loss of public libraries in the US is a qualitatively different, and worse blow than it would be in Europe. (Not that I'm indifferent to possible library loss in Europe, not at all!)

17ShazInNV
Feb 5, 2010, 5:18pm Top

I don't see ebooks as the death of libraries. I download audio books from my library's website and have noticed that some library systems also offer downloading of ebooks. In our county the download service (Overdrive) is paid for by a grant from a local foundation that promotes literacy.

Your blog post says a library can no longer use the single-purchase option for ebooks. Our library's service from Overdrive allows for one book at a time to be downloaded, so whether it's an audio book or an ebook, the library is effectively purchasing a single copy. I'm on a wait list for a number of audio books. The book can't be downloaded by another patron until my time is up or I've "returned" the book. It would work the same for ebooks.

Overdrive and other similar services allow for different lending times and available copies depending on the library's service option.

18FFortuna
Feb 5, 2010, 7:04pm Top

I work at a small public library. If our system ever changes it will be a long time from now, simply because most of our patrons would have no idea how to use an e-reader, nor want to learn. Their routines are built around paper books, and they don't see any reason to change to a system that will be less effective for the entire time it takes to learn. (That said, a lot of our business is DVDs, not books of any kind. We push books; patrons say they don't have time to read.) I've only met one or two people who owned an e-reader EVER, not just across the library desk.

If libraries switched over to ebooks completely, what would be the point in having a library at all, except as a meeting room/internet cafe/public restroom? It could just be an internet site.

I really like the previously mentioned idea of mostly having displays with the rest of the books on shelves elsewhere, but I don't see where the money would come from to build on additions. Any change would have to be very gradual in the grand scheme of things.

On a personal note, I can't stand reading anything longer than a blog post on a screen. If it's longer than that, I will either read it on paper or I won't read it at all, purely because I like reading books and I don't like reading text on a screen. If ebooks were the only books available, I'd just stop buying new books altogether.

19K.J.
Feb 5, 2010, 10:59pm Top

I read this thread with great interest and, although I am not a librarian, a thought came to mind:

When I went to school in the States, as a young boy, it was in the Adirondack Mountains and many of the families in the area were not even at the middle-income level, with multiple children to house and feed. The library was the source of entertainment and such for these children. With the advent of equipment that must be purchased, where would these children go, if there are no hard copies and only ebooks?

Advancing technology favors those who can afford it, but there are still many people who cannot afford new technology and it would be a shame for them to lose out on reading, if/when only ebooks are available.

I have a friend in Moscow, who tells me that it is a custom in Russia for a book to 'travel' among friends. I was told my book has already traveled through 7 sets of hands, there. This would be difficult with ebooks.

20infjsarah
Feb 6, 2010, 6:10am Top

#19 I totally agree. I grew up in a family with little money. I was taken to the library for the first time in a pram and never stopped going. My family could never have afforded the amount of books I read. Now I am a qualified professional earning a good salary. Would that have happened without the public library to support my education - I'm not sure it would have.
Are we to exclude the poor from even more or the chance to become not poor?

21jcbrunner
Feb 6, 2010, 4:23pm Top

The future doesn't look bright for libraries. They are running against the twin sledge hammers of disintermediation (cf. Blown to bits, shop around the corner vs Walmart) and the decline of social capital (cf. Bowling alone. The already limited public areas (particularly in the US) will shrink further (cf. airports with their wealth-based lounge systems).

Ebooks tend to erect new digital fences. Today, I can import any book from anywhere. With ebooks, I will see a lot of "We are sorry, this product is not yet available in your country." - with little to no recourse (Google Books already blocks a lot of public domain works because they are not interested in serving smaller markets and don't want to pay for the necessary plumbing.).

22EowynA
Feb 6, 2010, 6:08pm Top

Taking the very long view - We have books from the Ancient world and from the Middle Ages that exist now from a single surviving copy - Beowulf, for instance. There is a language barrier to reading the original manuscript, but we can see the letters and how they are combined into words.

Ebooks often have proprietary formats, and are linked to specific brands of readers. And new formats supplant old ones. In x-hundred years, will all of the books in an early 21st century format even be readable? Will it be possible to see the letters and words without a working electronic gadget from the correct year or range of years as the ebook?

If physical books disappear in favor of electronic books, will anyone be able to read them in 300 years, let alone in 30 years? One wonders whether any electronic books would survive the next "Middle Ages" (given some of the forces for entropy with the avowed purpose of bringing down Western Civilization, such is possible).

OK, perhaps that was too long a view....

23cafepithecus
Feb 6, 2010, 8:17pm Top

I'm curious how having an ereader makes people read more. I've read that same comment several times. I think I would probably read far less because I have to actually pay for the books. Since I stopped buying books (except those I will read again) and started using the library a couple of years ago, I read FAR more than I did before. I just don't have the money to keep up with the habit. And frankly, the price of ebooks is ridiculous. I can get a used copy for less than a digital one. The idea of libraries disappearing scares me very much, as a voracious reader and self-admitted cheapskate...

24FFortuna
Feb 7, 2010, 4:21am Top

23, I have the same question/problem. In a dinner discussion today one of my esteemed relatives put forward the idea that e-readers make non-readers read more because it's more convenient for them and similar to what they already do, i.e., websurfing and reading text messages, but that people who already read habitually won't change that habit because of an e-reader.

When I think about paper books disappearing, I console myself with the fact (hope?) that even if books only become newly available in ebook form, all the old books will still exist and will presumably (hopefully) be available for resale, trade, etc. Even if new books were never printed there would be enough books out there already for me to never run out. I like to think that if public libraries disappeared, we would trade and loan more of our personal books. Maybe some very large personal libraries would be made public to some extent (by some extraordinarily generous and trusting people, of course.)

This is also one of the reasons I stockpile more of my own books whenever I have a little extra money. With a collection of perpetually rereadable books, along with a substantial Mt. TBR, I'll be okay... Up-to-date nonfiction might be a small problem, though.

25MissDowntownNYC
Feb 7, 2010, 6:59am Top

The first thing I did when I relocated was to find a library and get a library card.

I also have an overflowing personal library and now only purchase books if I want them to be part of my permanent collection.

I enjoy the touch and feel of paper, the act of turning a page. No desire to read on an electronic device . . . I stare at my laptop enough.

I may try audio books next. Several of my friends who drive a lot or have vision problems use them.

26MissDowntownNYC
Edited: Feb 7, 2010, 7:21am Top

#23, I'm with you on the affordability of using the library.

Love that books can be requested via library websites, this is an enormous time saver.

Also, we need to remember the cost of an ereader or buying books may be prohibitive for many people. Libraries provide a vital community service where demographics do not allow for book or ereader purchases. This concern has also been mentioned by other posters.

PS I may be biased because I once worked in the public library as a page . . .

27gingergirl8302
Feb 7, 2010, 7:13am Top

I don't often visit libraries anymore, I loved to when I was younger because there was one right up the road and I could walk there. But I love my books so I don't like giving them back. That's why I don't go to libraries, not that they don't have their uses. A nice place to sit and read, or research a paper, or study with friends. I don't think it's ebooks putting libraries out of business... I think it's online books. Ebay, amazon, ect. Ebooks aren't that big of a hit yet, I personally have no interest in them at all. I want to tough my book, feel it's pages, smell it's paper and ink. They will never stop publishing books, because computers fail, files are lost and so on and ebooks are expensive. Your going to spend a couple hundred on the reader then about ten dollars on each book you put on it.

Now online shopping, that's dangerous. Why go to a library and check out a book when you can buy it online for $1. I went to the mall the other day and one of the book stores in there was closing down. I ended up getting in this big discussion with all my pals about priorities of kids today. Hot topic and the gap are booming but this great store of knowledge is closing it's doors. I'm only 26 so I'm not exactly old but I'm not young anymore either and this was horrible to me. I grew up in a family where books were the big thing to do, not tv, not video games. There were always books. I have 6 bookcases in my own home now. 5 for me and 1 for my kids, though theirs is getting full so I will need to get another.

Though I don't use the library I hope it never disappears.

28MissDowntownNYC
Edited: Feb 7, 2010, 7:27am Top

#22 I'm with you. Not too long a view, IMHO.

Your post made me think of the Guernsey book and the role books played during war time . . .I wonder how many ancient books have survived the wars in the Middle Eastern countries or the earthquake in Haiti?

Historians and preservationists please weigh in . . .

Another concern I have is about privacy and freedom of access. Can you read books anonymously with an ereader? Could books be more easily restricted or banned by governments, etc. if they are in electronic form? In the U.S. our librarians are advocates for privacy.

29cosmicdolphin
Edited: Feb 7, 2010, 8:05am Top

2 Krolik:

'Europe has nothing like American Public Libraries'

Whoa there...I've worked in the Public Library Service in the U.K., and U.K. libraries are great, and last time I looked the U.K. is part of Europe.

Let's not write off every European Library Service in 7 words.

Rich

30K.J.
Feb 7, 2010, 8:36am Top

20> Are we to exclude the poor from even more or the chance to become not poor?

I've had this concern since the advent of personal computers, and even though there is talk of everyone being on the information highway, I see many people forced by economics to stand on the shoulder. This separates, in the manner described in #21, by jcbrunner every aptly: "Ebooks tend to erect new digital fences." I couldn't have said it better.

As for your success in life, I would not wish to take anything away from the strength of your resolve to be successful, and I would agree with your question of had you not had access to the library, would you have been able to expand your options? Would you have dared to think that your dreams could be real? It might even be a bit scary to ask oneself, after all is said and done.

With every technological advance we have, I still think of those disadvantaged children in the Adirondacks, and I ask myself: "What about them?"

31vinman1022
Feb 7, 2010, 9:05am Top

Working as an Archivist, my only concern is that with everything going digital, there will be no surviving paper copy. Sort of reminds me of an ancient middle-eastern religion whose priests only passed on everything orally. When their religion was nearly wiped out (violently and intentionally), much of their knowledge was lost.

On the other hand, I am finding information with GoogleBooks that I would never be able to find in a library. Google offers a full text search and I am finding snippets of information that very few know about and that are historically relevant to our collection.

But in terms of current material, there certainly seems to be a widening gulf between the haves who can afford technology and the have-nots who cannot. I myself, though I have a home computer, cannot afford the new e-readers, ipods, ipads, etc., and do not see any immediate need to buy one given the fast-paced changes of technology in general. Why buy a Kindle to read a book in black-and-white when you can buy an iPad and read a book in color (if it has pictures)? And I know someone who can barely afford dial-up and has a hand-me-down computer that barely functions (its 12 years old). Will he be able to read an e-book in the future if that is the only format it is available in?

I agree that change is coming and libraries will adapt. But at what cost to human culture in general?

32CliffordDorset
Feb 7, 2010, 9:33am Top

I think that this debate has to be set within the context of the different uses of books. There's a big difference between reading a book mostly for entertainment and diversion, and reading because a book relates to a specific topic or intellectual investigation of interest to the reader.

I think the 'killing libraries' suggestion is much more likely for the former use, because many libraries contain stuff that's 'deeper' than entertainment, or what's easily googled. It's very much less of an issue for the latter use - very much less. I have reading needs that it would be great if they were satisfied by a library (public OR private) within ten or twenty miles of home. I have neither funds nor time to make a hundred mile trip to a specialist library at all practicable. I want the contents of the relevant specialist libraries fully accessible electronically, and as I don't mind working at home, a chunk of e-book hardware is irrelevant. I'd rather use a large-screen desktop, but could manage with a cheap one!

The problem with the 'Where do you want to go today?' trivialisation of the intellectual process is that the minority who want to be at the cutting edge of an intellectual discipline can't get there because they're a minority - nobody wants to satisfy their needs because there isn't 'a market'. In medieval times, scholars needed to move physically to monasteries and university towns, and in many ways this hasn't changed very much; in THAT context, e-books are irrelevant. They're just the words-equivalent of MP3 players and DVD players - mass entertainment toys.

33krolik
Feb 7, 2010, 11:15am Top

>29 cosmicdolphin:

You're absolutely right. I attempted an apology in >10 krolik: for being so sweeping, and I'll repeat it here. Yes, I should've limited the scope of my comment.

Believe me, I come to praise libraries, not to bury them!

34Papiervisje
Feb 7, 2010, 11:44am Top

>10 krolik::
'Europe has nothing like American Public Libraries'
Can't say for all the Dutch libraries, but my public library is open 10-10, 7 days a week, with free access to hundreds of computers, coffee and sandwiches served at the top floor with one of the best views over Amsterdam.
BTW, your desciption of French library services is not limited to libraries, My experience is that it seems typical of many (not all) French services.

Getting back to the OT: I do not see eBooks as the end of libraries. Instead of getting a dead tree version, you get a e-version. The library will have more computers where you can browse in eBooks, get suggestions on books that have similar content or were borrowed by other users also borrowing this book, etc. (Similar to what Amazon is doing). On large panels, eBooks are displayed with recommendations, reviews and highlights, similar to what we now see with paper versions. Instead of large walls with books, you get large amounts of computer screens.
You download an eBook on your laptop/eReader/etc and pay a small fee or as part of a subscription.

35_Zoe_
Feb 7, 2010, 7:01pm Top

Just like the last time you posted about this, I think you're going overboard with the gloom and doom. First, there's a key distinction between the transition from paper books to e-books and the transition from music on CDs to iPods: with music, it was incredibly easy to convert from one format to another. I could stick a CD in my computer and click a few buttons, and all the music from the CD would be on the iPod. That's not possible with books, or at least not realistic: I really can't see myself doing page-by-page scans of the thousands of books I own, and if I did, the quality wouldn't be the same.

So, the iPod actually made the CDs obsolete. I could get rid of all my CDs and keep only the iPod, with no loss in content. The fact that I can't do the same with books means that it will take a lot longer for paper books to fade out entirely, if it ever happens.

So then we come to all the horrific pricing scenarios that you foresee for libraries. I think the solution is obvious: if the e-books aren't financially viable, just keep buying paper books. (Note that I can still walk into a store and buy CDs, for all that the music industry is decimated and CDs are redundant.) Then people will be faced with exactly the same choice they have now: they can buy their own copy of the book in the format they want, or they can get the paper copy for free from the library. I don't think the patrons will force the libraries to change formats.

But, overall, I think libraries are headed in the same direction as bookstores and in obedience to the same logic—falling in tandem with the rise of ebooks.

I think it's online bookselling that's to blame for the bookstore closures more than e-books per se. I'll be honest, though; I'm not particularly concerned about the demise of the bookstores. I can see that more and more of my bookshopping is being done online, and I'm generally more satisfied that way.

36foggidawn
Feb 7, 2010, 8:53pm Top

#27 -- I don't think online booksellers have had much of an impact on libraries. (Not nearly the impact that they've had on indie bookstores, for example.) I don't think that will change when online booksellers are selling more ebooks than paper, either. A lot of library patrons don't have the technological savvy to take advantage of online booksellers now, and they will be the ones who are behind the curve when it comes to ebooks, as well. Even the ones who are comfortable buying online appreciate the other advantages the library has to offer. You seem to be of the impression that libraries are dying out because people are buying books online, and I just don't think that's the case. Due to the recession, most libraries are seeing record use right now, despite recession-related financial difficulties in some areas. Tim seems to think that libraries are going to die out as soon as ebooks become the more prevalent format, and I don't think that's the case either. Gosh, I don't usually think of myself as that much of an optimist. . . .

37timspalding
Edited: Feb 7, 2010, 9:44pm Top

They told us "buy what we sell because we will not make what you want".

I just don't buy this. Sure, labels could have been quicker to embrace digital media. Tech futurists spent a lot of time in the early 0s persuading us that this was the problem.

Well, problem resolved. You can buy almost everything you want online now, both directly and as a streaming product. The fact is that 90% of music downloads are illegal. When sliced by age, the results are devastating—an entire generation hardly ever pays for music.

This isn't some failure of labels to make products people want. It's the willingness of people to steal things.

So, the iPod actually made the CDs obsolete. I could get rid of all my CDs and keep only the iPod, with no loss in content. The fact that I can't do the same with books means that it will take a lot longer for paper books to fade out entirely, if it ever happens.

A few points:

1. Neither I nor Mike Shatzkin made any predictions about timing. As he put it, he only claimed an inverse relationship between physical bookstore success and ebook adoption.

2. That you were able to move your CDs to an iPod allowed you to throw away your CDs, but it didn't change the fact that you—or, if not you, many others, including me, have stopped buying CDs. That paper will continue on for centuries is clear—the permanence of paper products assures that. That it will be sold at anything like the current rate is not sure.

3. I agree that it may take longer.

I think it's online bookselling that's to blame for the bookstore closures more than e-books per se. I'll be honest, though; I'm not particularly concerned about the demise of the bookstores. I can see that more and more of my bookshopping is being done online, and I'm generally more satisfied that way.

I didn't say ebooks were killing physical bookstores. I said they will. Ebooks are still a small percent of the market. But the direction is clear and there is a clear logic to the situation—as people move to ebooks, they don't need to go to physical bookstores and buy physical books. As for the last sentence, QED!

38_Zoe_
Feb 7, 2010, 11:08pm Top

You can buy almost everything you want online now, both directly and as a streaming product. The fact is that 90% of music downloads are illegal. When sliced by age, the results are devastating—an entire generation hardly ever pays for music.

This isn't some failure of labels to make products people want. It's the willingness of people to steal things.


I think it's largely about a failure to form habits at a critical time. If people had been accustomed to paying for digital music from the beginning, I don't think stealing would have been so prevalent.

Of course, I also think a lot of people download free music that they just wouldn't have listened to if they had to pay.

As he put it, he only claimed an inverse relationship between physical bookstore success and ebook adoption.

You mean, new physical bookstore success and ebook adoption? The way ebook prices are going (see Macmillan), I don't see the market for cheaper used paper books drying up anytime soon.

as people move to ebooks, they don't need to go to physical bookstores and buy physical books. As for the last sentence, QED!

My last sentence had nothing to do with ebooks! I've never bought an ebook in my life.

39timspalding
Edited: Feb 7, 2010, 11:30pm Top

I think it's largely about a failure to form habits at a critical time. If people had been accustomed to paying for digital music from the beginning, I don't think stealing would have been so prevalent.

I just don't know. I recognize that's part of it. But free is hard. Teenagers don't pay for things they don't have to. They did it before too—people copied music illegally all the time. The difference is the that it's so much easier now.

Of course, I also think a lot of people download free music that they just wouldn't have listened to if they had to pay.

That's true.

What bothers me here is that opinions have hardened into unshakeable ideology—a classic cognitive dissonance if there ever were one. A few years ago it was customary for hip people to believe that (1) when music was available for purchase, people would buy it, (2) free wasn't going to hurt anything, but would actually help the business. These are now demonstrably false assertions. The music industry is being eviscerated by piracy. It's time to realize when the future has arrived, and it wasn't what was predicted.

That said, I still hate DRM as much as the next person. It's particularly worrying for ebooks insofar as locked-down platforms are also monopolies on control. I don't know which is worse—literature decimated by piracy or a few enormous companies serving as gatekeepers for all publishing and having and using detailed information on what people are reading. Both strike me as very scary.

My last sentence had nothing to do with ebooks! I've never bought an ebook in my life.

Fair point. I think most ebook people see ebook's advantages being closely allied with online's advantages—very large selection, rapid delivery, standard interface.

40_Zoe_
Feb 7, 2010, 11:37pm Top

The music industry is being eviscerated by piracy.

What exactly is the industry, and is it something we care about? More importantly, how are the artists doing? My brother manages an individual band, and things seem to be going just fine there.

Also, have you read the introduction to the Baen Free Library, about how making some books available for free actually helps in the long run?

I think most ebook people see ebook's advantages being closely allied with online's advantages—very large selection, rapid delivery, standard interface.

I don't think the selection of ebooks is as large as the selection of paper books at this point. And weren't you just saying how terrible the Kindle is for reading non-fiction? I think only a small fraction of books are both available as an ebook and actually work well in that format.

41timspalding
Edited: Feb 8, 2010, 12:43am Top



A good take on the critical four years:
http://business.theatlantic.com/2010/02/whos_to_blame_for_the_music_industrys_fr...

"That four-year lag is where the music industry lost the battle," said Sonal Gandhi, music analyst with Forrester Research. "They lost an opportunity to take consumers' new behavior and really monetize it in a way that nipped the free music expectation in the bud."

Why does Gandhi think those years were so crucial? During the "four-year lag" between 1999 and 2003, music sales fell no more than 20 percent. Six years after iTunes debuted, sales fell another 40 percent. I don't know that any one thing is responsible for this -- you could point to bitTorrent technology or YouTube or some illegal downloading services or just file it all under: The Internet. But I don't particularly understand why you would blame the erosion of music profits in the last three years on some lost opportunity circa 2002.

Music is free now, and it has been free for millions of Americans for more than a decade. The industry was never going to unring that bell.


From the New York Times (http://www.nytimes.com/2010/01/22/business/global/22music.html)

"In France, for example, the number of albums released by domestic artists has fallen by 60 percent, he said.

In Spain, where music sales have collapsed, there were no albums by domestic artists among the top 50 sellers last year, compared with 10 as recently as 2003, the music federation said. In a report, it blamed what it called a “culture of state-tolerated apathy toward illegal file-sharing."


how are the artists doing?

On average, they're doing much worse—half of sales when normal economic growth would have lifted them. Some bands can reorient around live music, merchandise and licensing, although it's not like bands weren't trying to make money on this stuff before. And, of course, 50% of a big number is still a decent number.

Of course, this isn't over. The angle of the curve is straight down. We can expend music sales to continue to decline rapidly. When music sales are at 20% of what they were in 2001, will people still be saying it's all working out?

It's worth adding that live shows, merchandise and licensing are vanishingly small options for authors. What, Lexus is going to pay to have pieces on novels read out in the back of a car commercial? T-shirts with book covers?

I don't think the selection of ebooks is as large as the selection of paper books at this point. And weren't you just saying how terrible the Kindle is for reading non-fiction? I think only a small fraction of books are both available as an ebook and actually work well in that format.

Again, I'm merely laying out the inverse relationship, and said I think there's reasons to believe it will be slower. That said:

1. The publishing industry is much more fragile than the music industry. The music industry was more extensively wasteful in its label structure—there was more disintermediation to do. I think bookstores and publishing will be transformed by much smaller declines.
2. I don't think the Kindle's that great a device. Others disagree. But I think the iPad has the power to really transform things.
3. Availability and quality are on a massive upward swing. The publishing industry is breathless about this stuff. They aren't going to hang back.

42ZoharLaor
Feb 8, 2010, 1:23pm Top

The music industry is being eviscerated by piracy

I disagree.
The record companies (book publishers?) are being eviscerated only because they fought tooth and nail against what the public demanded they’ll produce.

Digital media is not killing music, it’s killing record companies.

Well, problem resolved. You can buy almost everything you want online now, both directly and as a streaming product. The fact is that 90% of music downloads are illegal. When sliced by age, the results are devastating—an entire generation hardly ever pays for music.

This is a worldwide figure which has been pushed by the International organization IFPI ( alobbying group) and they have been known to play with statistics (let’s not forget that in many parts of the world people are forced to download illegally because they cannot get legal downloads).

If 90% of the music downloads are illegal, who’s buying music?
But like we said before, the record companies are forcing their customers to get music illegally because you won’t produce what they’re asking for – now when they got on the ball (many years later) there is a whole new generation that simply refuses to pay for a product that has previously been “free”.
By the way, total music revenues are up (merchandising, concerts, etc.), just that the huge profits from selling CDs are not there anymore.

Reading more…
E-books make people read more because they don’t have to go and browse, or wait for a book to arrive. Imagine having all your books on your wish list available to you immediately. You can also get hundreds of thousands of e-books for free from the Guttenberg Project, Google Books and even Amazon.

By the way, I don’t think librarians need to run out and get a new job, this transition would take decades and libraries serve a much bigger purpose than “borrowing books”.

43timspalding
Edited: Feb 8, 2010, 2:03pm Top

The record companies (book publishers?) are being eviscerated only because they fought tooth and nail against what the public demanded they’ll produce.

Which is what? Free music or digital music? Digital music has been available for sale for quite some time now. It's not taking off because paying for things is a bummer.

Digital media is not killing music, it’s killing record companies.

Sales are down dramatically. In any normal sphere of life a decade-long steep decline in sales would be an indicator of ill health.

To take another example, music sales in Brazil are down eighty percent. And not in a decade—in three years! See http://www.businessweek.com/globalbiz/content/jan2010/gb20100122_792362.htm.

In music the hip ideology is:

1. Consumers will buy digital music, if it's available.
2. Since it's been available for most of the last decade, the failure of consumers to buy digital music in significant quantities is attributable to a few years in the early 2000s when it was not available. We learned to steal, and for that the people we steal from are to blame.
3. Declining music sales have no effect on artists.
4. Declining sales are counterbalanced by concerts and t-shirts.

All of these were interesting arguments once. Frankly, I thought there was a lot to them. And you know what? I was wrong. It's time for others to admit this as well.

44Felagund
Feb 8, 2010, 2:44pm Top

> 41
In a report, it blamed what it called a “culture of state-tolerated apathy toward illegal file-sharing."
I blame the emergence of Pop Idol/American Idol and related reality TV shows worldwide as a primary cause of lower-quality music.

45ZoharLaor
Edited: Feb 8, 2010, 3:49pm Top

Tim, I'm by no means justifying stealing.

All I'm saying is that the business model has changed, simple as that - they need to find a new way of generating money and suing every teenager on the face of the planet won't help. People will still make music, but there will be knew ways to distribute and promote their music vs. sigining up with a record label.

MySpace and YouTube are a perfect example. Heck, we might even get good music instead of the crap that has been passed as "music" since MTV first went on the air.

How is illegal downloading different from your friend buying a book and letting all his friends read it?

Look at how many books are offered via LT as an eBook?

A new way to promote your product and finding new ways to generate revenue by word of mouth instead of sucking up to Borders or B&N for shelf space.
No?

46ericrumsey
Edited: Feb 8, 2010, 4:09pm Top

Seth Goden's article a few days before "Why are you for killing libraries?" speaks my view. He's talking about publishing, but his point applies to libraries:
Who will save us?

Who will save us?
Who will save book publishing?
What will save the newspapers?
What means 'save'?
If by save you mean, "what will keep things just as they are?" then the answer is nothing will. It's over.

I think we need to see beyond bricks-and-mortar libraries -- The skills of librarians will be needed more than ever in the future.

47HoldenCarver
Feb 8, 2010, 4:10pm Top

Tim, what's your view on the many studies that show that music pirates buy more music?

48timspalding
Feb 8, 2010, 4:24pm Top

People will still make music, but there will be knew ways to distribute and promote their music vs. sigining up with a record label.

I think that, if music sales simply dry up—if copyrigtht ceases to have any effective legal standing—it will cut severely into how much music is made, and how good it is.

How is illegal downloading different from your friend buying a book and letting all his friends read it?

Letting your friends read a book is legal. You own the book. Copyright is the right to make copies. You have the right to play your music for your friends. You don't have the right to make copies for others.

A more sophistication question would be "What's the difference between file sharing and copying an album to tape back when that was what you did?" The answer is scale and context. Making one or two imperfect copies, often on mix tapes for friends is different from posting music on a site where it will be downloaded illegally by hundreds of thousands of people.

Look at how many books are offered via LT as an eBook?

Yes?

49timspalding
Edited: Feb 8, 2010, 4:30pm Top

Tim, what's your view on the many studies that show that music pirates buy more music?

Find me one. If they do, as against whom? The math doesn't add up. If pirates buy more, would sales be a smoking crater?

The conversation has simply moved. It's like Jehovah's Witnesses who insist that, although the world didn't end in 1975, somehow they weren't wrong. Boosterism about online piracy not mattering must stare into the abyss of a music industry half its size in the US and 1/5 its size in Brazil.

50ZoharLaor
Feb 8, 2010, 4:30pm Top

"Look at how many books are offered via LT as an eBook?

Yes?"

I was just giving that as an example of a new way to promote a product without the need of an "estublishment" behind you.
Might have been a bad example :)

51ZoharLaor
Feb 8, 2010, 4:39pm Top

Tim, what's your view on the many studies that show that music pirates buy more music?"

I remember reading about this several years ago when Napster first came out - I believe it was during the trial.

However, I don't know if that's true anymore.

53freecyclor
Feb 8, 2010, 8:31pm Top

I don't know which is worse—literature decimated by piracy or a few enormous companies serving as gatekeepers for all publishing...

Isn't that the current model? How has that worked for us - when a few blockbuster authors churn out same old after same old formulas ad nauseum; and the few publishers who dominate the market are unwilling to publish for smaller markets?

Getting an e-reader has opened a new world of books that I could never have read otherwise: either because they are not, (and may never be), in print; or because neither my library nor the bricks and mortar stores are willing to shelve the offerings of small independent publishers.

It's early days to start worrying that libraries will disappear. They will adapt, and continue to serve their markets with a much wider selection and more services.

54timspalding
Edited: Feb 8, 2010, 8:41pm Top

No. We have a free press. There are six major publishers, but thousands of smaller publishers. Booksellers regularly order from multiple source—publishers and aggregators (of which there are a bunch).

few publishers who dominate the market are unwilling to publish for smaller markets

What? First, the big publishers own imprints that go everywhere. Second, so what? Is it a big control problem if Random House doesn't print books for the Albanian BDSM community?

small independent publishers

You value smallness and independence by advocating for a giant gatekeeper monopoly? Bookstores don't stock everything not because they're evil, but because there are physical limitations. Amazon has no such limitations. So they can stock more. This would be true if there were a truly free ereader too.

55LucindaLibri
Feb 8, 2010, 11:32pm Top

I was going to post something about libraries, but that doesn't seem to be the topic anymore . . . I'm reminded of my young relatives who don't have time to read a book, but listen to music and watch videos and play video games all day . . .

56bluetyson
Feb 9, 2010, 12:09am Top

54

Actually, electronically the large publishers don't go 'everywhere'. They have all cut themselves off to only selling in their own country (or countries, for the UK). That can definitely kill them all, medium term.

Cutting down large oligopolies is a good thing, too, as well as monopolies.

Speaking of math - the other thing that annoys me with the media capitalists is their ignorance of probability - you stay operating long enough you are going to tank, eventually. And have down years, or periods. Unless you are some sort of genius - and they have repeatedly shown historically that they are not. There is no right (or even sensible expectation) to continued ridiculous profit levels as per the people replace their stuff with overly expensive CDs era of coke snorting excess. I remember said idiots filing suit against the makers of mp3 players.

The music industry - and there was a good couple of articles from an ex-executive - has centralised and made their product significantly worse and less interesting. So on top of the change management skills of squashed turnips they now produce an inferior product.

The same woman now points out that publishing executives are starting to say the exact same things, and act in the same manner as the music guys did.

It is pretty funny to see Rupert Murdoch and company - right wing freemarket personality responsibility advocates etc. crying for help when the 'market' decides it doesn't like them as much anymore - and refusing to own up to the fact that a chunk of it is their own fault because of past business practices.

Six major publishers might become 5 or 4 or 2 in not too long, perhaps. How would you feel about them then, if still commanding a similar percentage?

I stopped buying CDs, too, when hit by false advertising - bought one that wasn't, it was a DRM-ed non-standard product that wouldn't work in my CD player. Making the product _worse_ yet again.

57_Zoe_
Feb 9, 2010, 9:23am Top

There should be a group called The Future of Books, or something along those lines. These discussions keep coming up, and they're interesting, but they're scattered all over the place mostly in groups that I don't follow (Librarians, Book Talk, Kindle Group).

Since it's been available for most of the last decade, the failure of consumers to buy digital music in significant quantities is attributable to a few years in the early 2000s when it was not available.

Deny it all you want, but I can say from my own experience that this is true. I was in the habit of buying CDs. CDs stopped being the way to get music. The music that I wanted to buy wasn't there, so I stopped buying. And I'm still not buying.

I haven't resorted to large-scale piracy, either, despite what you say. Most of my music comes from my immediate family, on the insignificant scale that you defended in the context of tapes. Despite what Apple may think, I'm not convinced that my sister, my mother, and I should buy three copies of a song that we all like.

My sister, five years younger than me, does buy her music legally on iTunes. She missed that critical period where the message was that Acquiring Music Online is Evil. I don't think you can discount the harm that that period did to the purchasing habits of law-abiding people. It's not that everyone necessarily became a criminal; some people just bought into the music industry's line that getting music online is bad, and formed a habit of actively not getting music online at a critical time (okay, or maybe it's just me. But I resent being called a criminal because I did the right thing.)

So yes, I absolutely think that the music industry shouldn't have driven people away from the future of music, and I think they have to take some responsibility for that.

58timspalding
Feb 9, 2010, 10:13am Top

The Future of Books

I agree. That would be a good group. Let's get over the feature crazy today and then let's create that group and I'll blog and Twitter it too, to pull more people in.

59VisibleGhost
Feb 9, 2010, 10:28am Top

41- That music business graph shows the death of a format as much as anything else. The Album. There were a few where every track was good but not so for the majority. Most songs were never released as singles. The huge profits that paid for the music industry's fabled excesses was forced on the consumer by the album. Technology blew that model up.

We are now 12 years into the eReader age. Rocket and SoftBook came out in 1998. There were the failures of floppy books and CD-ROM books before that. The combination of device and store (Amazon & Kindle) did speed things up. But I still think publishers and libraries have some leeway here to make mistakes and recover when it comes to eBooks. It's not an 'overnight' revolution but a thirty years war. It's not clear to me there are ultimate winners and losers just yet. Sure, some are trying to map out the winning strategy but nobody's there yet. There is no album format to blow up. Most books are still books whatever the format they are read in.

60ZoharLaor
Feb 9, 2010, 1:32pm Top

Funny enough, I just stumbled upon an article about this same subject, written by a writer who used to be a music executive: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/susan-piver/book-publishers-stop-scar_b_452164.htm...

61Rob_E
Feb 9, 2010, 4:28pm Top

I like these discussions. I like pondering the future of books, bookstores, and, especially, libraries, but blog posts seem to me to have an odd and unreasonable focus: they seem to blame technology and the users of technology for the harm being done to bookstores and libraries.

I see the causal relationship. I see a need for change. But I do not see a viable solution being: persuade everyone to turn their backs on technology. That would certainly be a solution if it were remotely possible, but it is not. While paper-based publishing will probably not go away immediately, or maybe not at all, I don't see efforts to push paper on people (especially with guilt as the motivator) as being successful.

Other factors exacerbate the problem. Libraries are losing the "aggregation advantage." When every book is available anywhere, why go to the library to get it? And piracy hurts. ... When you can not only get a book anywhere, but get it for free, why go to the library?

What I love about libraries: free information and free entertainment. I have to mention entertainment because most items that I have checked out of the library are primarily for enjoyment. But what makes me passionate about libraries is the access they provide to information. When I think about the role of libraries, the mission of libraries, that is what I think of: access to information. So if "every books is available everywhere ... for free?" Mission accomplished. If that is really the role of libraries, and if that role is being carried out elsewhere, then we really don't need libraries.

But Tim goes on to mention other things that libraries offer that are not dependent on a physical book on a shelf. I don't think we (libraries) should turn our backs on print just yet, but we should be focusing on other services that will continue to make us relevant in the future. If books and, more inclusively, information become more readily available as a result of technology, then perhaps we should focus on providing the technology. If everyone already has the technology and, therefore, access to all the information that there is, then we can pack up and go home. But not because we've lost the fight, but because we've won.

But I don't really see us winning, going home, and collecting unemployment. I think we still have a lot to do in terms of serving up information, organizing, evaluating, or just plain knowing where to look for information in the morass of the internet that obnoxiously fails to put itself into a Library of Congress class scheme. Even if All the Information There Is suddenly becomes available to everyone, we still need someone to make sense of it, to point in the right direction.

New technologies will hurt libraries (and anyone else) who cannot keep up. Libraries need to be nimble, and I'm afraid this may be where we're failing, but hopefully it's something that can be changed. Ebook adoption is a problem. It present purchasing issues, accessibility issues, copyright issues, etc. But I worry about the idea that eBooks == the end of libraries. I think it's up to libraries to determine if eBooks are a nail in their coffin or another challenge to overcome.

62bluetyson
Feb 9, 2010, 8:21pm Top

59

Yes, good point. Forgot to mention that. Deliberately refusing to sell single tracks, and trying to sell albums full of manufactured no-goodness, rather than the one decent song.

--

Media history is this:

Customer: Hey, cool new format/stuff: we'd like to buy that, a lot.

Media industry: No, we aren't going to do that, we don't want to.

Interim: Lots of money lost.

Customer: Thanks, we spent that money you would have had on some other stuff instead!

Media industry: Hey, look what we're selling now! Cool new format/stuff.

Audio, video, books, they all act the same.

63glammonkey
Feb 10, 2010, 3:43pm Top

No one has mentioned that at least 50% of most public library circulation and service is to children under the age of 12. E-books are, at this stage and for the foreseeable future, not even remotely child friendly. Have you seen what a five year old can do to a copy of Olivia? Unless E-books fall below about $20 (so it isn't a big deal when they get lost) and become indestructible (so they can be dropped down the stairs), children's books are going to stay print based. And children and parents are going to keep coming to the library for them. In terms of funding, the greatest community support for funding libraries comes from the idea that children are the main users of the library and the community wants them to be literate.

A second huge user group of the public library are seniors, who came to the library largely because it is a social space for them - they get out of the house and attend programs, talk to other library patrons and staff and just generally use the space more than the books.

New immigrants come to the library for programs, ESL materials and to help acclimate themselves into society.

Students, high school, college and those taking professional exams, come to the library to study - they bring their own books, and don't use library resources (except the wireless), but they study for hours, because libraries are nice, safe spaces that are more conducive to studying than small apartments with roommates or houses full of family. Library space is as important as the books on the shelves.

E-books change none of this. So I'm not all that worried.

64goydaeh
Feb 13, 2010, 12:07pm Top

E-books make people read more because they don’t have to go and browse, or wait for a book to arrive. Imagine having all your books on your wish list available to you immediately. You can also get hundreds of thousands of e-books for free from the Guttenberg Project, Google Books and even Amazon.


Ordering physical books from Amazon eliminates the "going," and I don't see how you don't have to browse e-books. Physically browse? Yes. But I spend far more time picking books off of Amazon than I do picking them off of library/bookstore shelves. It's like walking into a restaurant with a ten-page menu vs. a diner with three specials. (I'm not saying that the limited selection is a good thing, but it is time-effective.)

I also don't see what the issue is with waiting for books to arrive. Am I going to polish off the last book in the tri-state area and realize that I have nothing else to read? I keep a TBR book with me whenever I'm near finishing my previous book; when does on-demand turn into never-prepare?

65drbubbles
Feb 15, 2010, 1:07pm Top

In the blog post, Tim wrote "Libraries are losing the 'aggregation advantage.' When every book is available anywhere, why go to the library to get it? And piracy hurts. Digitization has cut the music industry in half in the last decade, and there's no reason to believe books will become the first digital medium to avoid it. When you can not only get a book anywhere, but get it for free, why go to the library?"

I'm curious why you anticipate e-books being freely and commonly available? Yes the music industry got hammered by mp3s and P2P, but my impression has been that commercial e-bookselling has had DRM from the outset, as a result of the music industry experience. Wasn't there something recently about Apple being human-unfriendly by having its e-reader software effectively being a 3rd or 4th proprietary format? So I don't see who would be making all of the e-books freely available. (Not that they won't, just that I don't see how.) My job entails getting scientific articles (admittedly a different segment of publishing than commercial bookselling), and doing so as cheaply as possible, and when publishers want to control access there is no getting around it: and that's with PDF the nearly universal format.

Secondly, supposing that e-books were available freely all over; wouldn't it be likely that public libraries could make their e-books available for term-limited download by registered patrons, similarly to how they control off-site access to third-party databases? The user wouldn't actually have to go to the B&M library, but they would certainly using "the library."

66Felagund
Edited: Feb 15, 2010, 2:06pm Top

>65 drbubbles:
Re: commercial e-bookselling has had DRM from the outset, as a result of the music industry experience.

Well, as far as I am concerned it shows that e-book publishers have learnt nothing from the music industry experience! They are beginning to use DRM now that music producers have realized how inefficient it is as anti-piracy tool (i.e. it mostly hurts regular people who don't hurt their profit margin by much when they infringe, not the industrial-scale pirates with enough know-how) and are removing it from a number of online offers.

67proximity1
Feb 19, 2010, 10:07am Top


My hunches---

---which, for the busy and pressed reader, can be summed up briefly with the observation that, as foolish societies which neglect books, allowing them to fall into such disuse that they become items of extreme rarities, comes to discover later—and too late—their great value and importance, those books are going to rise in demand and in value. More people who once couldn’t be bothered to read them will find that they now need to obtain a book---but it’s not available (legally, at least) in any format which they can find or afford.


I believe that the prospects for books as we know them—the bound, printed version—and for readers who read them are a good deal better than some have supposed. With some imagination, we can picture how both books and readers shall survive e-reader technologies. However, it may be that, as I expect shall happen, the changes in readers’ habits shall entail important changes in the publishing industries which may not survive in the forms that they typically had in the 20th century. That’s not, by itself, necessarily a bad thing. But the picture is complicated and requires some explaining.

Traditionally, major publishers have been the arbiters of taste and technique in the publication of books. Not always for the best, they’ve determined what does and doesn’t get published and distributed to what once was a mass reading public. Today, the numbers of people who read at all, or who read regularly, or who even give a damn about books and reading is, in both proportion and in absolute numbers (speaking of the U.S. public) greatly smaller than was true 20, 30, 40, 50 and more years ago and the studies and surveys show the trend continuing.

I expect that one change in store is that the large general publishers of fiction and non-fiction (mainly non-academic publishers) are going to lose that status for a variety of reasons. The costs of distribution, combined with a vastly smaller number of book-buying readers may mean that instead of large press runs, most books are published by tiny firms who print, bind and distribute practically ‘on demand’ and for an area which is less than 200 miles in radius. They might be the publishing sub-contractors of the copyright holders of new(er) works. Who might those be? Well, authors, for one. Instead of finding themselves obliged to accept what have been the standard contract terms, authors, and especially those with proven large readerships, may find themselves in a position to negotiate much more favourable terms which make them, in effect, the arbiters of how their works are published and distributed. In a major development which the rise of e-reader devices may encourage, authors may decide, all on their own, to save the printed, bound, paper book simply by the act of refusing any prospective paper-book publisher the right to publish or distribute their work in an electronic form. They may negotiate separate contracts for a printed book and an electronic-reading-device version and in so doing preserve certain advantages for published books without which they’d be reduced to an endangered or vanishing species.

This may mean that a great many people who never imagined themselves as publishers decide to take up that work on a small micro-publisher scale.

Whatever happens, printed books are not likely to disappear. They are and by all indications shall remain too valuable to too many people for them to disappear. It’s been asked, “Who’s going to continue visiting libraries to borrow books or visiting bookstores to purchase them when practically every book is easily available everywhere—and often for ‘free’ ?” The answer is that, while people may make far fewer personal visits to bookstores to buy books—preferring instead to order them by phone or internet, they’ll still visit and use libraries and they’ll still buy books one way or another because, the simple fact is, I content, that, contrary to what some expect to find, practically every book won’t be easily available everywhere.

Indeed, in the nearer term, for a while at least, the changes in reading habits and in book publishing and distribution will mean just the opposite—that books are harder to obtain (though not harder to reference or “locate” as existing “somewhere”). In other words, lots of people will know of books they’d like to read but won’t be able to obtain a copy anywhere---except by borrowing it from a library or other lender, or, by purchase in used-copy---though the problem there is that the demand will relatively quickly outstrip supply. Why? Because, though there are more would-be buyers than available used copies, there are still too few total buyers to make it profitable for a traditional publisher to produce a reprint. And, it’s the traditional publisher which holds the exclusive rights to publish. That means, of course, that practically the sole sources for many, and many “great” works, shall be from libraries and used-book sellers. Why won’t these works go to e-reader-device editions? Many shall. But for a number of reasons, that vector is going to prove far less satisfactory for those for whom reading really counts; in other words, it’s one thing to “be able to” (that is, to have the choice) to read a text on an e-reading device, and something else to be obliged to read it that way. People don’t quite grasp this yet but experience will teach them. In the meantime, there may be a growing fall-off in a general demand for printed books. But, as electronic devices prove their inadequacies, this demand will return, helped by the fact that harder-to-obtain printed books will also prompt a growing greater appreciation for their value and importance.

People currently assume that not only everything now on the market will easily be available in electronic format but, moreover, much else besides will come into easy availability thanks to that format. My guess is that there’ll be some greater availability of certain types of texts and some makedly less availability of other types. And the “most-wanted” texts will not necessarily be those which are most easily found available on e-reading devices. What if, for example, because of the contractual demands made by some important---though perhaps not million-selling---authors, their works aren’t licensed for electronic publication? How would you obtain their new work? Not via a traditional brick-and-mortar publishing firm; they won’t be able to make a profit on it. Instead, a small, ‘on-demand’ publisher---maybe one contracting with the author for very restricted areas of sale and distribution---would be the source. Or, perhaps it’s directly with the author himself or herself that any interested reader must deal in order to obtain a copy in whatever format it may be available.

Sooner or later though, I expect, people who now neglect books as being quite dispensable items will come later to appreciate how important they are and mainly because they’ll have become much, much, much harder to come by. Those who’ve spent years in collecting and preserving a library of their own shall be the lucky ones; don’t expect them to easily let their books out of their possession. Then, libraries, for the same reason, will suddenly be much more popular because, again, they’ll be among the very few sources where an enormous range of books will be available to consult. Indeed, one casualty of the changes may be that many libraries will find that they dare not lend out their holdings, so valuable are they and so likely to become “lost” or stolen.

68williamdaly
Feb 20, 2010, 9:49am Top

As an academic librarian, and one from the so called Third World, libraries still have another century on planet earth. My daily experience shows me that it's not just having a book but being able to understand the printed word. Our students need librarians for skills that cannot be obtained form the bookstore employees.(They are paid to sell not to guide). While we of the industrialised countries feel threatened job-wise by the e-book industry, our brothers in the Caribbean and many sections of Africa are searching for cheap book suppliers or better still, free books. Let's remember that poor counties have many decisions to make and while they are forced to follow the paths of the ever changing technologies, they will often opt for the consistent e.g.the printed book, over the digital. the latter exsists so long as the tech remains up-to-date. It will aways boil down to bread before e-books on the national budgets of the Third World.

69bluetyson
Feb 21, 2010, 12:27am Top

65

All DRM can be broken or bypassed. It is a technically flawed idea. All the current ebook DRM formats have been.

Plus, no-one is going to buy it if you can't see/hear it. If you can, you can copy it.

70proximity1
Edited: Feb 21, 2010, 12:17pm Top

Msg 68 --->

" My daily experience shows me that it's not just having a book but being able to understand the printed word. Our students need librarians for skills that cannot be obtained form the bookstore employees.(They are paid to sell not to guide)."

While it's true that bookstore employees shouldn't be relied on for the kinds of knowledge and help which professional library staff are educated and hired to provide, and while it's even truer that, whatever they're supposed or not supposed to do or to be able to do, bookstore employees are in general paid (in the U.S.) a truly paltry sum and in many cases, it's the bare minimum wage (This is a topic in itself, of course, and deserves to be discussed along with other aspects of the dismal life which bookstore pay makes a requirement of salesclerk employees.) the fact remains that, despite all the many debilitating disadvantages, there was a time when a bookstore customer could (and many did) call on the shop sales staff for knowledge and even expertise in fielding questions about writers and their lives and work. And these bookstore employees expected to do this and were proud of their abilities. In general, the store's management and owners (if different) while only too happy to have such an informed staff of sales clerks, in fact paid them exactly nothing for those skills and that knowledge and showed themselves fully able and willing to replace any experienced and knowledgable employees with others who, while knowing little or nothing about books and their authors, were, more importantly, undemanding and readily pliable, bending to the whims and demands of owners who'd treat their employees as so much disposable facial tissue.

After decades of continuing trends which have produced the drastic fall-offs in reading, and since, if anything, conditions for bookstore sales clerks are as bad as ever if not worse, it's now very common to find bookstore sales clerks who, if they read at all, read within the confines of a narrow genre which they happen to like and outside of which they know nothing beyond a number of popular and best-selling titles and authors. I hasten to add that, as has always been the case, there are remarkable exceptions to be found just as, among bookstores generally, there are some which stand out as exceptional in many respects and where knowledgable staff are the rule, not the exception. Such, however, are not to be found just anywhere. It is very true that if one has the good fortune to live within easy distance of a first-rate bookstore, this is because the community surrounding it is one of readers whose reading tastes and habits make such a bookstore possible in the first place. If one installed a first-rate bookstore in anything less of a reading community, it would either have to successfully encourage the community to become a place of readers or, failing that, the store would eventually fail and close.

71inaudible
Feb 23, 2010, 10:44am Top

I think it's pretty rich for the big publishers to complain about digitization destroying their business when their products are overpriced and of low quality.

A popular hardcover novel today costs around $25 retail or $18-20 on Amazon. The binding is terrible and will fall apart within five years, and the content is most likely trash.

Why in the world would consumers buy horrible products?

Record companies release low quality, generic records that are promoted on repetitive, generic radio stations that don't even have live DJs most of the time. I like bad pop music, but I've never even considered actually paying for it. I just listen to it on the radio now and then or get it at the library.

$20 for CD? Really? Why in the world would consumers buy overpriced horrible products?

Music artists like Nine Inch Nails and Radiohead are finding creative ways to be successful at music sales. It helps that they have large audiences of devoted fans, but they got those audiences by actually making music that one will want to listen to 5 or 10 years after buying the album. The same can't be said for most major label artists.

Imprints like Europa Editions, New York Review Books, Melville House, and so on can be relatively successful by printing high quality books (in terms of content, binding, design, and paper) that will be relevant for a long time. Their prices are also great.

Ebooks are a noxious technology, and I have no interest in buying or even looking at one. My house is filled with paper books, and so it will remain. But most of my books I buy used or remaindered copies. I only buy new books from a select group of publishers that I trust to give me a nice book. The only exceptions are new titles that I want right away (the latest Pynchon or Pamuk, for example), but that exception happens only once or twice a year, if that.

Printing lots and lots of poorly made books by a handful of forgettable best-selling authors is a losing game. Releasing lots of poorly recorded records by a handful of forgettable top selling artists is a losing game.

If you're going to charge that much for something, make it really nice, or people are going to stop buying it. Period.

72inaudible
Edited: Feb 23, 2010, 10:48am Top

70> I asked about The Original of Laura at an independent bookstore, and the woman working there had no idea who Nabokov was. It was a farily startling experience, to say the least.

73proximity1
Edited: Feb 23, 2010, 11:01am Top

:: Msg 72

And I was in a Waterstone's or a Barnes & Noble somewhere---this was years ago, and I think it happened to be a store in the Chicago "Loop"---and asked for a work of Joseph Conrad, having looked already on the shelves and not having found what I was looking for, I found that she was unfamiliar with the novel I asked for and its author, Conrad . Rather amazed, I decided I'd chat a bit with the sales clerk, a woman in her 20s. When I recommeded Philip Roth as a wonderful novelist, I discovered that Roth, too, was one she didn't know and hadn't read.

Am I blaming her in particular? In fact, no, not really. There was absolutely nothing remarkable about her literary ignorance given her age, etc., and, most of all given the fact that she lived in the midst of a culture which is nothing less than deadly to any impulse to read anything more than the most superficial, trivial stuff.

There is no way one can reasonably expect anything else in such a culture. So, indeed, it's very hard to blame her. Even among bookstore sales clerks, I wouldn't call her exceptionally uninformed for the standards which prevailed then or which prevail now.

74goydaeh
Feb 23, 2010, 11:51am Top

If you're going to charge that much for something, make it really nice, or people are going to stop buying it. Period.

Really? James Patterson makes $40 million a year. Europa Editions has had an annual profit once.

75inaudible
Feb 23, 2010, 10:56pm Top

Sure, Patterson and Beyonce still sell a lot of books and records, but the overall trend for their industries is down down down. The downward trend just started from a fairly high place.

76mamzel
Feb 24, 2010, 11:21am Top

>73 proximity1: I had an opposite experience with a young lady in our local independent book store. I was buying a YA book and asked her if she had read it. In a very haughty voice she said she never read that kind of book. When asked she said that she preferred Shakespeare. All fine and good, but I noticed that she was wearing a t-shirt with manga characters on it. I had a laugh in the car about it.

77proximity1
Feb 24, 2010, 11:55am Top


Msg 76:

Interesting. Many bookstore clerks (and certainly their owners/managers) who care for encouraging (and keeping) their customers would rather avoid making such a disparaging remark about a person who's buying a book. Given that reading anything at all is now a minority activity, bookstore employees should reckon that the customers are buying and reading "the best stuff they can handle" even if it doesn't measure up to their ideas of worthwhile reading.

78readingbeader
Feb 24, 2010, 9:46pm Top

High school librarian here--I got my Kindle for Christmas and love it. I read faster, have found independent authors I never knew about and use it to sample and try out books for my library. Colleen Houck offered her book Tiger's Curse for only a dollar on my Kindle. I tried it and then bought the sequel Tiger's Quest for $6.99 and have purchased two paper copies for my girls to read at school and am commited to buying the rest of the series. How is this bad? Good heavens--I bought four! I will continue to buy books in hard copy and ebook. I can also carry all six books that I happen to be reading at once--my back thanks me.

Sure--there has been some stuff I am glad was free and didn't pay for.

My daughter still needs stuff to read, and I am not sharing the Kindle. :)

79proximity1
Feb 25, 2010, 8:21am Top

This message has been deleted by its author.

80proximity1
Feb 25, 2010, 8:39am Top



Msg 78:

"How is this bad?"

Well, to understand how, you have to

Think about it...

http://images.google.fr/imgres?imgurl=http://rlv.zcache.com/dutch_dike_country_r...

and then think about it some more...

http://forum.skyscraperpage.com/showpost.php?s=d1816745a4b9b8cbd51d42337c1b2880&...

81ZoharLaor
Mar 11, 2010, 10:44am Top

From http://go-to-hellman.blogspot.com/2010/03/ebooks-in-libraries-thorny-problem-say...

John Sargent, CEO of Macmillan:

"When my turn came to ask a question, I asked Sargent if he had thought about the role of libraries, and particularly public libraries, in ebook distribution. His answer indicated that just as he was not afraid of changing the relationship with Amazon, Sargent is not afraid of changing the publisher's relationship with libraries. In fact, change may well be required.

"That is a very thorny problem", said Sargent. In the past, getting a book from libraries has had a tremendous amount of friction. You have to go to the library, maybe the book has been checked out and you have to come back another time. If it's a popular book, maybe it gets lent ten times, there's a lot of wear and tear, and the library will then put in a reorder. With ebooks, you sit on your couch in your living room and go to the library website, see if the library has it, maybe you check libraries in three other states. You get the book, read it, return it and get another, all without paying a thing. "It's like Netflix, but you don't pay for it. How is that a good model for us?"

"If there's a model where the publisher gets a piece of the action every time the book is borrowed, that's an interesting model."

Sargent has clearly thought about libraries, but perhaps he's not talked much to them. His points are valid- the existing business relationship between publishers and libraries won't work for ebooks the way it has worked for print books and the "frictions" that exist for print materials could disappear for ebooks. But he has gaps in his knowledge of libraries. The patron-on-the-couch scenario wouldn't work for libraries either- why would a town support its library's ebook purchasing if everyone could get the ebook from a library 3 states away? The fee-per-circulation model would be a disaster for most libraries, which have fixed annual budgets, and can't just close in September if they've spent their circ budget.

On the other side, the models preferred by libraries are not necessarily going to work for publishers. While the subscription model will probably work for academic institutions, it would turn public libraries into unnecessary intermediaries. The "perpetual access" model would be suicide for publishers if applied to their most profitable top-line books.

Now is the time for publishers and libraries to sit down together and develop new models for working together in the ebook economy. Executives like John Sargent are not afraid of change, but they need to better understand the ways that they can benefit from working with libraries on ebook business models. Libraries need to recognize the need for change and work with publishers to build mutually beneficial business models that don't pretend that ebooks are the same as print."

82timspalding
Mar 11, 2010, 11:01am Top

Yeah, I saw that. It was useful in an argument I've been having with someone who basically claimed that nothing will change—that OverDrive would just get bigger and that was that. The impossibility of such a scenario seems so obvious to me.

83skittles
Mar 11, 2010, 11:32am Top

Please forgive my ignorance in what I'm going to say, but from what I've heard of the British system of libraries & payments is that there is some payment to authors when their books are borrowed in libraries. And from what I understand, their library system may differ from the American system.

Would a payment system similar to the British model work worldwide?

I know that there are a few US libraries where you can 'rent' a copy of a newly published books. The library 'rents' the book (usually McNaughton & a few others) and if a patron wants to bypass the normal waiting list, they can 'rent' the book for a week or two & pay $1 or $2 for the privilege.

Would a rental system of that type work for ebooks? Would you be willing to pay 50 cents to read the ebook edition of a newly published or popular book for a short loan period? And could that subsidize the rest of the ebook loan system for not as popular books? This also supposes that new books would be available for free in paper editions.

(Please note that I am suggesting payments for authors, not publishers, as in the article in #81.)

84timspalding
Mar 11, 2010, 11:44am Top

I believe that's true in Britain and some of Europe. It's not true in the US. I think it would be hard getting that started. Also, I would think the publishers are problem here. They're the ones who'll be setting the terms.

85goydaeh
Mar 11, 2010, 4:25pm Top

In the past, getting a book from libraries has had a tremendous amount of friction. You have to go to the library, maybe the book has been checked out and you have to come back another time.

How far in the past are we talking? I can see "Since ebook readers have been widely available," but if we're talking about "the past" as the centuries between Gutenberg and Amazon (okay, the century between the development of the modern library system and Amazon), the acquire-book-from-library process has about the same about of friction as the acquire-book-from-brick&mortar-bookstore process.

maybe you check libraries in three other states

On the one hand, I can't.

On the other hand, I can't... freely. But I can buy a Carnegie Pittsburgh card for $30. I can buy a Free Library of Philadelphia card for $15; I believe without even having to go to Philadelphia. I think Denver will also allow you to sign up for a non-resident card over the Internet. So while I can't just sit on my couch and go fishing through every single library's digital collections, I can spend $40 or $50 and have access to the collections of a couple of the larger libraries in the country.

Yeah, I saw that. It was useful in an argument I've been having with someone who basically claimed that nothing will change—that OverDrive would just get bigger and that was that. The impossibility of such a scenario seems so obvious to me.

Does a bigger Overdrive with a different fee model count? They already have the inroads, I could see (at least the brand name) Overdrive sticking around for the long haul.

British system of libraries & payments is that there is some payment to authors when their books are borrowed in libraries

Who gives a damn about authors?

86cquiltmom
Mar 14, 2010, 6:18pm Top

I have worked in libraries for over 13 years and have seen technology come and go. I don't believe that ebooks will replace books or libraries. There are people who can't afford another electronic device, batteries, a computer with an Internet connection, $10+ for each title, etc. Yes, there is a market, but there is still a market for books.

87readingbeader
Mar 18, 2010, 2:59pm Top

msg 80.

I don't understand how traffic jams relate to this discussion? My point was that bacause of the ebook--I actually purchased more books. In my mind that would be good for the author, as they only get 10% from each book purchase anyway. More=better.

88ZoharLaor
Mar 22, 2010, 12:55pm Top

I was reading this excellent article / speech and thought some on here would also be interested: http://rubiconconsulting.com/insight/winmarkets/michael_mace/2010/03/the-future-...

89goydaeh
Mar 23, 2010, 2:51pm Top

90proximity1
Edited: Apr 1, 2010, 5:33am Top

RE: Msg 87 :

What do you do when you don't understand? Do you really want to know more about the issue and perhaps discover what it is you've missed?

This is a rich site. Everything you could possibly need to learn more about these issues is at your disposal here. Whether you bother to take advantage of that is up to you.


http://www.librarything.com/subject/Technology%09Social+aspects

http://www.librarything.com/work/46821

http://www.librarything.com/work/280571

http://www.librarything.com/work/419142

http://www.librarything.com/work/430889

http://www.librarything.com/work/453991

PS: added 2010 -04- 01:

http://www.librarything.com/catalog/proximity1&tag=A+Reading+Course+in+%27Te...

91FFortuna
Mar 24, 2010, 3:40pm Top

88/89, excellent articles, thank you for posting those.

92readingbeader
Mar 30, 2010, 4:21pm Top

Msg 90

I ask questions and read. Thanks for the links.

I'll just leave it agreeing to disagree. I am buying more books for my library because of my Kindle. The kids are helped. I don't live near a book store to browse, the ability to sample a book wirelessly is a great thing for me.

93proximity1
Mar 31, 2010, 5:16am Top


92:

You're welcome to the links; I hope that in them you'll find reading that you agree is helpful, fascinating and very important.

94sadiegrrrl
Apr 3, 2010, 3:59pm Top

i think that the most pressing reason why e-books are not a threat to libraries is cost. i admit that i only skimmed this thread (i too have a hard time reading long passages on a screen) but i think it's really interesting that no one is saying that most people just simply cannot afford to get an e-reader for themselves much less buy one for every single reading member of a family. kindles are about $260 before taxes and an ipad is $500 before taxes. so a family of four would need almost $1200 just to buy each person a kindle...an ipad for everyone $2200. i don't know where you live but in los angeles where i work there are people who can't afford to buy a mass market paperback. one of our city council members was pushing e-books as a way to lower the staffing needs of the library but seriously, was he gonna buy the whole city a reader?

now even if you COULD afford to buy a ipad for everyone in the family, and now that you can read books in color and full graphics on an ipad they'd probably work well for picture books for kids. i want to know how many parents are seriously going to buy their preschooler or kindergartener a $500 "toy"...like someone above said, have you seen what kids can do to a board book? it's not going to happen.

as for what ipods did to the music industry, i'm not really sure that's an accurate comparison. the music industry was floundering before mp3s came along, and a lot of people made a lot of noise about napster destroying the industry but they actually did find that people who used napster tended to buy more cd's than people who didn't because they were able to hear more music and wanted to buy that music. reading a book off of a screen isn't the same as reading a paper book. ipods, cd players and walkmen are pretty compatible as far as music delivery systems go. and no, cd's aren't obsolete because there are a lot of bands that you can't buy from itunes, you still have to download them from cds. and there are probably going to be a lot of books that you can't buy for an e-reader.

finally, and most importantly, i think it's really sad that people think so little of LIBRARIANS. librarians are going to be needed no matter what format information takes. it's not about whether we're handing someone a physical book or if we're leading them to the right website for their needs. librarians are what make a library special. if you take us out of the equation then a library is just a tomb for books. a big room full of things that people need but that they may not know how to find for themselves. a librarian's job is not, contrary to popular opinion, just to sit there and point at the area where the fiction is or to fix the computers when they freeze or to shush the teens and kids when they get too loud. a librarian's job is to help people navigate their way through the card catalog and to teach people how to find information and how to evaluate the information they see.

one of the most amazing things about libraries and librarians is our ability to adapt and change. everyone said that computers would destroy libraries, we're still here! then they said the internet would destroy libraries but we're still here! and not only are we still here but we've taken these things and made them a vital part of our service. so i say bring on the e-books, we'll meet that challenge and come out stronger on the other side! frankly having started more than one series or discovered more than one author who's books aren't all available in america i might just save up and get myself a kindle or ipad too so i can read books from other countries. if e-books can give patrons more access to more information then it would be antithetical to a library's mission to NOT incorporate them into our world.

m'kay, long rant. getting off my soapbox now...please don't throw the tomatoes *too* hard... :)

95jjwilson61
Apr 3, 2010, 4:54pm Top

About the cost of an e-reader, I think the general assumption is that the cost will come way down as they become a mass market item. Just look at how much the price of cell phones have come down since they were first introduced.

96proximity1
Edited: Apr 5, 2010, 10:48am Top

the point being missed here is mentioned in Jaron Lanier's recent book in the following way,

"The most important thing about a technology is how it changes people."

though, of course, that insight is far from original to Mr. Lanier---not that he claims it was, either. The point is made brilliantly in, among other books, Neil Postman's Technopoly and Jean-Jacques Salomon's Le destin technologique.

Issues such as early-generation costs, or the relative proportion of early user-populations are simply missing the point. Technology's most essential aspects--which concern the generally unknown (and often unknowable) impact upon human society in the short term or the long term--are simply left unconsidered by most people who aren't familiar with the now-standard critiques of the social impact of modern technology.

To so briefly summarize such a large and important matter is precisely what I wanted to avoid doing. And why is that? In short it's because one of the most common consequences of the social impact of the technology you are now using is to abbreviate careful reflection and enquiry, and instead, to seek a tiny 'news-bite' notion of whatever the matter may be and leave it at that.

97goydaeh
Apr 5, 2010, 9:29am Top

#94

While I agree with most of your post, I do have a problem with:

cd's aren't obsolete because there are a lot of bands that you can't buy from itunes, you still have to download them from cds.

If you're buying a product in one medium for the explicit purpose of reformatting it into another medium, the former medium is obsolete. The producer just doesn't know/accept it yet.

98timspalding
Apr 5, 2010, 10:28am Top

>96 proximity1:

Oh, I'm so glad you're reading Lanier. I think he's very interesting. Maybe we could get a group-read going for him.

99proximity1
Edited: Apr 5, 2010, 10:58am Top

> 98

Uh, well, I'm going to read Lanier. I resorted to the citation for one main reason: it's part of a current recently published work which most readers here would find readily available. I don't want to seem to suggest that I believe Lanier's is a "good", "better"or "best" exposition of the point---though he clearly recognizes it!

It's in the bookstores "here" but not at a price I can convince myself to pay so far. Meanwhile, for good or ill, I browsed a few pages and spotted this comment inside, and then I checked into the searchable pages at Amazon's page for the title to find it again.

So, while I don't and can't claim to have read Lanier's book, his point, as cited, is one which I've read both Postman and Salomon epxound upon, as I say, brilliantly, and it's certainly not one which Lanier could claim as his own idea. I'd urge every reader of this thread to turn first to Postman's Technopoly and then go on to read J Lanier---and, for every Francophone, I can't recommend strongly enough Salomon's Le destin technologique. Very simply, it's one of the best and most important books I've read (mid-way through it now) in a long time. Absolutely must-reading. Certain of his books are in English. So, dear English-language readers, go to!

You write: "Maybe we could get a group-read going for him ( Jaron Lanier )."

I bet you could.

100goydaeh
Apr 9, 2010, 11:26am Top

An interesting article, with solid parallels to cheap, widely-available ebooks:

http://www.smithsonianmag.com/arts-culture/How-the-Paperback-Novel-Changed-Popul...

101sadiegrrrl
Edited: Apr 21, 2010, 4:03am Top

>95 jjwilson61:
there are still a lot of people who can't afford cell phones. cost is always a factor for some people, no matter how "cheap" something is there are going to be certain segments of the population that will not be able to spare even a little extra money for a "luxury" item no matter how vital the rest of the population finds it (i myself have only a cell phone and no landline)...

>96 proximity1:
i'm not sure if you're implying that i am oversimplifying and trying to create a "news bite" or not...for the record i'm not...but i still find it interesting that no one in the "*librarians* who librarything" group seemed to defending what our profession does...and that is to connect users with information in whatever format it may come. and yes i agree that "The most important thing about a technology is how it changes people." but seriously, i don't think that ebooks are going to instantly make people better researchers or make the information they're seeking magically appear on their screen especially since i spend a good portion of my reference interviews trying to figure out what my patrons are looking for when they ask for "a math book" "what kind of math?" "um. you know...MATH." or as another patron asked me the other day, "where is the non-fiction? i see you have a sign for the fiction, but you haven't marked the non-fiction." somehow i don't think her kindle or ipad would have helped her in this instance. one of my favorite job moments was when i explained to a middle aged woman that if she looked on the shelf near the book she was specifically searching for, she'd find other books on the same topic because that's how dewey groups things...she was so excited, she'd never been taught what the numbers meant!

>97 goydaeh:
i somewhat agree...but tell it to the beatles and def leopard i can't buy their stuff from itunes...also, i feel that little indie garage bands will always start out with a cd or something like it before jumping into itunes...

>100 goydaeh:
awesome article, thanks for the heads up! i'm now sending it to all my bookkish friends (which basically means *all* my friends) and i also think that paperbacks and ebooks do have a lot of similarities...

102proximity1
Edited: Apr 24, 2010, 11:21am Top

> 101

I'm learning (painfully slowly) that discussion on-line is a torturous affair. After years in political discussion blogs, one might think that I'd have grasped that sooner--and I did have intuitions of the problems but not such that they struck me as they have recently in so comprehensive a way. That's probably the fruit of the reading I've done in the course of the past few years. It's ironic that the complications of discussion on-line offer, in themselves, examples of the how a supposedly advanced-technology can none the less show aspects of remarkable inferiority to the modes which it comes to supplant. Of course, the internet is an advanced technology but there are many things about direct face-to-face discussion which on-line discussion cannot equal--(in other words, though an advanced technology, "discussion" is not enhanced by it over what has been typical of "discussion" as practiced up until the advent of wide-spread on-line "chatrooms"; rather, it has been degraded in various ways in both idea and practice (added post-script 23/04/2010) ).

The wealth of non-verbal cues is lost here. In an instant during a face-to-face discussion, people present wordlessly their feelings of doubt, conviction, understanding, confusion, hesitation, surprise, interest ---or the lack of it! Typically, in a face-to-face discussion, before you so annoy your interlocutor to the point that he simply gets up and walks away, you've had at least some non-verbal cues that things are not going well from his point of view. Here, no such thing. And, in this venue, no one has much of any idea what the level of interest there is on the part of any given participant. Is the person with whom you're corresponding going to stick around for two exchanges?, three?, five?, six? Or will he simply shrug off without a word an effort on which you've invested two or three hours of patient thought and writing? On internet blogs, people have developed absurd rules of thumb--such as that after three exchanges without some undefined thing called "progress", they figure that it's no use continuing; that's an example of ordinary human patience being degraded to a stunning extent. What would count for mere moments in face-to-face discussions seems unbearably drawn out on-line.

The internet developed out of what began as networks of (mainly academic) "list-servers" in which a community of interested scholars subscribed to a mailing list on which they read and exchanged comments, discussed their work and the developments in their field of interest with their fellow professionals. There's a very great deal implied in all that: the others reading and responding are, like oneself,

a) possessed of a certain at-least minimal competence in the topics under discussion and, with that,

b) they have a stake, an investment, in the field, in the importance of the issues, in their own place and roles within the groups taking part in the discussions. All of that is another way of saying that their participation carries what could be called a "price of entry" which implies, at a minimum some awareness and understanding of the issues and some commitment to their importance.

As you're a professional librarian, all you have to do is take your own profession as an example of what I'm describing. Those in list-serves for librarians may be (or they ought to be) assumed to hold a certain competence and knowledge. In short, there is much that you can assume they already know without your having to explain it to them. As you see, here, in a fully-open, no-entry-price-AT-ALL sort of discussion forum, you have the full gamut---from the complete neophyte to something which is or comes near to expertise. At any moment, some new-comer can re-pose the most elementary questions, expecting that someone is going to patiently explain them---and all that without the slightest ground for how much, if any, real interest there is on the part of the person posing the question.

Earlier in this thread, another participant came to conclude a rather brief exchange with what is now a classic of discussion-termination: "I guess we'll just have to agree to disagree." My point in mentioning that here is not to criticize the person's decision to draw a line under the exchanges; rather, I raise it to point out that in fact, we never even arrived at enough common understanding to allow a disagreement for, indeed, how can two people who have not yet even found the basis of any common understanding of an issue even be said in some coherent manner to "disagree on it" ? Before you can actually disagree with someone, you have to have at least some understanding of what he is talking about---so I contend. Otherwise, I think you have what people often describe as disagreement when in fact it's better to call it simply complete or near-complete misunderstanding.

You write,

... " i still find it interesting that no one in the "*librarians* who librarything" group seemed to defending what our profession does..."

I, too, find that interesting. I think it may indicate some interesting things about the world today. But, who cares what I think?

And, your comment,

... "yes i agree that "The most important thing about a technology is how it changes people." but seriously, i don't think that ebooks are going to instantly make people better researchers or make the information they're seeking magically appear on their screen" ...

is worth an extended discussion of the aspects which are there within it; can we have that discussion here? Is there the interest in it on your part and mine? Who knows? How would anyone know that here? It's a total "crap-shoot" every time one engages another here in a topic of discussion.

Imagine you're a kitchen chef with years of experience and every morning you get up to go into a kitchen in which you are going to meet you-know-not-whom----people who may know lots about the art of cooking or, at the other extreme, people who've never so much as cracked a raw egg.

added post-script:

In any case, to return to the actual topic of the thread, in a consideration of what kinds of impact "e-books" will produce on libraries, I think it's important to recognize that even if small or large libraries aren't "killed" by them, the key point remains: e-books, to the extent that they gain widespread use, are going to change what "reading (a book)" and what " (book) reader" mean. It will also change the meaning of "book"--and it may be no small impact when that is changed.

People currently clearly think of themselves as "having books on" their e-readers. I think that, while that is a very "natural" sort of assumption for them to make, it's a seriously mistaken one. An e-reader is not, as I think of things, either a book or even a repository of "books". The e-reader-owner does not have "books" in any real sense by virtue of his or her owning such a device. A book is typically bound pages of printed (or otherwise graphically produced) text. What an e-reader contains is digitally-produced computer data which present, in response to what, in programmers' terms, is a "system call", some portion of the digital data in a humanly-readable form--generally in a graphic display of a pixelated facsimile of typographic text. There is no actual "page" and no "type" as these are commonly understood in printing. Those pixels are only temporarily generated; and, the moment any mechanical malfunction occurs which makes their continued storage or recall impossible, the "book" the e-reader thinks he "owns" may be gone--and whether the digital data is recoverable depends on the circumstances of where that data had come from in the first place and how and why it came to be "lost."

While it's true, of course, that printed, bound books, can and do suffer degradation and loss, they, unlike the virtual contents of an e-reader, are physical entities. They have valuable properties which e-books either do not yet possess or simply cannot possess. But, again, the key point is that, as technology, printed, bound books imply very different things about what "(being) a reader" means and about what "reading (texts)" means than does an e-reader device; and those devices will also eventually make important differences in what "library" and "library patrons" mean. This is necessarily so rather than something that might occur---that is, if the e-reader technology comes to be the mainstay of texts' production and dissemination.

There is much more to consider.

103abinersmoothie
Apr 23, 2010, 9:46am Top

I'm not sure they will kill libraries. I became a member at my local library only after they started "lending" eBooks via Overdrive.

I can't be the only one...

I'm a librarian in a school and yes, I wonder about what things in my workplace will look like pbook/ebook wise in a few years, but it doesn't make me fear for my job.

I wish my students all had eReaders and a large collection of eBooks. Probably relatively soon. Perhaps Follett will let us download their eBooks soon. Reading on the computer screen is tough on our eyes.

Most of what I do is with computers anyway.

104BookBindingBobby
Apr 23, 2010, 10:11am Top

I'll be old and gray and living in a small apartment above a Chinese restaurant, with a collection of thousands of books. I'll be the crazy librarian on the third floor. Together, the page and I shall live on.

105BelindaHill
Apr 23, 2010, 10:22am Top

Just a quick thought. Whenever there's a new technology, yes even books were once a new technology, there are shifts and changes in access of information. Libraries need to be involved in facilitating that change but I certainly don't see them as dying.

106BookBindingBobby
Apr 23, 2010, 12:18pm Top

Should he have to, Ray Bradbury will give them mouth-to-mouth and bring them back. If he himself is dead, then that means we've all been dead for months, so...

107timspalding
Apr 23, 2010, 12:30pm Top

I just published another blog post about the topic, this time in reference to the Nook's Read in Store functionality.

http://www.librarything.com/thingology/2010/04/brigadoon-library.php

108sweetie_candykim
Apr 23, 2010, 12:53pm Top

>2 krolik: "Europe has nothing like American public libraries. "
Huh? Would you please elaborate on that? As a European librarian myself, I'm very curious about the great features of American public libraries that we might want to emulate ;-)

Yeh I noticed that too. He did say it was partly France and when I read it I was shocked but then thought of the local library near my house in France too. It is merely a room that isn't open often. But that is in line with the rest of rural France, things aren't open often, the pace of life is slower and there simply aren't enough people to have a massive library. City libraries and libraries in Paris certainly are big though. Same with the UK. But the UK is much more densely populated than France.

109timspalding
Edited: Apr 23, 2010, 1:22pm Top

Well, for starters, European libraries mostly stock books in funny foreign languages. Irritating. Why do they do that?

I suspect Krolik is referencing the sheer quantity of US libraries—pretty much every tiny little town has one, not the big city libraries. In New England, having a beautiful and not tiny Carnegie library in the center of town is practically a requirement, like a village green of some sort and a Congregational church. Driving through you seem to hit one every five minutes. Cow cow cow library cow cow cow...

That said, I have no idea how that stacks up to the situation in France, Sweden or Romania.

110Papiervisje
Apr 23, 2010, 1:25pm Top

>109 timspalding: - Yeah, my public library in Amsterdam, NL stocks books in Dutch, but also in those strange languages like English, German, French, Chinese, Arabic and perhaps a few more. Very annoying.
And they have internet access, video/audio/e-books, coffee, a vast database, very knowledgeable librarians, performances, reading clubs, etc., but most of all, one of the best views over Amsterdam.
And all for a minimum amount of money or free if you are young/old enough.

111goydaeh
Edited: Apr 23, 2010, 4:13pm Top

@107

Regarding 10. CDs and DVDs are going virtual much faster than books. And for all the interest in libraries providing ebook rental nobody is talking about libraries providing free music of video streaming. That will never happen.

The Freegal music service got a lot of talk at PLA this year, although with lines like '''Libraries are only charged for the use, or per download,' he (Library Ideas co-founder Brian Downing) said, calling the price 'competitive in the retail market,'" it looks like you're just subsidizing your patrons' iTunes accounts.

112timspalding
Apr 23, 2010, 5:34pm Top

it looks like you're just subsidizing your patrons' iTunes accounts

Right. And as this idea extends to books, what will happen? I predict many librarians would defend that, but most regular people and particularly cost-conscious politicians will take a much dimmer view. Librarians like to speak about how books are just a small part of the picture. But most taxpayers see book lending as the core, and wouldn't really want to see a simple iTunes subsidy or, I suspect, an iBooks subsidy.

113innisfree
Apr 25, 2010, 9:03pm Top

I thought those interested in this thread might also find intriguing the article "Gutenberg 2.0" in the May/June 2010 issue of Harvard Magazine. Even if you don't care about Harvard specifically, there are thought-provoking perspectives on library personnel structure, physical and digital search and delivery, digital preservation, and the longevity of the book:

http://harvardmagazine.com/2010/05/gutenberg-2-0%20

For historical perspective, there is also this online exhibit, "Reading: Harvard Views of Readers, Readership, and Reading History." It draws on Harvard's special collections but illustrates broader trends:

http://ocp.hul.harvard.edu/reading/

114goydaeh
Apr 26, 2010, 3:14pm Top

Prognostication on the impact of the eBook (mostly as it impacts publishers) from the New York Review of Books:

http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/2010/mar/11/publishing-the-revolutionar...

115VisibleGhost
Apr 27, 2010, 3:39am Top

A new combination- libraries and groceries.

http://www.wbur.org/npr/126282239

116mamzel
Edited: May 7, 2010, 12:50pm Top

cute cartoon

edited to get link to work

118Frenzie
May 8, 2010, 9:04am Top

22:
"If physical books disappear in favor of electronic books, will anyone be able to read them in 300 years, let alone in 30 years? One wonders whether any electronic books would survive the next "Middle Ages" (given some of the forces for entropy with the avowed purpose of bringing down Western Civilization, such is possible)."

You might be interested in the ideas of the Free Software Foundation: http://www.gnu.org/philosophy/right-to-read.html

Regarding those asking how e-readers make people read more, that's easy for me to answer. I've already read most Dutch books I want to read thanks to the local library when I was young. Now I can easily get all kinds of books from Project Gutenberg in foreign languages like English and German. For more recent books still copyrighted a used book store like De Slegte helps a lot. They've got tons of books in various languages for fairly little, and you can also use it as a kind of library (albeit much more expensive).

That said, as I alluded, I don't actually read much on an e-reader since I prefer paper. Still, the e-reader opens up all kinds of possibilities in the copyright-expired area for books that might otherwise be hard to obtain. Most important, it's just great to take the e-reader along on vacation so you can read in your hotel room or some such at night. Bringing along half a dozen books doesn't really compete.

Note that I'm not interested in the DRM-encumbered nonsense that places like Amazon are selling. Unless I'll be forced to someday I won't spend any money on such practices.

119clews-reviews
Dec 6, 2010, 6:25pm Top

An uninformed question: if paper-book libraries have flourished because of a legal fillip in the copyright law, what legal fillip could we add to DRM law to make libraries just as useful with ebooks?

Should it be explicit that libraries may loan out ebooks if they have one-at-a-time access? Does every library have the right to print out a copy of their ebooks, to loan to people without ebook readers? (Perhaps the printed and digital copy share the one-at-a-time access count?)

120timspalding
Dec 6, 2010, 10:13pm Top

because of a legal fillip in the copyright law

FWIW, I disagree on the expression. Copyright law is the right to make copies—period. It doesn't affect what you do with the copies anymore than property law has a fillip allowing you to draw pictures of someone else's house.

FWIW, as I said.

121veritas
Dec 6, 2010, 11:39pm Top

i think the role of libraries - of DIFFERENT SORTS of libraries - is extraordinarily varied. what we do, and how we do it, is not as simple as 'here is a physical book, take it out of the building.'

i'm in a legal deposit institute in australia (a Very Big One) - i work in the archival collection, filled with original material and, unless we somehow get millions upon millions of dollars, i won't see it digitised in my lifetime. and were i? it'd still need someone to catalogue, contextualise, and assist the user in finding information.

there is information in the physical object as well.

but, lending libraries are very different to research libraries. which are very different to government libraries, or health libraries.

i think here, are we mostly talking about public libraries being endangered?

(ps, i am genuinely upset by music piracy. how people can justify stealing music and films to themselves, just because it's easy to do, i don't know. essentially, it is an industry you claim to love which you are killing. support your musicians. pay for the stuff you love. having unlimited supplies of pirated music and movies is not a human right. i know, i sound extraordinarily harsh and judgemental, but what if people boasted about waltzing into bookstores, or libraries, and stealing so much stuff that the industry almost collapsed? yes. there are issues with the music industry. but music online is cheap. very cheap. ffs. end rant.)

122goydaeh
Dec 7, 2010, 9:28am Top

@119

DRM law isn't "DRM law" (well, aside from certain provisions of the DMCA), it's contract law. And if I can get you to sign a contract with ridiculous provisions, that's your problem. And if I'm the only game in town, well, that's also your problem.

123timspalding
Dec 7, 2010, 12:39pm Top

Right. And it's not commonly understood. Over and over I hear librarians say the problem is DRM. But DRM is just the technology that makes it hard to copy. Remove DRM and it would still be illegal to do so, or a contract violation, and libraries aren't going to get into systematic violations of the law.

The only fuzzy area here is that the law doesn't recognize every notice as creating a true contract. So a notice printed in a book has been ruled not to be a contract. A notice at the bottom of a web page probably isn't either. But if route someone through a true contract with a big "I agree" button, you've got yourself a valid contract.

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