The Man, the author, his reader & her e-book
September 28, 2012 7:11 AM   Subscribe

The American Library Association fires the latest response in its tussle with publishers over e-books in public libraries, while in England, a government review of e-books in public libraries is announced.
posted by Wordshore (36 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite

 
... Now I understand why my local Research Librarian was so ... careful in choosing his words when queried about ebook acquisition; things aren't getting any better.

Support your local library!
posted by tilde at 7:15 AM on September 28, 2012 [6 favorites]


An executive from Perseus Book Group who did not identify herself said, “our executives are confused as to what is a library?” She cited concerns that the free and wide availability of e-books to library patrons could undercut publisher business.

Seriously. Seriously?

A library is a tax-funded book-buying mechanism that then loans out the books to citizens to promote literacy, and oh, by the way, literate people buy a lot more books than the non-literate, you clueless bloodsucking beancounters.
posted by emjaybee at 7:25 AM on September 28, 2012 [33 favorites]


Support your local library!

Support your local publisher; Without books those libraries would be rather empty places.

"there is no universally agreed system for remunerating authors and publishers; and there are various ways of making content available – and ensuring that it is only accessible for a limited time."

The former is certainly true - and it at the heart of this matter - the latter is laughably untrue.
posted by three blind mice at 7:26 AM on September 28, 2012


“our executives are confused as to what is a library?”

I *work* for a publisher, and I want to shake this lady upside down until she explains what the blue fuck she meant by this.
posted by ominous_paws at 7:29 AM on September 28, 2012


An executive from Perseus Book Group who did not identify herself said, “our executives are confused as to what is a library?”

Of course she didn't identify herself - she didn't need to.
posted by griphus at 7:32 AM on September 28, 2012 [7 favorites]


Balis again confronted the ALA delegation on the mission of libraries, questioning whether e-book access was for the “less fortunate” that libraries are, in part, there to serve or for “wealthy residents of Greenwich [Conn.] who just want to have a lot of nice, free access to a lot of books?”

Who knew that Mitt's 47% lived in Greenwich?

And since when haven't wealthier communities had a lot of nice, free access to EVERYTHING, including library books?

Nauseating. I can see my local library network, which includes some "less fortunate" communities and several wealthy "freeloader" communities, getting hurt by "arguments" like the one above, so I'm really p'd off by this.
posted by Currer Belfry at 7:34 AM on September 28, 2012


there is no universally agreed system for remunerating authors and publishers

Yes there is. It's called "money". I pay you and you give me a product. Your product is made of bits now when it used to be made of paper, but so what?

If I could just outright buy copies of the ebooks I wanted (or borrow them from the library), I wouldn't need to pirate them. It's all the DRM/Big Brother junk of Kindle and whatnot that keeps me away. If I can't use the book the way I want on the device I want, it isn't MY book at all, so why should I pay for it?

Actually, not liking ebooks keeps me away from the majority. But of the remainder that I'd like to have in electronic form or aren't available any other way, I'd totally buy.

In fact, I have been known to get an electronic version and then print it, because I prefer paper. So give me a la carte, if you'll pardon the joke, and let me order the book and printing service separately. I'd be all over that in a heartbeat.
posted by DU at 7:35 AM on September 28, 2012


Balis again confronted the ALA delegation on the mission of libraries, questioning whether e-book access was for the “less fortunate” that libraries are, in part, there to serve or for “wealthy residents of Greenwich [Conn.] who just want to have a lot of nice, free access to a lot of books?”

Heaven forbid the residents of Greenwich have nice, free access to books. Those libraries, trying to pull a fast one and offer "free access to books" to everyone! Who do they think they are?
posted by jetlagaddict at 7:36 AM on September 28, 2012 [3 favorites]


In fact, I have been known to get an electronic version and then print it, because I prefer paper.

Doesn't this end up being more expensive than just buying a print copy?
posted by griphus at 7:36 AM on September 28, 2012


All depends on where you get it, and where you print it, heh.
posted by ominous_paws at 7:39 AM on September 28, 2012


As the question was being posed, many heads in the publisher-heavy audience were nodding in ascent.
‘Are their heads off?’ shouted the Queen.
‘Their heads are gone, if it please your Majesty!’ the soldiers shouted in reply.
‘That’s right!’ shouted the Queen. ‘Can you play croquet?’
posted by zamboni at 7:50 AM on September 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


"many publishers are nervous of making their books available for e-lending, particularly given that there is no recognised system for payment"

Am I missing something where in the UK publishers get paid each time a book gets borrowed from a library?
posted by jeather at 7:59 AM on September 28, 2012


Am I missing something where in the UK publishers get paid each time a book gets borrowed from a library?

jeather: Yes. Public Lending Right. See also the wikipedia article.
posted by zamboni at 8:04 AM on September 28, 2012 [2 favorites]


Jeather, we have the PLR in Canada too. : )
posted by saucysault at 8:07 AM on September 28, 2012


Ah, the Canadian equivalent is different -- it's about books being in libraries, not about them having been taken out.
posted by jeather at 8:12 AM on September 28, 2012


Last year the PLR looked into how to incorporate e-books into the PLR (Final Report).
When books (paper or digital copies) are in libraries there is an initial cost paid to the publisher. The digital copy can only be borrowed by one patron at a time (although libraries can purchase/lease multiple digital copies, each limited to one user at a time).
posted by saucysault at 8:17 AM on September 28, 2012


I've tried to deal with that crazy Overdrive monstrosity via my local library, and it's such a pain in the ass that I pretty much gave up on it.

I'm now onto my second nookie wook (bought the touchie nookie wook when they had refurbs cheap on ebay and gave the big white one to my bro), and the ebook experience has thus far been a mixed bag. For me, it's all about gutenberg.org and the 40,000+ out of copyright books there that include some of humanity's best creative work, because the rest of the scene has just been one giant $18-CD-in-a-longbox-style land grab from the publishers.

Even worse, if a book was published before the advent of digital publishing, the book you buy will be full of OCR errors, weird-ass hyphenation, inexplicable line breaks, and the even more annoying heuristic "corrections." This for an ebook that's often more expensive than the damn paper book! The publishing industry tells us we're paying more for ebooks because, while the cost of printing and distribution is saved, they just put soooo much time and effort into editing those books for us, and still, they arrive almost by magic an- d then you
             have to chant a happy buddha chant so your head do£sn"t explode as y-

     ou try to read the fucking thing.

Honestly, I'd rather just steal the damn book and send the author a check directly so I know they'd get paid. It was bad enough when the do-nothing music publishing industry was trying to sue us all or charge us damages for singing lyrics from a Beatles song in our home movies, but now we've got yet another big business in a panic because their free ride has been replaced by something that requires actual effort and they'll be goddamned if they're going to take a genuine interest in either their authors or their audience.

Irksome.
posted by sonascope at 8:21 AM on September 28, 2012 [15 favorites]


I imagine the "what is a library?" question comes from this. In the physical world, a library is in a specific location and serves a local community (with exceptions).

Online, there are lower barriers. You don't need a building. And you can potentially serve anyone in the world. And your inventory is not limited to shelf space.

A physical book, sold to a physical library, requires the library put more up in terms of resources (storage, processing, staff), has a finite lifetime (wear, loss). And so on.

So, in the new world, is the Internet Archive, in San Francisco, a library? They're amassing a huge collection of donated books (in a warehouse in Richmond, California) in order to support their rights as a digital lending library.

What about Google, or Microsoft, or Amazon? With a lending program from an ubiquitous, well funding company, where you could get any book published in the last 100 years, on demand, and free (perhaps ad supported), where would that leave publishers and authors?

(full disclosure, I think society would benefit tremendously from digital libraries being free from onerous restrictions, and I do not weep for most publishers here)
posted by zippy at 8:21 AM on September 28, 2012 [2 favorites]


My wife is a school librarian, her struggles with getting e-books for her students make my head hurt. If she goes through Barnes & Noble, the books can only be used on Nooks. But her library has a few iPads, and B&N doesn't have all of the titles she wants, so she'd have to set up accounts with Hatchette and others. And of course most of these vendors don't take purchase orders from the school, but instead want her to use her own credit card to set up an account. That's not happening, so she's stuck. I'm amazed this hasn't been resolved yet, though given the attitude of the publishers in that article, I suppose I shouldn't be.
posted by schoolgirl report at 8:23 AM on September 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


three blind mice, and I may be misunderstanding you, but it's almost impossible to ensure that an ebook is only accessible for a limited time. If I can access the file representing the content, I can copy it. Once I have copied it, I can return the book and crack the inept (dyswidt?) DRM on the copy I made. Even if I can't crack the DRM, there's no DRM that is Kindle + Copy Stand + Digital Camera-proof.
posted by scruss at 8:24 AM on September 28, 2012


Actually, the British version seems a lot easier to solve. If multiple libraries share the same database of ebooks, does that book appear in one library or several? But it's pretty easy to keep track of how many times an e-book has been taken out from the library.

I hate Overdrive. It's non-intuitive. It's ugly. It's hard to use. My library currently has 1031 ebooks, which are shared among three large libraries. It has few new titles.
posted by jeather at 8:26 AM on September 28, 2012


scruss, but how many average people are going to bother with that, especially when they can just re-check the book out, and there's no resale value in those cracked files?

You can also borrow a physical book and Xerox it, and in fact, I often did copy pages that way for notes in college, but doing the whole book would be a giant PITA and possibly expensive especially next to the price of re-borrowing (none!) or even buying a 1.00 paper copy online or in your local used bookstore.
posted by emjaybee at 8:28 AM on September 28, 2012


Overdrive with its Adobe sign in here and create an account and oh,McCain we have some marketing info too? DRM is a tremendous pain in the ass.

Whenever I have to use it, I am tempted to instead download a ridiculously small (tens of megs?), ultra-convenient torrent with nearly every science fiction or programming book.
posted by zippy at 8:29 AM on September 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


(Er, can we have. But McCain works too I suppose)
posted by zippy at 8:31 AM on September 28, 2012


I personally intend to bypass publishers entirely, download the books I want from PirateBay, and reward the authors directly with a hamper of my home-produced artisnal chutneys.
posted by ominous_paws at 8:31 AM on September 28, 2012 [4 favorites]


Doesn't this end up being more expensive than just buying a print copy?

Naturally, I only do this when it isn't. For instance, copies of On Lisp go for $200 and up. Or the GNU Emacs manual that hasn't been printed at all yet (at the time, for v23.3).
posted by DU at 8:41 AM on September 28, 2012


I'll stick with library genesis thank you.
posted by jeffburdges at 8:58 AM on September 28, 2012


OverDrive + Adobe Digital Editions = suck.
posted by wenestvedt at 10:12 AM on September 28, 2012 [2 favorites]


So, this may be totally naive, but regarding the publishers' complaint that the librarians are not offering any specifics on their proposed business model:

What's wrong with the same model as for non-e-book books?

The library buys one copy for each copy that it wants to be able to loan out simultaneously. If in a country where publishers get paid for each loan-out, they get paid for each loan-out.

Is there something that goes wrong with that model with respect to e-books? Or is it just "but we want to make more money"?
posted by Flunkie at 10:14 AM on September 28, 2012


Is there something that goes wrong with that model with respect to e-books? Or is it just "but we want to make more money"?

Wild guess? Digital borrowing, if unencumbered, is as good as buying but free. It is much more convenient than driving to a library to get a book, and then driving to a library to return it. Even the busy and the wealthy, who may own Kindles and iPads and who currently buy books, might prefer it!

Also ... digital in general, not just with libraries, is probably scary to publishers who do not know if they will a) make more money, b) make less, or c) disappear entirely.
posted by zippy at 10:26 AM on September 28, 2012


Not on the library front, but if you bought a certain e-book by a little-known author very recently, you'd basically paid 18 bucks for a faulty piece of software. The words "licence" "print" and "money" come to mind.
posted by Wordshore at 10:28 AM on September 28, 2012


Is there something that goes wrong with that model with respect to e-books?

The publishers' problem with this is that there's no good way to ensure that the patron loses access to the text after some finite period. (As ever, they'll at least pretend not to know that the same patron who's savvy enough to copy a library e-book could also simply download an unathorized copy to begin with.)

That's the gulf here. Librarians are principally concerned with how to provide access to books. And the publishers are principally concerned with how to limit access to books.
posted by Zed at 10:29 AM on September 28, 2012 [5 favorites]


What is the essence of the conflict, here? Are publishers for a fee-per-use kind of model?

As much as DRM rankles me when its things that I've paid for, isn't this the ideal use for this kind of technology?

I find Overdrive (the iOs version) pretty decent, personally. Granted, I have access to a public library from a huge Canadian city, but for the most part it works as advertised. You go online, you put a hold on a book, they email you when its ready and you have three weeks to read it. The software is pretty barebones, but it does the trick. The selection is only so-so, but hopefully that will improve.
posted by cacofonie at 11:28 AM on September 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


When I first got a smartphone, I was very excited at the prospect of "borrowing" ebooks from my local library. It saved money and would let me take in a greater variety of books than I normally would.

That was before I had encountered the Great Beast known as OverDrive.

There is a special place in hell for technology companies that prey on libraries and schools, where the lamentations of overworked librarians and teachers ring out like air raid sirens for all eternity.

Needless to say that I gave up on OverDrive before the first bit hit my phone. The process was too labor intensive, too ghastly and too dirty - it made me feel repelled with myself that I was supporting OverDrive, no matter how circuitously. Passively condoning a system that is actively antagonistic to people like myself? No thanks.

It is especially frustrating because I would like to get my own books into libraries' ebook lending programs but in order to do that it seems like I would have to try to go through OverDrive because I don't have a lending system of my own to offer. And my guess is that OverDrive wouldn't have me anyway.

A crying shame. In my eyes libraries are places of variety and new experiences. Even if they purchase four copies of the latest Stephen King novel, they always had a grab bag of other books that did the heavy lifting of expanding my horizons. The traditional publishing houses have put up a wall between authors and libraries, whose interests are more aligned to one another than either is to HarperCollins.
posted by burnfirewalls at 11:35 AM on September 28, 2012 [3 favorites]


Using OverDrive and Adobe Digital Editions is a pretty terrible experience, but checking out Kindle books from my local library is about as convenient as it gets. Whereas I wouldn't ever want to deal with the hassle of OverDrive, I find that I am using the library for e-books more than regular books these days.
posted by stopgap at 12:07 PM on September 28, 2012


You go online, you put a hold on a book, they email you when its ready and you have three weeks to read it.

Except... there's no good mechanism to browse. I think that's universal--every library using Overdrive has approximately the same interface. The odds of finding something you want to read that you didn't look for are miniscule.

My library also certainly doesn't have enough copies of e-books to meet demand. Sure, there are some books where a copy will never be on the shelf at the Central Library, but there are very few books you'd have to wait more than three weeks for a copy and that's about as good as you can hope for with an ebook. There are also plenty of books that are usually checked out at Central, but where suburban libraries will have copies sitting on the shelf that you can have in three days. (It doesn't help that iOS Overdrive doesn't seem to have a mechanism to return books before they expire. Stupid Digital Editions does.)
posted by hoyland at 5:36 PM on September 28, 2012


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