E-nough

There’s a storm a’brewin’ and it’s going to be ugly out there.

Publishers of ebooks have been wringing their hands, trying to figure out how to sell their ebooks to libraries. The problem, from their point of view, is that an ebook can be used for a very long time without having to be replaced, if ever. A paper book can be used for a very long time, too, but if it’s circulated enough a library may purchase a new copy when the book falls apart. (Libraries will usually repair a book for a long time before that happens, but whatever.)

One publisher decided that they would limit use of the ebooks to 26 uses, and then the library would have to repurchase the book. The arbitrary – and very low – number of times the ebook would circulate was somehow derived from the premise that a paper book would only circulate 26 times before it would need to be replaced. (A resounding “bull$&#@ from librarians on that one.)

Other publishers have now decided that they will no longer offer ebooks to libraries.  Librarians are not amused, as you might imagine. (Bobbi’s post is a terrific roundup of the issue, by the way.) Now yet another publisher has thrown in, ending ebook lending with provider Overdrive.

This strikes at the heart of what libraries are about: collecting stuff and lending it to patrons. The format the stuff is in should be immaterial. I understand that publishers are fretting about their future and what publishing looks like in a digital future, but trust me, folks. Antagonizing the librarians is not a good idea.  We should be your allies in all this, not your enemies.

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