Monday, December 2, 2013

The problem with ebooks

Ebooks are great.  Being able to put our entire personal libraries on one device is an amazing convenience, and cloud synchronising and backup services ensure that we've got access to our favourite books no matter what.  But that's for individual consumers.  For libraries, the story is a bit different.

When a library purchases a copy of a physical book, they can make it available to potentially hundreds or thousands of people without the publisher getting any money other than from the original purchase.  This has caused a few headaches in the past, but libraries and publishers are mostly over that now.  The new battleground is ebooks.  Libraries want to buy digital copies of books and loan them out to their users free of charge.  Publishers are trying to protect their revenue streams, and tend to clamp down on access to certain items, especially textbooks.  From a business perspective, selling one copy of a book and having lots of people use it makes little sense, but having those people buy a copy each makes a lot more sense and money.

So this is the situation we're finding ourselves in; a stalemate between people who publish the content, and people who provide access to that content.  The ebook market is still very new, and publishers, institutions, and readers are struggling to change the way they think about books. Ebooks present many opportunities to everyone, but they also have their associated challenges and risks.

More information about the way libraries and publishers are butting heads over ebooks can be found in these links:

http://www.alia.org.au/advocacy-and-campaigns/advocacy-campaigns/ebooks-and-elending

http://liquid-state.com/2013/09/12/libraries-vs-publishers-what-the-digital-publishing-world-can-learn-from-sweden/

http://www.killyourdarlingsjournal.com/2013/09/a-very-quiet-battle-librarians-publishers-and-the-pirate-bay/

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