Don’t miss this by Brian Kenney:
That strategy seems to represent a new chapter in a debate public librarians in America have had for 150 years: should we be providing our readers with the material they want, or should we be providing books we think they should read? Because, however noble DCL’s motivation is for its model, when it comes to e-books, the system is pushing its patrons to read something other than what they want to read. It’s back to the 19th century, Kindle in hand.
Of course, in DCL’s defense, much of this is out of its hands: only two of the big six offer their full catalogues to libraries, and in those cases they do so under lending restrictions, or very high prices. “We can’t be held hostage to vendors,” LaRue says, and “ownership” of the libraries’ content is the bedrock of DCL’s model.
But at this moment in nascent e-book history, is “ownership” really so vital? Is it really practical for public libraries to try to reform the publishing business by rerouting our patron demand? Or do we risk losing patrons dissatisfied with our digital offerings?
It is a complex question. I believe that part of the promise of digital content for libraries lies in experimentation, and that the ownership model, necessary for research libraries, may not suit public library needs any longer. Shouldn’t public library collections be dynamic and ever-changing? Does any public library really need to own an e-book it plans to discard in three years? Or 48 digital copies of Gone Girl?
One of the great opportunities for public libraries in the digital world is that they should be able to continuously recreate their collections, at a reasonable cost—without the expense of housing, materials handling, weeding, and discarding.
LaRue concedes he would entertain other ways to do business—like pay per use—provided he could still purchase copies for his “long-tail” catalogue. “But,” he adds, “that model doesn’t exist.” In a world where a digital copy of a book can be acquired in minutes, however, doesn’t the long-tail catalogue get to be pretty short?
Read the whole thing…so nice to be reminded of the Charles Robinson philosophy in the midst of all the e-book hoopla!