Via Kathryn Greenhill.
I am honored to have a short piece written with Jan Klerk in this new book just released in The Netherlands.
I Read Where I Am contains visionary texts about the future of reading and the status of the word. We read anytime and anywhere. We read of screens, we read out on the streets, we read in the office but less and less we read a book at home on the couch. We are, or are becoming, a different type of reader. The question remains which shape will it take and what experience does one want? To answer all these (and other) questions we have asked people from different backgrounds, subject to the aforementioned changes, to think about these issues.
Fascinating and brilliant post by Sarah Glassmeyer. Please take a look:
I also think, that given the weak negotiating position that libraries are in, it’s too confrontational. I think a better way would be to include the Rights and Responsibilities of all participants in the information consumption chain. I’ll be thinking about this more and trying to fill in the pieces myself, but here’s a rough idea:
I see four principle players: Information Consumers (patrons), Information Creators (Authors), Information Distributors (publishers, other vendors) and Information Guardians (I had a hard time coming up with a term for this…Information Maintainers, Information Collectors, Information Preservers, Information Farmers…nothing seemed to adequately cover all that libraries do. The parallels between farmers and librarians is another post for another day, but trust me it’s there.) Information Consumers have the right to expect much of what was said in the eBook User Bill of Rights. But they also have a responsibility to respect the Intellectual property of creators and distributors. Information Creators and Distributors have a right to make money from the Information business. But they also have a responsibility to engage in fair business practices. Information Guardians have a right to preserve, protect and reuse information (within the bounds of the other rules.) It’s going to have to be a balancing act and everyone involved will have to give and take a little. Libraries cannot simply demand to be heard anymore.
Note from Michael – I’m deep in two projects today and tomorrow and haven’t had much time to catch up on the hubub with Harper Collins and ebooks. I can say that I agree with Justin’s take on the potential and promise of promoting content creation, access to technology and building the community memory (whatever community it might be – civic, academic, education) as a big part of our future in libraries. I appreciate Justin’s hard work and insights.
The news about HarperCollins placing loaning caps on ebooks in the Overdrive catalog—known as #hcod on Twitter—gobbled up my Twitter feed last Friday afternoon. On one hand, I knew some publisher was going to pull this stunt, so I wasn’t shocked. On the other, I learned two things about libraries and the profession in general.
First, the lending-digital-goods jig is up. With DRM, publishers have found a way to cut out libraries and used booksellers. This kind of greed is absurd when you consider how much business libraries give the major book publishers. The average annual teen book budget I’ve worked with over the years at a few different libraries is $20,000—and that’s often one of the smaller pieces of the pie. Adult public library book budgets for systems serving upwards of a million people range from a cool $1 to $2 million. And let’s remember: libraries don’t ever return books. The obvious solution to the HarperCollins slight is to stop buying its wares. The lack of library cash flow will speak loudly. Also, no more booktalking HC’s backlist or generating word of mouth, the rumored force behind best sellers. You’re grooming your next Neil Gaiman, HC? Wonderful! Good luck making him or her a star without our readers advisors and community centers, where people can talk about what their discovering in the stacks.
Now, let’s all quit being shocked that the ebook loaning cap happened and take the long view of digital goods in libraries. Two of the so-called Big Six book publishers already refuse to lend ebooks to libraries, Macmillan and Simon & Schuster. Overdrive, the vendor involved in the HC incident, is a pile of garbage in terms of usability. Don’t believe me? Read this comic.
Tell me you haven’t run into this problem before. As a Teen Librarian, I’m working with the one-click-and-the-file-saves-to-your-computer generation. Do they use Overdrive now? No. Will they later? Doubtful, if the interface and DRM remain. Does this bode well for the future of library services and literacy? For an answer, look at what’s happened with digital music products for libraries. Like ebooks, they are locked up in crazy DRM or come with an insanely high price tag. Let’s not even get into databases.
The second thing I learned from this incident is that the library world is terrible at advocating for itself. DRM and greedy publishers are here to stay. No number of tweets, emails, or blog posts is going to change their minds. If HC and other publishers in their wake want to cut us out of the ebook market, let them—it gives us a chance to do what we need to do, that is, reinvent ourselves. REVOLUTION!
And now that we’re being squeezed out of lending popular materials like ebooks, what do we lend out? The answer is simple: we turn to our community to create the content that we collect. We “check out” distinctive experiences and educational opportunities to our patrons instead of the Twilight saga ad nauseam. We become the go-to place for people to record music, film movies, write original stories, and do anything else creative, educational, and life-improving.
We then take these works and make like libraries and catalog, store, and share them. Sure, we may only have one or two ebook copies of James Patterson’s crapfest, but look at the awesome content we’re encouraging our community to create! The best part? It’s one-of-a-kind material that we can now share easily with the world. The other rad part? We’re empowering our patrons to become creators instead of consumers.
As for my take on DRM, cut and paste what Cory Doctorow has said and put it in my mouth because I feel the exact same way. It’s a bad, ugly thing. His post on the #hcod debacle was brilliant from start to finish, but this chunk of gooey goodness keeps on repeating in my mind:
And that’s why libraries should just stop buying DRM media for their collections. Period. It’s unsafe at any speed. I mean it. When HarperCollins backs down and says, “Oh, no, sorry, we didn’t mean it, you can have unlimited ebook checkouts,” the libraries’ answers should be “Not good enough. We want DRM-free or nothing.” Stop buying DRM ebooks. Do you think that if you buy twice, or three times, or ten times as many crippled books that you’ll get more negotiating leverage with which to overcome abusive crap like this? Do you think that if more of your patrons come to rely on you for ebooks for their devices, that DRM vendors won’t notice that your relevance is tied to their product and tighten the screws?
-Post by Justin Hoenke, Tame the Web Contributor
“Or we could save our energy and find untapped sources of content created by our local users and work together to create a single publishing platform and rights-management tool to allow easy creation and access to local content.”
That’s the excellent ending of Kathryn Greenhill’s answer to her own question:How do we force publishers to give us ebook content that includes works that our users want and that they find easy to download to their chosen device?
This is such a compelling vision of a way forward for libraries. Not only is it more attainable than forcing publishers to do anything (or even compelling them) but it would result in a much more meaningful public library.
I’m looking forward to the rest of the posts in her series!
I am also watching closely for Kathryn Greenhill to add to her series of thoughtful posts.
Her opinions also amplify and reinforce my own. I’m finishing up an article based on The Hyperlinked Library model that addresses this future. It includes this:
When asked what I see for the future of libraries – all kinds of libraries – I imagine a space where users will connect, collaborate, and CREATE.
Create: Users will find the tools they need to share their own stories with their family, friends and the world if they so choose. The best technologies and support for these endeavors will be a part of library services. Library staff will become guides and co-creators. Local content will reign as one of the most unique offerings of the library.
Meet Nelson, Coupland, and Alice — the faces of tomorrow’s book. Watch global design and innovation consultancy IDEO’s vision for the future of the book. What new experiences might be created by linking diverse discussions, what additional value could be created by connected readers to one another, and what innovative ways we might use to tell our favorite stories and build community around books?
My first thought was the power of Coupland to enable group reading lists, shared libraries and easy connections would be perfect for faculty and students. Nelson would be perfect for following trends and staying in the know. Alice intrigues me the most and points toward that concept we’ve heard about – social, non-linear narratives across multiple channel and media. Good stuff!
My question – how can libraries play a role in all three?
I’ve been meaning to post a link to this incredible post by the Librarian in Black. I’ll be using it in my classes from now on as a perfect overview of what’s happening with downloadable music in libraries. If you haven’t read it, be sure to do so and don’t miss the comments. For example:
Overdrive & Alexander Street Music are very similar. Overdrive users download a music file in a DRM-protected format that will self-encrypt and be unreadable after the designated circulation period (e.g. 3 weeks). Update: Alexander Street Music offers -streaming- access to classical, jazz, and folk. And sadly, the selection is not what most of our users want. Most people aren’t looking for classical and folk music. Libraries with these services get very poor use of them (according to my anecdotal discussions with other eResources managers), and frankly, I personally don’t think they’re worth the money we pay for them. Check your usage stats and do a cost per use calculation. You’re likely to find you might be paying $5/song. Ri-freaking-diculous.
Freegal is very different. The songs are popular ones with a lot of well-known artists in different genres like rock, R&B, and country. And in a lovely change of pace, the songs are provided as DRM-free MP3s! But — and I stress the but — the library can only offer these in a very limited fashion because of cost. The library pays for the number of downloads per year they want to fund. Then divide that by 52, and there’s your weekly cap. If you hit the cap, then no users can download anything else for the rest of the week. As a result, Freegal suggests that you limit the number of songs any one user can download in one week. For our library in San Jose, that number is 3. Yep, you get only 3 songs per week, and that’s if you’re lucky enough to log on before we hit our weekly cap. Update/Clarification: SJPL no longer has a weekly cap. So if you want to download an actual album, you have to calendar yourself to come back for at least 4 weeks to get one single album. How many users are going to do that? For us to pay for enough songs for our users to access a full album per week, we’d need to spend approximately $500,000 per year. And that’s not happening, nor should it in my opinion. That’s a ridiculous proposition for a collection budget. Is this token offering of popular online music to our users enough to interest them and an attempt at a successful model, or does it merely show that libraries are clueless once again about what our users really want with digital formats? Again, please check out the cost per use of the service and I can just about guarantee you it’s costing you more to offer songs via Freegal to your users than it would to simply buy them the songs they want directly from iTunes, Amazon, or whatever other service they use. But what other choices do we have? To do nothing. And that stinks too.
I have never had much interest or faith in what the library vendors are trying to sell libraries to compete with iTunes, Amazon or the like. Most of the time, I consider my music/content consumption as if I were a consumer, not a librarian. I want things to work and work well. Yes, I admit to my Apple fanboy status but it works for me. I’ve been well-served by my iTunes and Amazon account for many years. These days Hulu+, Netflix streaming and my satellite dish are serving my consumption needs nicely as I mend my fractured bones. I’m so happy SJCPL went the iPod route a few years ago. I also tried to use an iPhone app for downloadable content and never had success accessing the collections at my library. If it’s hard to use, limited in weird ways or doesn’t have “interesting to me” content, I’m gone. iTunes and Amazon fit the bill very nicely – as do the actual physical CDs I purchase from a very small number of artists.
Because I’m no longer working in libraries everyday, I’m glad folks like Sarah are actively sharing their insights with our community. It benefits me as an educator and it will surely benefit librarians who may be considering one of the services or options out there. I hope we can continue thinking, talking and sharing about this issue.