The Library Renewal blog has an awesome summary of all the discussion in recent weeks about library ebook lending, most notably, Bobbi Newman’s suggestion that libraries ought to at least call a hiatus on investing in ebooks until there’s a better model in place.
I’m tempted to agree with her. I’m wary of libraries’ handing over large amounts of their budgets to digital distributors like Overdrive when there’s little guarantee that whatever content they’re purchasing (or more accurately, licensing under very limited conditions) will be there in the long run.
Until there’s legislation or a court decision affirming something like first sale doctrine for digital content, it seems like libraries are engaging in very expensive experiment. I honestly hope it works out, but in the meantime, I think caution is warranted, and perhaps a seriously consideration of something like what Andy Woodworth outlines in his blog post Alternative Uses for the Pesky eBook Budget…
Overdrive, the largest distributor of ebooks to public and school libraries, announced today that they have now added Amazon’s Kindle to their list of supported devices. The change will greatly increase the visibility of library ebook lending among ebook users, but the change is making some publishers nervous. I still personally prefer devices that support the open ePub standard rather than Amazon’s proprietary format, but this will, at least, now prevent having to break the bad news to patrons they they won’t be able to borrow ebooks on their shiny new Kindle.
Josh Hadro over at Library Journal has reported that Harper-Collins has announced significant changes to the way it licenses its books to library eBook vendors. Under their new license, each eBook can be borrowed only twenty-six times before the license expires and the library required to purchase the title anew. Two other major publishers, Macmillan and Simon & Schuster, already do not allow their digital titles to be lent at all, and this adds yet another disincentive for libraries to add downloadable digital content to their collections.
Sarah Houghton-Jan, over at Librarian in Black, is calling upon libraries to contact Overdrive and Harper-Collins to express their discontent and to boycott digital content from publishers who place onerous restrictions on digital lending.
ETA: Bobbi Newman at Library by Day has an excellent list of other blogs where the issue is being discussed, including BoingBoing and ReadWriteWeb.