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The End of Libraries, Part XII: Final Thoughts

Jun 10, 2012
With this entry, and barring new and dramatic developments which I do not foresee occurring in the near future, I bid farewell to my series on The End of Libraries.

Since my last entry on Feb 21 things have not changed materially. Amazon’s Kindle Owner’s Lending Library now has over 160,000 titles and continues to grow at a rapid rate. Publishers continue to be obdurate, shortsighted, and, well, just plain stupid.

Straining after a bit of good news: Public libraries are inching towards greater activism in defense of their patrons’ interests, and, for the first time, I have come across someone else’s recommendation for pay-per-use lending which I first suggested last October, in Part II of this series. For examples of both, see Top Libraries in U.S. and Canada Issue Statement Demanding Better Ebook Services and note the Comment to which I replied.

Meanwhile, Hilary Mantel’s sequel to Wolf Hall was published six weeks or so ago. My wife and I have been eagerly awaiting Bring Up the Bodies since the day we closed the cover on the unwieldy dead-tree Wolf Hall hardcover we both loved. We had had to wait for Wolf Hall for over a year, since it hadn’t come to my attention until after it had won the Booker Prize, and by then there was a long waiting list for it at my library. However, this was a new day. Today, I had my iPad and my Kindle. We weren’t going to wait until 2013 to read the sequel!

My public library, six weeks after publication, does not show the title in our eBook catalog. If they did get around to purchasing it, when would that be, and how long a wait would we have, since they can only loan it to one patron at a time? And when we do get it, I wondered whether we both could read it in the two weeks we will have before it magically disappears from our eReader? Probably not.

So I broke down and bought it, for $12.99, for my iPad. It felt like a defeat, after all that I have written about in this series. What ought to have been the scenario?

The eBook should have been available for checking out on my public library site on the day the book was published. As many patrons as wanted it should have been able to check it out that day, and the library’s eBook lending budget would have been decremented a certain reasonable amount (I have suggested 50 cents) for each checkout. There should have been no due date, though I would have to “return” the book by having it removed from my iPad before I could check out another in its place. The result: Hilary Mantel would have been an overnight millionaire (again), the publisher would reap a huge reward from the millions of people who would have borrowed it on Day One, public libraries would be filled with pride at the ease with which they have served their patrons, and we happy readers would be happily reading.

Instead, I caved in and bought something which, thanks to digitization, I should have been able to borrow as quickly and as easily.

What will be the likely result of all this? Unless the situation changes drastically, and

  • libraries are accorded the right to purchase any available eBook (some publishers will not sell them to libraries at all), and at their standard discount (some publishers charge libraries several times the retail price); and
  • libraries are guaranteed the same First-Sale Doctrine rights they enjoy for printed materials, and;
  • the lending model is altered to enjoy the advantages of digitization,
libraries will be unable to serve their patrons as those patrons are going to expect to be served. Those who can afford to purchase their books, as my wife and I can, will do so, and will no longer be willing to support the public libraries upon which they used to depend. The libraries will cease operation, and the millions of readers who cannot afford to purchase their books will go without, and authors will go without their readers.

Instead of the global reading renaissance which digitization promises, we will enter a global Dark Ages in which the printed word is reserved for the few who can afford it, further widening the gap between the haves and the have-nots which we have been haplessly and helplessly witnessing for the past 35 years.
tags: Books and Libraries

Noted with Interest, June 2012

Jun 03, 2012

* NEW * How corporate socialism destroys
By David Cay Johnston. Taxpayers are providing the capital for corporate projects, taking on the risk inherent in such ventures, and not participating in the profits, which all go to the corporations. This is corporate socialism at its worst. From Reuters, Jun 1, 2012. Accessed Jun 3, 2012.

tags: Noted with Interest

The Coming of the Candidates: Norman Solomon

Jun 02, 2012
Norman Solomon is running in the second congressional district of California, and has been endorsed by Dennis Kucinich, Glenn Greenwald, Mike Farrell, Raul Grijalva, and many other well-known progressives.

His primary is coming up on June 5, so I am rushing this notice to ATN to encourage you to give a last-minute contribution to his campaign, and watch for the results on Tuesday. Solomon is one of the strongest candidates in the progressive field, and certainly one of the most popular. How he does on Tuesday will provide a good indication of our chances in November.

And while we are election watching, don't miss Tuesday's results on the move to recall Wisconsin governor Scott Walker. Walker, you will remember, attempted to single-handedly end collective bargaining at the state level, essentially killing union representation for public employees. Wisconsin is polarized over the issue, millions of dollars in state and out-of-state money have poured in to Walker's coffers, and Tuesday's election is going to be a close one.
tags: Politics

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