Monday, August 20, 2012

Breaking Up [with Ebooks] is Hard to Do

Breaking Up with Ebooks is Hard to Do
Published in Sept/Oct Issue of Oklahoman Librarian

The Librarian in Black recently posted about her break-up with ebooks.  . She accused ebooks of playing the old bait and switch by promising wine and roses and instead giving a beer and cheeto relationship.  She waxes poetically throughout the post about how badly the ebook boyfriend treats her even going so far as to accuse ‘him’ of sleeping with her sister.  It was almost another Somebody Done Somebody Wrong Song.  While the post was wildly entertaining and I was tempted to dramatically whip off my promise ring and throw it in ebooks face, let’s be honest, Breaking Up [with ebooks] is Hard to Do.

I confess, I am deeply in love with ebooks.   While I still think fondly of my first love, the printed book, ebooks has long since replaced print in my heart.   I am not alone.  Library users love ebooks.   If you don’t think that libraries stuggle now with their public image and you are itching for a challenge, get rid of ebooks.  Even so, from the public side, ebooks still have their challenges.  I have eschewed the dedicated ebook reader, and I use a tablet (Android based, hate proprietary Apple) because it is a hassle to download library ebooks on a dedicated ebook reader.  Sideload from my computer?  Really?  That is SO last year.  This does not even address issues such as certain publishers not allowing libraries to lend ebooks.  We won’t mention names, will we Macmillan?

ALA released a report, Ebook Business Models that Andy, from Agnostic, Maybe, has accused of being a bit too brief and a case of too little too late.  I do not think that he is too far off the mark.  The report is very brief, but it does summarize nicely for what libraries are asking.

·         Inclusion of all titles – I Want it All without any embargo, and really, Its Not Too Much to Ask.
·         Enduring Rights: Give us ownership and all that it entails.
·         Intregration-metadata access without the DRM

In a perfect world, this is what we should strive for and what we have had with print books, however, You Can’t Always Get Want You Want.  Let’s look at our relationship expectations.  As librarians, we want to the publishers to give us what they do not give the public.  We want enduring rights.  We want to ‘own’ the ebook and have first sale rights.  We want to lend books through ILL.  The public does not have access to such.  I cringe when I think of all the ebooks that I have purchased through my Barnes and Noble app.  If Barnes and Noble goes out of business, what happens to my access to my ebooks?  When I am tired of reading my ebook, I cannot resell it or donate it to the library.  And while Barnes and Noble does have the ‘lend it’ function, out of the one hundred or so ebooks that I ‘own’, I can only lend two.  This is not limited to ebooks.  I thought of this as I bought Hunger Games through VuDu.  Maybe I should have bought it through Amazon. 

I do not think that breaking up with ebooks is the best move in this relationship.  However, I have no opposition to breaking up with the Big 6.  What we do now, will form the future of libraries.

Big Six is singing Two Out of Three Ain’t Bad to us.  They may need us, they may want us (or what we can do for them), but they will never love us.  On other hand, Overdrive may be a case of Paradise by the Dashboard Light.  In the heat of passion, we gave in and signed the contract, but now we are praying for the end of time.

So before we start rallying to These Boots Are Made for Walkin rember that there are Fifty Ways to Leave Your Lover.  We do not have to break completely from ebooks, but we can perhaps have a more ‘open’ relationship and consider seeing other people. 

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