Last week we posted that ALA would meet with major publishers to discuss making their ebooks available in libraries. Was there any progress? Actually, there was.
Random House, the largest of the big six publishing firms, announced that it would sell ebooks to libraries again. They are going to use a new model of (higher) library pricing but the ebooks won’t ever expire. What’s implied here is a lending model based on the physical model of one checkout of an ebook at a time. A Random House Spokesman said:
“Our commitment to libraries, as imperative to our momentum, if not to our existence as publishers, is greater than ever. The leadership of Random House grew up in large part loving libraries and we believe libraries are indispensable in bringing readers and books buyers to our authors’ works. It’s an emotional as well as a practical commitment in our support and our enthusiasm for libraries.”
An article from American Libraries made no mention of the change in policy at Random House. It seemed most of the talks involved ALA leaders educating the publishers on ebook lending practices and trying to alleviate their fears.
In meeting with publishers who currently do not sell ebooks to libraries, we shared our profession’s concerns regarding the impact of these practices on library users, many of whom rely solely on the public library for their reading choices. In some instances, we found that there were misconceptions about how libraries operate that, once clarified, mitigated some of these publishers’ concerns. For example, some publishers had the impression that libraries lend to whomever visited their respective websites, thus making collections available virtually worldwide without restriction.
The code4lib 2012 conference is taking place this week in Seattle. Unless you’re local, it’s probably too late to go. But code4lib has a live stream beginning today at noon EDT.
Here are some useful links:
According to Library Journal, leaders of two industries trying to figure out their business models in the rapidly-changing digital world met today. American Library Associate executives met with representatives of at least three of the major publishers at the ALA Midwinter 2012 Conference in Dallas. From the Annoyed Librarian:
There’s some tough talk from the ALA Executive Director, who said, “I want to assure you that the dialog will begin with us saying ‘you need to deal with libraries and you need to do this as soon as possible,’ then we can have a dialog starting from there.” I’ve attended a lot of meetings in my time and I’ve never seen one that began so belligerently accomplish anything.
Were I a Simon & Schuster representative – and for all you know I am – my response to that line would be, “Or what?” That sounds mild, but I’d say it in a really hostile tone of voice, and I’d be really menacing and all.
Read the article In Which I Solve the Ebook Library Lending Problem.
Several major websites will go black tomorrow, January 18th, to protest SOPA and PIPA.
In case you haven’t followed the story, SOPA is House Bill H.R.3261, the Stop Online Piracy Act which is moving through Congress. PIPA is Senate Bill S.968, the Protect IP Act. The goal of SOPA is to allow the government to block access to websites which it suspects engage in illegal intellectual property distribution or merely host users who do so. Opponents insist it will fundamentally change the Internet and allow government to censor it.
Two of the most-used websites will “go black” in protest. Wikipedia will black out its English language site for 24 hours beginning at midnight. The Internet Archive (internet.org) is going dark from 6:00am to 6:00pm (PDT) in protest.
Internet companies have joined sides, and some (such as GoDaddy) have switched sides due to popular pressure. The House Judiciary Committee published a List of Supporters of SOPA. Last month, 83 prominent Internet founders and innovators wrote An Open Letter From Internet Engineers to the U.S. Congress. Anti-SOPA companies have written joint letters to Congress stating their opposition, as well.
Regarding SOPA/PIPA’s effects on libraries, the Library Copyright Alliance (LCA) (which consists of the American Library Association, the Association of College and
Research Libraries, and the Association of Research Libraries) has issued a letter showing the negative impact on libraries and making them more susceptible to prosecution.
Eric Hellman has a New Year’s Day blog post listing the “ebooks wars” that broke out in 2011. The year was indeed a disruptive one in the retail ebook market as well as the time when the future role of libraries is put into question. His nine skirmishes are:
- Harper-Collins and Overdrive Stop Pretending
- Amazon Occupies Overdrive
- The Penguin Strikes Back
- Prime Pretends To Be a Library
- Publishers Decide Google Is a Lesser Evil
- Authors Lob Legal Grenades at HathiTrust
- Amazon Obliterates Borders
- Libraries Muster the Resistance
- Anti-Piracy Hysteria Threatens Freedom Loving Citizens
Many of these battles are ongoing and 2012 should see more surprises and further disruptions. Authors, publishers, online retailers, and libraries will all position themselves to get control of the burgeoning ebook market.
Read the blog post 2011: The Year the eBook Wars Broke Out.
Sarah Houghton, also known as the Librarian in Black, appeared on the program Social Jumpstart to discuss ebooks, digital rights management, and the effects on privacy in libraries. Host Mike Wolpert and Sarah discuss ebook DRM and ecosystems including Amazon, Apple, and Barnes & Noble. Also, how buying versus access licensing will affect the traditional role of libraries in archiving and preserving items for future access.
The US Congress is in the process of passing the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) which aims to stop the illegal piracy of online media like music and movies. But the technology press and Internet firms say it will allow the government to censor the Internet and stifle innovation. Heads of most of the major Internet companies have responded by writing “An open letter to Washington“:
An open letter to Washington
We’ve all had the good fortune to found Internet companies and nonprofits in a regulatory climate that promotes entrepreneurship, innovation, the creation of content and free expression online.
However, we’re worried that the PROTECT IP Act and the Stop Online Piracy Act — which started out as well-meaning efforts to control piracy online — will undermine that framework.
These two pieces of legislation threaten to:
- Require web services, like the ones we helped found, to monitor what users link to, or upload. This would have a chilling effect on innovation;
- Deny website owners the right to due process of law;
- Give the U.S. Goverment to the power to censor the web using techniques similar to those used in China, Malaysia and Iran; and
- Undermine security online by changing the basic structure of the Internet.
We urge Congress to think hard before changing the regulation that underpins the Internet. Let’s not deny the next generation of entrepreneurs and founders the same opportunities that we all had.
The letter is signed by seventeen founders or co-founders of the biggest Internet comapnies including Google, Yahoo!, Twitter, and the Internet Archive.