The Trouble with E-Books

Scott Kehoe: A few statistics to start: books sales = $27.2 billion and over $2 billion of that was for ebooks with a total of 38 million eboooks sold. eBook sales tripled from 2010 and ownership of tablets doubled between December 2011 and January 2012 in the US. 20% of Americans own an ereader or tablet and this is before the launch of this year’s new iPad, Kindles and Nooks. Despite the popularity of ebooks and ereaders, libraries still have difficulty getting content.

Big 6 Publishers:

  • Hachette. high prices
  • HarperCollins. 26 circulation limit
  • Macmillan. will not sell to libraries
  • Penguin. will not sell frontlist
  • Random House. high prices
  • Simon and Schuster. will not sell to libraries

Issues surrounding ebooks:

  • DRM. It manages loan periods and early returns, but is cumbersome and limits number of uses and types of allowable devices
  • US Dept. of Justice vs. Apple, Macmillan and Penguin. Anti-trust lawsuit to combat alleged price fixing among publishers
  • The concept of licensing content rather than owning it is eroding first sale doctrine.
  • HathiTrust just won against the Authors Guild which claimed copyright infringement
  • Proprietary hardware (DRM built into devices)
  • Proprietary software (even ePUB format. Though it’s o’pen source, it can be made proprietary by companies)
  • App/enhanced ebooks that incorporate audio, video and/or music into digital text are sold through app marketplace  Will they be available in OverDrive?

Danny Pucci: Second highest circulating branch of the Boston Public Library was their virtual branch (after Copley). BPL partnered with Internet Archive in 2007 to scan public domain books. Titles are accessible through and available in a number of formats including PDF, ePUB, and DAISY

In 2010 they started digitizing in-copyright genealogical titles and adding them to which is a lending library. It uses DRM (one patron, one copy) and they are now working with other MA libraries to digitize books and other materials like maps. BPL’s lawyers think this is likely to be considered fair use, but there is always a chance that a court would determine otherwise. OpenLibrary requires an account to use.


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