Libraries That Need To Print And Then Rescan Ebooks Just To Lend Them

from the thank-you-copyright dept

The folks over at Against Monopoly have pointed out a rather ridiculous situation that has come about thanks to the restrictions that some publishers are putting on ebooks that are offered to libraries. With regular books, once a library has purchased the book, it can lend it to other libraries to pass on to patrons with no problem, but thanks to the restrictions placed on ebooks, such things are not allowed. So if a library wants to do an inter-library loan on an ebook, it’s forced to print out the ebook, scan it back into a computer and then send the scanned copy to another library. For something that’s supposed to be a lot more efficient, it would appear that the ebook, thanks to publisher restrictions, is actually a lot more troublesome.

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Comments on “Libraries That Need To Print And Then Rescan Ebooks Just To Lend Them”

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Anonymous Coward says:

Not quite...

So if a library wants to do an inter-library loan on an ebook, it’s forced to print out the ebook, scan it back into a computer and then send the scanned copy to another library.

Follow and read the link given in the Against Monopoly article. The library doesn’t have to scan the article, it is also allowed to send the actual printed article to the other library. What the library with the on-line subscription is apparently not allowed to do is to directly hook up other libraries to that on-line subscription.

buckykat says:

um, AC, that’s not a whole lot better. besides, you’re missing the point. the point is that these restrictions are unnecessary and burden down a useful technology until it becomes useless. the only time i’ve seen ebooks done right is at baen’s online library. everyone else would do well to learn from them.

zcat says:


It does actually say it has to be ‘printed’ and them ‘mailed, faxed or transmitted via Ariel (which would imply scanned back in, since it’s now PRINTED on PAPER).

Actual quote (bold added):
The licensor grants the subscriber the right to use articles from subscribed content in the case of ScienceDirect as source material for interlibrary loans subject to the following conditions:

* The ILL request comes from an academic or other non-commercial, non-corporate research library located in the same country as the subscriber.

* The requested article is printed by the subscriber and mailed, faxed or transmitted by Ariel (or a similar ILL system) to the requesting library. “

zcat says:


The point I think we’re trying to make here is that the text in question is in a very convenient electronic form. Even a few thousand pages of text is still a tiny file. It would be really efficient, easy and sensible to send the ebook as an email attachment, but instead the library is expected to use up a whole lot of paper and toner printing it out and then either scan it in again, or send the bulky pile of paper through the post.

Why? Probably because the publisher wants it to be difficult, to discourage sharing of the text I guess.

Gutenberg/LibriVox Fan says:

Simple Solution

– Project Gutenberg (, LibriVox ( and The Wayback Machine (,,
– The best that humanity has created, for hundreds of years, is available for the cost of a download, at the above sources.

– IMHO, Libraries could augment their budget and popularity by preparing CD’s (for loan or sale) with content from the above sources.

– Skip the modern stuff. Let only the wealthy buy and see if the authors/publishers can financially survive in that niche.
– For the rest of us, wait until time sorts out which modern stuff is trash and which will be classic literature.

Ryan says:

Why not

What would be the ultimate solution (I think) would be to have ONE repository for libraries to go to for e-book subscriptions AND make it affordable. The ebook should make it so that the Inter Library Loan mechanism goes away for e-books anyway.

I can only assume the problem is that there are SO MANY e-book subscription places that the total price becomes prohibitive.

One repository, one price (a decent one too).

Blake Walter (user link) says:

A librarian's response

Thanks for noting what is a constant source of irritation for librarians — trying to make the change between old models of strictly print-based services to new models of working with electronic resources . . . without breaking copyright laws. If you’re interested, I have a longer rant available here:

zcat says:

OK, OK..

Yes, I admit they can send the stack of printed paper through the mail. Still it would make a lot more sense to send ebooks via electronic means. It’s a stupid requirement that undoes most of the advantage of having the text in ebook format in the first place.

I wonder if ‘printing to pdf’ would still be considered printing? They don’t actually say that it has to be printed onto dead trees..

DKat says:

Copying vs. Lending

It seems to me the problem is that if sent electronically, it would be a copy of the paid for subscription file. It would be similar to the library exactly reproducing and redistributing a paper book which they cannot exactly today. They send the actual book. There is still only one copy.
I think the best way for them to handle the situation, stay electronic and yet reduce the copying is to assign each book per subscription with a unique serial number. When the library wants to load it out to another library from a subscription, they loan the serial number so there is still one copy only (as in the first library cannot use it until they get it back from the second). It has to be “checked” out from the subscription service.

RofMax says:

What? NOT add more shelves?

Surely there’s a law or a union rule somewhere that requires a certain amount of shelf space per book.

I mean – what was Featherbedding all about if it wasn’t assuring that technology didn’t destroy everything we’ve worked for. If libraries don’t grow, what will the workers do that would have built the new ones? What about the workers that built shelves? And bookmarks! And what about the workers that pushed the carts down the stacks reshelving books? All you technologists thinks about is ‘destroy destroy.’

Oh, forgot to mention that I’m from California, the state where public employee unions have greatly aided in creating the biggest state budget deficit of any state in world history!

OK now with that out of my system, I agree that printing to PrimoPDF or some other .xyz to .pdf utility should solve this problem. The Elsevier policy specifically allows email (Ariel or similar system).

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