Do Libraries Need Permission To Lend Out Ebooks?

from the they-shouldn't dept

Reader OG points us to this NY Times article about how libraries are increasingly offering ebooks for download. This, of course, seems like a good idea, and fits in with the purpose of a library, but where the article gets either laughable or head-bangingly annoying is where it starts discussing how publishers have serious problems with this whole concept. Some publishers are refusing to allow libraries to lend out their ebooks...which makes me wonder why the publishers have any say in the matter. Thanks to the right of first sale, a library should be able to lend out an ebook if it's legally purchased it without having to get the publisher's permission.

Furthermore, the rest of the discussion is just silly. There are arguments about how many ebooks can be "checked out" at once or how the DRM works (which blocks the most popular ebook readers from being supported). There's also an issue of publishers charging libraries much higher prices for ebooks, and scoffing at a librarian who suggests that libraries should be allowed to offer as many copies as needed of an ebook to lend at the same time, and just pay the publishers a nominal fee.

It's hard to describe how insane this whole discussion sounds. Here you have a fantastic tool to support a library's main purpose in the world, and we're arguing over what sorts of artificial restrictions to set up to limit that tool from actually being useful? It's as if we discovered a way to make all the food the world ever needed, and we sit around talking about how to make sure that most people don't get fed. It would make me laugh if it weren't so disturbing that people seem to think this is a good thing.

Filed Under: ebooks, lending, libraries, permission, publishers


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  1. identicon
    C, 10 Nov 2010 @ 11:44pm

    the loose thread that can unravel all of society:

    A. Why can't the library just buy as many digital copies as are needed for the customers, and keep them forever, if they don't naturally degrade?

    B. Wait a second. It's just a digital file. Why not just buy one copy, and just copy and paste it for every customer who wants to read it?

    C. Wait a second. Why do you need the library at all? Why can't a customer just buy a copy from the publisher and "lend" copies to all of his friends?

    D. Wait a second. If no printing and binding needs to be done, why do you need the publisher? Just buy it directly from the author.

    E. Waaaaait a second. Why buy it? Once the author makes one copy available, why can't everyone just grab it for free?

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