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
    Your Friendly Neighborhood Librarian, 17 Oct 2009 @ 9:57am

    Re: costs

    Library binding is less of an issue than it was. We tend to look at materials as consumable goods, unless they are of a nature to preserve in a special collection. Buy - Loan repeatedly - Toss/Recycle/Sell to used books vendor. We do get discounts, even when not purchasing multiple copies (10 - 40% generally).

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