The Digital Paradox: How Copyright Laws Keep E-Books Locked Up

1 April 2014

From Spiegel Online:

Many publishing houses don’t allow their products to be lent out by digital libraries for fear of piracy. Articles and books by researchers are also affected. Readers are the ones who have to pay the price.

When the German author Johann Gottfried Seume took his famous “Stroll to Syracuse,” as he entitled his book about his nine-month walk to Sicily in 1802, he made sure to visit a number of local libraries along the way. At the time, it was often impossible to check out books. If you wanted to read them, you had to be mobile.

Today, the situation has come full circle. If a student in Freiburg wants to read the hard-copy version of a book from the university library in Basel, he or she can simply order it via an interlibrary loan. But if only an electronic version is available, interlibrary loans are generally not an option. The student has no choice but to climb into a train and head to Switzerland to read the book on a university computer.

It is a paradox: Books that traveled around the world via interlibrary loan in the 20th century paper era are safeguarded locally in the Internet age. Indeed, it is the sheer ease with which electronic publications can be sent around the world that is now resulting in their being locked up behind digital bars. The book doesn’t go to the reader, the reader comes to the book — just like in the 19th century.

Interlibrary loans were formalized in Prussia in 1893 with the “edict pertaining to lending.” But it doesn’t apply to the new electronic world. Today, publishing houses dictate their conditions to libraries, motivated by their justifiable fear of pirated copies. Unfortunately, it is honest readers who have to pay the price.

Many publishing houses don’t issue licenses for loaning out e-books: Influential German publishers such as Droemer Knaur, Kiepenheuer & Witsch, S. Fischer and Rowohlt, for example, are nowhere to be found on the German-language online lending library Onleihe. That means that important works such as the new definitive World War I study by Berlin-based political scientist Herfried Münkler cannot be checked out electronically. It is a situation that would be unimaginable in the world of paper.

. . . .

There are plenty of absurd examples. Franco Moretti, for example, an English professor at Stanford University, achieved renown with his study “Atlas of the European Novel.” But his research ends at the point when rigid copyright laws, which protect works for up to 70 years after the death of the author, present a roadblock. It is dangerous to scan more current works of literature, Moretti says. “The specter of copyright keeps (them) too protected for us to make inroads. Too bad!”

“Currently, copyright owners are often in a unique position of power,” says Hinte. “A reform and simplification of copyright laws is long overdue.”

In many cases, it is the readers themselves who, through their taxes, pay the university authors whose studies they are then unable to access. It is also likely that many professors themselves cannot even afford a subscription to the journal in which their work is published.

Link to the rest at Spiegel Online and thanks to Peter for the tip.

New York Public Library partners with Zola to offer algorithmic book recommendations

24 March 2014

From GigaOm:

Visitors to the New York Public Library’s website will have a new way to decide what to read next: The library is partnering with New York-based startup Zola Books to offer algorithm-based recommendations to readers. The technology comes from Bookish, the book discovery site that Zola acquired earlier this year.

Until now, the NYPL website had offered book recommendations based on titles other readers were checking out, reviewing or rating, rather than gearing recommendations toward a patron’s own searches or interests.

. . . .

There are long wait times for many new books at the New York Public Library, so a recommendation service like this could be useful to patrons who aren’t able to get the exact book they want right away.

Link to the rest at GigaOm and thanks to Matthew for the tip.

Fabulous Libraries

3 February 2014

This is the Austrian National Library in Vienna:


Click Here for an interactive panorama of this library. Drag the image with your mouse to explore. It’s a big file and may take awhile to load.

Here are more amazing libraries and thanks to Meryl for the tip.

What the Library of the Future Will Look Like

24 January 2014

From The National Journal:

Forget what you know about the library of the 20th century. You know, those dark places with clunky microform machines fossilizing in the basement and with rows of encyclopedias standing, perfectly alphabetized, in denial of their obsolescence.

Forget all of that: The library as a warehouse of information is an outdated concept. The library of the 21st century is a community workshop, a hub filled with the tools of the knowledge economy.

“If we can’t shine in this environment, in this economy, shame on us,” says Corinne Hill, the director of library system in Chattanooga, Tenn.—a system that has thoroughly migrated into the current era.

The library of the 21st century still has books, but it also has 3-D printers, laser cutters, sewing machines, and spaces for conducting business meetings. It offers computer coding classes. It has advanced video- and audio-production software. All things that might and individual may find too expensive but can still benefit from using.

Last year, the downtown Chattanooga public library cleared out its entire fourth floor—14,000 square feet of former storage space—and opened its floor plan for a community collaboration space. It’s part public workshop, part technology petting zoo. But members of the community can also use the space to work on projects or try to launch a business.

. . . .

She shifted around the library’s $5.7 million budget, making room for the 3-D printers and vinyl cutters, and started stocking the shelves with more popular titles. So instead of spending $10,000 for access to little-used academic journals, the library purchased MakerBots (the 3-D printers) for around $2,000, a laser cutter for around $5,000, and a vinyl cutter for $3,000. With these moves, the library has rebranded itself as a coffee shop alternative/technology salon for the upwardly mobile. It even brews its own roast coffee, aptly named “shush.”

“With this space, what we’re trying to do is acknowledge that access to the commons is no longer a read-only environment,” says Meg Backus, who runs the library’s fourth floor.

Link to the rest at The National Journal and thanks to Barb for the tip.

The New Year for Ebooks

3 January 2014

From Annoyed Librarian:

Ahh, 2014 has finally arrived. A lot of people got really excited when it began, so they must know something I don’t about how exciting the year is going to be.

. . . .

 Unsurprisingly, the director of the Office of Information Technology Policy for the American Library Association (ALAOITPLOL) is “optimistic about libraries and ebooks for 2014.” He probably has to professionally optimistic, so I’m not sure that should count.

A VP for an independent ebook publishing platform has “a vision of the future that brings bookstores to every town and invigorates libraries.” You can probably guess what that vision is. “In this vision, libraries of the future are our local bookstores. I see a future where libraries let people borrow digital books—or buy them.” Lordy.

. . . .

The Big 5 publishers will all be “selling” ebooks to libraries for extravagant prices while seriously restricting access to the content to one user at a time. What publisher wouldn’t want that deal?

. . . .

 Oh well, at least libraries can become bookstores. You see, bookstores have been disappearing from communities. But libraries can replace them…somehow.

Libraries already have plenty of print books, so the key is making libraries a hub for selling ebooks, says the VP of an ebook publisher. Huh?

Can’t we just buy ebooks online? Isn’t that kind of the point?

Link to the rest at Annoyed Librarian

The Future of Libraries as Ebookstores

31 December 2013

From Digital Book World:

As the New Year approaches, I have a vision of the future that brings bookstores to every town and invigorates libraries. In this vision, libraries of the future are our local bookstores. I see a future where libraries let people borrow digital books—or buy them.

. . . .

Buying ebooks through public libraries gives every town a local bookstore. In 2013, we continued to watch independent bookstores (as well as large corporate bookstores) slip away from our communities. Online stores that offer ebooks continue to grow as more and more people acquire ereaders and tablets. But human interaction and the advice of knowing readers are vital to vibrant reading communities. So why not let our libraries become our in-person digital bookstores?

Almost all libraries in the United States have an electronic catalog and offers ebooks in addition to their paper collections. Allowing people to buy digital books through public library catalogs should be possible with a bit of software development and a few new publisher contractual agreements.

. . . .

Jamie LaRue, Director Douglas County Libraries in Colorado understands this vision. In fact, he may be the one who planted this idea in my brain. LaRue and his team have developed their own independent ebook distribution platform that’s part of their overall library catalog.

One of the features of this system is that some ebooks are available for purchase. If patrons at Douglas County Libraries can’t find the books they want, no problem. They can purchase them directly from the catalog via Bilbary. The ebooks are available for sale in EPUB form, which is a start. The vision is there.

Link to the rest at Digital Book World

How Americans Value Public Libraries in Their Communities

13 December 2013
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From Pew Internet:

Americans strongly value the role of public libraries in their communities, both for providing access to materials and resources and for promoting literacy and improving the overall quality of life. Most Americans say they have only had positive experiences at public libraries, and value a range of library resources and services.

. . . .

Some 90% of Americans ages 16 and older said that the closing of their local public library would have an impact on their community, with 63% saying it would have a “major” impact. Asked about the personal impact of a public library closing, two-thirds (67%) of Americans said it would affect them and their families, including 29% who said it would have a major impact.

Moreover, the vast majority of Americans ages 16 and older say that public libraries play an important role in their communities:

  • 95% of Americans ages 16 and older agree that the materials and resources available at public libraries play an important role in giving everyone a chance to succeed;
  • 95% say that public libraries are important because they promote literacy and a love of reading;
  • 94% say that having a public library improves the quality of life in a community;
  • 81% say that public libraries provide many services people would have a hard time finding elsewhere.

Link to the rest at Pew Internet

How to Kill a School Library: 10 Easy Steps

7 December 2013

From School Library Journal:

This is a straightforward, how-to set of instructions for squelching all remnants of library service in a school community. It’s been a painful set of rants and raves to record, and I can’t say I’ve enjoyed it. However, what I see worries me so much that I just can’t keep my mouth shut.

1. Fire your librarians. If you really want to get rid of library programs and services, start at the top. Ship them off to traditional classrooms or Timbuktu—just get rid of them. Some are rabble-rousers and troublemakers, and others just won’t get off their soapbox about all the great things libraries can do for kids. Once they’re out of the picture, it’ll be easier to do what you want with the library.

. . . .

4. Keep kids confused about how a library works. If they’ve never heard of a library catalog, they won’t ask how to use one. If kids don’t come in to the library to do research, you can use the space for baby showers and book fairs. Do they really need library books? Get the library assistant to pull a bunch from the stacks. If she’s not in the library, check the cafeteria or study hall. Be sure she includes a variety of titles, because who knows what kids really want to read.

5. Rush kids in and out of the library. You don’t want them in there too long. They’ll get curious about those banned books and genre displays, and we know what will happen next. We’re familiar with what follows when you give a mouse a cookie.

. . . .

8. Tell authors who want to visit your school that you don’t have time for them. You’re too busy working on the Common Core State Standards to devote time to frivolous pursuits, and they can be damn sure no child is going to get left behind at your school!

Link to the rest at School Library Journal

Queens library members can start borrowing tablets next week

16 November 2013
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From TeleRead:

People in Queens, N.Y. will be able to use tablets for free starting next week.

Google donated 17,000 Nexus 7 tablets to the New York State Community Action Association, and Queens Library received 5,000 of those units. The library is going to lend the tablets to library card- customers starting Nov. 20. The tablets will be at seven Queens locations, and customers can borrow them for a month with the option of three renewals.

. . . .

The tablets will come with pre-loaded content with educational information, resources for job searching, computer skills training, immigration and citizenship information and more. The tablets will have full Internet within Wi-Fi range.

This is one of the first programs like this in the country – especially in such a large population. Queens is home to 2.3 million people.

Link to the rest at TeleRead

Soon to be Famous

29 October 2013

From The Illinois Author project

Illinois libraries hope to discover an unknown, self-published author whose work will jump off the page for readers. The Soon to be Famous Illinois Author project will be accepting self-published adult fiction submissions from Illinois residents via their local libraries. Visit us at booth 131 at ILA during the exhibits.

Click here to read the press release.

Evidently some libraries do like self-published books.

From Guest Bloggers Randall and Bridget

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