Thursday, June 10, 2010

Tim Spalding on Libraries and Ebooks

From Tim Spalding at Library Thing:

Libraries--from the library of Alexandria to the "social libraries" that preceded public libraries--came about because of the value of aggregation. And contemporary libraries are in large part valuable for the same reasons. They are:

1. Bringing physical items together makes access easier than having books spread all around.
2. A library can allow many people to use an item many times for the same price a person would pay for a single use.

Ebooks undermine 1 in their digital form. There's no getting around this. It may be good for the world, but it isn't good for physical libraries.

Ebooks undermine 2 in their terms. Few will say it openly, but publishers have never liked selling books to libraries, at least when it cannibalized sales to consumers. They don't like that almost a half of all book reading is provided by libraries although libraries account for only 4% of their sales. For similar reasons, publishers dislike personal lending, donations and the used book market.

Ebook licenses allow publishers to close off all this. And they do. Nobody disputes the other three, although, in an exception that proves the rule, you can loan some Nook books once for two weeks and then never again.


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