Libraries and eBooks

August 25, 2009

There has been a LOT of blogs, news articles, essays and flame wars on how eBooks are either A) Destroying the publishing industry or B) a new cultural wave that will revolutionize our society.

Anyone who has chatted with me knows that I love the idea of eInk technology. I’m looking forward to getting a Plastic Logic reader or perhaps a Bebook sometime in the next year or so. I’m not found of the Kindle or the Sony Reader for several reasons, but they have already made a huge difference in how the general public handles eBooks.

Now we have something new to deal with that will have some wide repercussions.

Consider your local, public libray.  It purchases a dead-tree book from a publisher, then loans it out to one person at a time. Back in the early part of the 20th century, there were a lot of lawsuits by publishers who tried to stop this practice. Their business models depended on every reader paying for every book read. The courts upheld the practice that a purchaser, like a library, could loan, sell or give away the book anytime they wished. Over time, the book would wear out, it would become dog-eared, the binding would fail and it would eventually become unreadable.

Now, we step forward to the 21st century and we have ebooks.  An eBook does not wear out. What is more important, is that any copy is just as good as the original.

The latest development is that the new Sony Daily Reader is a bit larger at seven inches and it has a wireless internet connection built in. Sony has worked out a system where libraries who are already collecting eBooks can now download one to the Sony Daily Reader for free.

Now we all know that both Sony and Amazon are big proponents of DRM and will do all they can to limit what you can do with these eBook files. But the truth is, any file you load onto a system can be copied one way or another.

I’m curious as to what sort of questions come to mind when my faithful readers consider this latest development.

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