It’s been a busy week, both with what’s been going on online as well as real life. There are a few things about which I’d love to write long, well thought out, brilliant posts, yet, alas, I don’t have the time it would require. As an aside to bloggers and readers out there — if someone doesn’t write about something, do you assume a, they don’t care enough to write? b, they don’t have the time to write? c, you really don’t track what people blog about so it’s a silly question, or d, other?
Harper Collins and ebooks. Libraries, readers, publishers, authors, we’re all asking and discussing and trying to predict the future of books and reading and how ebooks play into this. HarperCollins inspired the most recent plethora of posts about this by introducing, via OverDrive, a limit of 26 check outs on the library editions of their ebooks. After the 26th check out… poof! They disappear. This is so big that I’m not going to recap beyond that, and I’m just going to give a few links for further reading: O’Reilly Radar Publishing News; the Librarian by Day; Free Range Librarian; Peter Bromberg (whose post pretty much sums up many of my own thoughts on the matter); and Agnostic Maybe. The hashtag on twitter is #hcod, and I’ve found it the best way to keep up on what is happening. Edited to add: Information Wants to Be Free.
In the hundreds (no, really) posts and comments I’ve read, I’m left with mostly questions about ebooks, how ebooks differ from print books, and what this means for the future of readers. Will ebooks merely replicate print books or become it’s own artform, in the way that television evolved from plays? Should ebooks be treated just as print books when they are not the same as print books? When bloggers use the term “boycott” do they mean wanting something narrow from one publisher, or is there a bigger issue going on here about ebooks and reading and libraries? If it is a bigger issue, about DRM and licensing and copyright and lending and pricing, what is it that libraries really want, business wise, from publishers and ebook vendors? And I ask, without answering, because it seems like each blog I read has a different answer to that question.
What is the right price point, for both readers and libraries? What are the factors that should go into determining that? What is — dare I say it — fair? And by fair, I mean fair to all of us in the world of readers. Libraries, bookstores, readers, publishers, authors, editors, bloggers, reviewers — we are all part of one community. Necessary tension exists between us because it has to, to keep the system working. Reviewers and bloggers review books, they don’t pander to authors. Publishers are a gatekeeper, sorting through the slush and editing (and no, I don’t mean spellcheck and grammar) manuscripts to final books and then marketing those books. Libraries advocate and promote books and authors and readers. But publishers just can’t give their books away for free to readers or libraries, and that price has to make it worthwhile for the publisher to stay in business. There is a tension, then, between the consumer and the seller.
There is a question that, as a librarian (and reader!) I get often: “Where are the good books?” While sometimes we librarians may joke, as we look around our libraries, “all these books are good!” the real question being asked is “where is the book that is right for me?” The reason for the question may be recreational, or informational, or educational, but the answer requires knowledge of the collection (whether its print or electronic) and skill (matchmaking a book with a reader isn’t simple). In order to answer that question, libraries need to have the good books. So, somehow, the libraries and publishers need to find a way to make that possible.