Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Let's Talk About eBooks Part 2

Part 1 here.

Loaning eBooks

The wording on license agreements with eBook readers and eBooks themselves is a bit muddled. On one extreme, you can't loan eBooks or eBook devices to others. This might irritate customers but this is a bigger concern for institutions like libraries. (Here's one interpretation for example.)

Barnes & Noble's Nook and Amazon's Kindle have book loaning book options (Nook|Kindle), one more recent than the other.

The Good: The companies thought about it.

The Bad: The solutions seem to be a step backwards. My analogy is that you have a horse that can run 30 mph. The companies, however, don't want the horse running at 30 mph so they add weights to it, so that it runs at 3 mph. My problem with the book loaning options is that instead of embracing the advantage of the electronic format (the fact that it's digital, easily copyable, etc.), it's crippling it. And remember my last post on how the eBook market revolves around the US and the UK? Here's the quote from the Kindle article linked above:
"Lending can only be initiated by U.S. customers, and recipients won't have access to certain books in certain countries."

1 comment:

Marilynn Byerly said...

The standard method for loaning library ebooks in the US is for a public library to contract with a library vendor like Overdrive.

The library buys the books from Overdrive which provides the server space and interface for the library.

One bought book equals a paper book with it only being loaned once until it is "returned" to be loaned out again. The ebook deletes itself from the reader's computer or ebook reader at the end of its loan period.

In some cases for a special fee, a library is allowed an infinite number of loans at one time.

Publishers agree to this system if they work with Overdrive.

This system is fair to everyone within this closed system, and the author and publisher are paid for their work.

In the best of all possible worlds, everyone everywhere could read American books, and the authors and publishers would be fairly compensated, but right now we live in a very complex world of international copyright laws and trade agreements so that won't happen any time soon.

And, actually, license agreements to individuals aren't that complicated. When you "buy" an ebook, you are leasing the right to read it, but you don't own the copyright so you can't copy it online for others to read or give away copies to friends, you can't resell it in digital format, and you can't copy it onto a CD to sell to others.