We all know that eBooks are transforming the face of the publishing industry as we know it. But not many people have been thinking about the impact eBooks have on one of the most important resource for many communities: the library. While everyone from local bookstores to big name publishers are floundering to stay afloat in a competitive market, libraries, too, are trying to balance the effect eBooks are having on the way they provide access to books and information. David Vinjamuri, an adjunct instructor of marketing at NYU, provides his thoughts and findings in his article, The Wrong War Over eBooks: Publishers Vs. Libraries. He states:
“Libraries have struggled to understand their role in communities as technology has changed. In addition to encouraging children to read and lending books, they have migrated from providing access to online databases to cataloging the web then providing computer terminals and now broadband access as the needs of the citizenry for information has changed. The shift in reading towards eBooks presents a particular problem for them because it’s happening with startling rapidity and presents significant technological challenges.”
The main problem facing libraries is the way in which they receive eBooks. Libraries argue that raising the cost of eBooks for them to lend out to their members “undermine the library’s core mission” (Vinjamuri). Most of the big publishers do not sell eBooks to libraries, and those that do have restricted policies. The article includes points from both publishers and libraries that argue for their sides.
Publishers argue: Libraries argue:
1) eBooks don’t wear out 1) They buy many books that do not lend as frequently
2) eBooks lend more frequently 2) Libraries help increase sales
3) You can borrow eBooks without visiting the library 3) Libraries help new and old authors and titles
After stating all of this, Vinjamuri took me completely by surprise by saying that publishers and libraries are simply arguing about the wrong thing. I know…I was boggled for a minute, too. But keep reading.
He said that there was one important fact that both parties were missing: eBooks are licensed, not sold. Both publishers and libraries are not treating eBooks like software, but as property.
Hopefully by now I’ve started to get you thinking about the impact eBooks are having not only on consumers, but the organizations that have provided communities with books over hundreds of years. I heavily recommend that you click on the link above and read this article. In a day where technology is rapidly changing literally everything (from the way we shop, watch movies, and interact with others- just to name a few), it is important to realize the effects that it is having on century old institutions as the library.
I invite you to share your thoughts- what do YOU think is the role of the library today? Is it enough for the library to simply lend books? Do libraries really have a choice in how they can respond to technological advancements? Is it asking too much of libraries to revolutionize their entire system simply because “e-everything” is becoming the new fad? Or are these technologies here to stay? How can we make sure that these resources are accessible to everyone?
Remember, this is still a very new issue, and the post is meant to start people talking!
Picture courtesy of creativelibrarian.com
Written by: Sonia Dalal