Will the book you read yesterday be available tomorrow?

Browsing last night I came across a wonderfully positive article, Platt Middle School’s library using Nooks to get kids reading.

“I’m reading a lot,” he said. “It’s a lot easier than lugging a big book around and you never lose your page. I like how it’s new, but it still looks like a book page. It’s really cool.”

The Nook has a text-to-speech feature that I really wanted for struggling readers and the Kobo does not, but the Nook is not available in Canada. Nevertheless after reading the article, I though, That’s It,! I’m going to bite the bullet, get some gift certificates, start buying popular books for my Kobo, and then get in line for some funding for some more of these little gems. It’s time.

There was one sentence that made me squirm a little. Platt has 50 eReaders and has uploaded 28 different books on each one. “Just” two Nooks have been broken so far. That’s 56 books! Even if they only averaged $5.00 per book, that’s $280 plus the cost of the reader! Yikes! That’s a little scary. I don’t think I could in good conscience charge a student five to six hundred dollars for breaking a ‘book’.

So, I’m back to caution again, when I come across eBooks on Fire by Charles Hamaker.

Ubiquitous web and print ads tell individuals and libraries to “buy” ebooks. But long-term preservation and retention rights to stable content are not the norm, because many resellers and vendors don’t possess those rights from the publisher or author. Instead of true ownership, most ebook “purchases” are more like leases, and leases with few residual rights at that. The only way to assure continuing access and storage for an ebook is a permanent download to a device with rights not governed by strict DRM (Digital Rights Management) systems. With content delivered from a hosted service on the web (aka the cloud), the “purchaser” has no control over the content. Even Google Books bears the disclaimer:

‘[I]f Google or the applicable copyright holder loses the rights to provide you any Digital Content, Google will cease serving such Digital Content to you and you may lose the ability to use such Digital Content.’

The extensive article lays out several issues with eBooks including the publisher’s right to modify the contents.

The ability to modify the published text without notification, tracking, versioning, archiving, or any other means that might provide the original text for readers is destructive to the tradition of the history of the printed word and the tradition of Western scholarship.

Hamaker makes a point of one of the major issues for libraries: the license under which eBooks are purchased. He uses as an example from Simon and Schuster.

S&S (Simon and Schuster) grants you a limited, personal, non-exclusive, revocable, non-assignable, and non-transferable license to view, use, and/or play a single copy of the Materials and download one copy of the Materials on any single computer for your personal, non-commercial, home use only,

Libraries would be expected to purchase institutional rights.

Hamaker discusses issues of confidentiality,   archiving, borrowing and lending rights (which has implications in the economic divide) and and points out how libraries must be aware of the difference between buying a digital material and printed books, which can be in the collection as long as it they are required.

Who owns the book? Ebooks are a challenging area for libraries. Licensing is a critical issue because ebooks are being marketed as if they were analogous to print purchases. They most definitely are not. They can be available one day and gone the next.

This article is a must read for all libraries considering the eBook issue and further supports my feeling the decisions must be made and policies put in place at the school district level before our libraries can safely venture into the eBook market.

Note: I’ve added a category for eReaders in the School Library for those who want to see all posts relating to this vexing issue.

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Filed under eReaders in the School Library, Rethinking My Library

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