Are books at stake?
Librarians typically love books. Like, LOVE loves them.
No surprise there.
There is usually some specific quirk in a librarian’s personality that makes them prone to this love, or its extreme cousin, bibliomania.
If you don’t have this quirk that’s fine. Many people don’t.
Books as we know them haven’t always existed.
In fact, libraries predate books!
The big question going forward is: What is the future of libraries and books now that we have the internet?
Here is an inconvenient truth for some of us:
Probably because of my age, I am not a fan of e-books.
The rest of them are “real” books to me.
For some reason, my brain just can’t get into e-books even though I own a few. Why is this?
It can’t have to do with intangible nature, as I have “read” audiobooks successfully.
It’s not the length either as they vary in size too.
I should add that I have made the digital switch in other media; I no longer buy CDs or DVDs and my video games are mostly downloads now.
Like my crypto-executive friend Ian Rogers once said: convenience trumps everything.
Fundamentally though, books are more than a format; they’re bundles of ideas.
As we celebrate National Book Lovers Day (August 9), one thing you should know about books is that your right to own a book is being litigated.
A group of publishers is suing a nontraditional library to prevent them from lending e-books.
Imagine a library that can’t lend!
The uncomfortable truth is that marketing department protestations aside, publishers don’t really like libraries, as they cut into profit margins.
Publishers would prefer that “consumers” needing books of any sort to license them (which then, I should add, can’t be resold).
The convenience of the format shouldn’t preclude them from being loaned.
“We’re being made to forget what it means just to be in private control of the things that belong to us.”
– Maria Bustillos
This is the gist of the matter: do you own a thing?
What if you think you own it but actually license it?
For instance, farmers often cannot legally repair their own equipment.
In South Korea, citizens are being forced to “subscribe” to “luxury” services in their cars.
Here is my fundamental takeaway: libraries that don’t lend things aren’t libraries.
A corollary would be things that can’t be loaned won’t exist in libraries.
I’m worried that this is the “boring dystopia” that several of us in technological fields have been dreading.
Several libraries and other groups have seen this trend coming.
They’ve tried to warn us and fight it when possible.
Some are even taking on the role of publishers themselves, which also saves money in the very expensive academic publishing market.
Like so many in our world, this issue isn’t going away anytime soon.
I am not smart enough to know the solution, but I avoid giving in to the temptation of convenience when it means that my rights are at stake.
As book lovers—digital or print—those who care about their welfare must assert our rights to own, borrow, and read books or risk losing all three.
Bob Craigmile is the Digital Access Librarian at CTS. Bob has a Master’s degree in Theology from Luther Seminary and a Masters’s in Library Science from Indiana University, which is his home state. He has grown children and now cares for parakeets Monty and Zholty (Russian for “yellow”).