‘Are libraries at all prepared for information without publishers?’ is a very interesting question posed in response to the HarperCollins library e-book lending furore.
The publisher has decided to limit each of its e-book in libraries to 26 loans only.
Business models for lending e-books are still not set. I think we’re inhabiting a strange, murky in-between-land ruled by what Eric Hellman calls a ‘Pretend It’s Print’ model.
The format of lending out one e-book at a time seemed to be a good compromise. I wish they’d settle on a good model because with the proliferation of tablets, and e-book readers becoming so popular with the over-55s, I think e-book lending could play a big role in the fight to save libraries.
But with other publishers refusing to allow their products to be lent in e-form at all, and now this, people are beginning to think: Publishers used to be essential as they owned the presses. And so they were essential to libraries. But are they needed if it all goes digital?
Justin Hoenke, a contributor to the ‘Tame the Web’ blog, says this latest blow should make libraries consider an even greater opportunity. He says with publishers wanting to cut librarians out of the e-book market, libraries should reinvent themselves. We should turn to our community and give them the chance to create original content themselves, to add to local collections. Instead of consuming, people would be doing ‘creative, educational, and life-improving’ things.
Apparently this goes on in Copenhagen’s public libraries. Patrons produce poetry, comics, music and films.
Nicholas Schiller, commenting on Hoenke’s blog post, says: ‘Are libraries, at their core, organisations that pool public funds to buy content from publishers and make this content available to our patrons? If we are, I’m not sure there is a role for us once publishers go away. If we aren’t, we’ve got some work to do to redefine our roles in terms of information instead of the containers that information come in.’
Publishers also provide editors and, as I’ve said before, being part of the creative industry I’ve no truck with those that want to dispense with all forms of mediation.
As a freelance, I reinvent my job regularly. Now, editor of community-produced content, employed by a library – that sounds like a nice job…