Whenever anyone thinks they know what they’re talking about regarding ebooks and the future of libraries they should be kindly directed to shut their hole and read this from Librarian in Black:
eBooks totally ignores everything you say. We in libraries have not been included at the table for negotiations on digital copyright, terms of service, licensing conditions, technology integration, none of it. And yes, that stinks. And yes, we’ve complained about it enough. We haven’t been heard largely because we’ve been too polite and too quiet for too long. It’s our fault. We removed ourselves from the equation by not being more proactive as a profession through the professional organizations and lobbyists we expect to speak for us. But even now that some of us are getting louder and angrier, we’re still being ignored by the entire eBooks industry, with very few exceptions (hi Gluejar, you guys rock). So my opinion is that we should walk away and take our fuck-me heels with us. That’s what our moms would tell us to do.
eBooks drew you in with wine and roses, but now makes you fetch him beer and Cheetos
Remember how tantalizing eBooks seemed several years ago? How sexy, how intoxicating? Everything seemed perfect because we were caught up in the glossy image of our desires…not the reality standing in front of us. eBooks…in…the…library! Holy ceiling cat!!!11one! We were like kids on our first trip to the candy store.
Too much good stuff (and more importantly accurate stuff) to quote. It’s the hard truth, or should I say the flaccid truth.
As she most skillfully elucidates, I present Ursula, vindicated:
And the sneakiest gambit is that of talking as if only orphaned books are being illegally digitalized. All the time the Settlement has been in the courts, Google has been blithely going ahead digitalizing any book it wanted without obtaining permission, let alone contractual terms. (I can attest to this, since they have thus pirated several of my books, with no attempt whatever to contact the publishers, my agent, or myself — none of whom are exactly hard to locate.)
Such methodical theft looks like more than corporate indifference to the law. It looks like a deliberate effort to destroy copyright. In other words, the corporation would like to do away with the concept of workers getting a fair share of the profit from their work.
That would “be good” for the corporation. Not good for the worker, the writer — or for readers, or for anybody else.
And yes, I have a gmail account, proving Ursula’s point #1. So there.
Interesting article about the Vatican’s library, and their approach to digitizing select works. Very practical move, but one not need to think long of what may not be digitized by the Vatican. Article also brings up interesting points about how with digitization, the notion of scholarship and science is looming large, not only within these accessible works, but into the overall discussion. No link, but like a good lib, I cite:
Far more important for the many scholars who have no ready access to the library, the process of digitizing images from the Vat’s collection of illuminated manuscripts had begun–an undertaking that is very much in keeping, in ways that Nicholas V couldn’t have imagined, with that Pope’s dream of “the common convenience of the learned.” “A decision was taken,” Cardinal Mejía went on, making use of the curious passive construction that, I’d noticed, he favored when speaking of events that occurred during his tenure, “to digitalize the miniatures”–the hand-painted illuminations in the manuscripts–”so people could have access to the miniatures without seeing the manuscripts, which we try to keep as much as possible in their own places, because they’re so precious. So now the Vatican has a site for these images, and you can click on an image and see the illuminations. There’s access for anybody.”
Mendelsohn, Daniel. “GOD’S LIBRARIANS.” New Yorker 86, no. 42 (January 3, 2011): 24-30.
Ursula Le Guin has some stones. This whole Google digital books settlement is a bit complicated, but it boils down to something more than opting in and out for the authors. It’s about signing away your authorship, and forcing companies like the great and powerful Goog to negotiate with you before you do so and not after they’ve been caught. Le Guin says it better:
The “opt-out” clause in the Settlement is most disturbing:
First, it seems unfair that, by the terms of the class-action settlement, authors can officially present objections to the Court only by being “opted in” to the settlement and thereby subjecting themselves to its terms.
Second, while the “opt-out” clause appears to offer authors an easy way to defend their copyright, in fact it disguises an assault on authors’ rights. Google, like any other publisher or entity, should be required to obtain permission from the owner to purchase or use copyrighted material, item by item.
The free and open dissemination of information and of literature, as it exists in our Public Libraries, can and should exist in the electronic media. All authors hope for that. But we cannot have free and open dissemination of information and literature unless the use of written material continues to be controlled by those who write it or own legitimate right in it. We urge our government and our courts to allow no corporation to circumvent copyright law or dictate the terms of that control.
Google has some stones as well, dictating the terms of their own settlement to authors of works they’ve digitized without consent. Perhaps Google is trying to claim some sort of perverted sense of fair use by chumming with libraries to assist in their digitization without bothering to negotiate with authors and forking out the dough to buy the item they want to scan from Amazon or AbeBooks.
What with the Kindle being the super number 1 product on Amazon, it initially appears that the clamour of preferring ebooks over their physical counterpart is slightly a bit disingenuous or at least misguided. After all, it appears that of the titles bought for the Kindle, more often than naught are, shall we say, priceless:
And how much money is Amazon making? How much money are authors and publishers making? When GalleyCat examined the Kindle Store bestsellers, they found that 64 of the 100 bestselling eBooks, the majority, were, in fact, free, including the number one bestseller, “Midnight in Madrid”, by Noel Hynd.
It’s question of cost, and the chilly reception from publishers who probably never thought the iTunes effect would be superimposed at great length upon their industry:
But publishers have ignored this demand. In response, several conglomerates have aggressively moved to protect their legacy. Macmillan recently announced a plan to delay the publication of e-books and offer enhancements that will justify a higher price. This tactic is aimed at Amazon’s policy of trying to set $9.99 as the expected price for an e-book. Most are priced much higher — but that’s beside the point. Amazon and publishers are fighting over this fiction, not the reality. Because Amazon’s customers have made it clear that $9.99 is still too high for their taste. Most titles in the company’s list of top 100 Kindle bestsellers are priced below $9.99, and the most popular price point is $0.00. But publishers can’t hear this, because they’re a little distracted right now.
All this is coinciding with imminent launch of the super secret Apple Tablet so achingly soon. And it’s no coincidence, since I feel that while Amazon has successfully developed and marketed its own niche in the book industry with the Kindle, consciously or not, they are following the Apple iTunes model of providing a platform for cheaper, more widely disseminated content. That is what consumers want. That is what authors, especially new aspiring authors, want.
Or, why e-books are so “popular”. Random House shrieks “all mine”:
On Friday, Markus Dohle, chief executive of Random House, sent a letter to dozens of literary agents, writing that the company’s older agreements gave it “the exclusive right to publish in electronic book publishing formats.”
Backlist titles, which continue to be reprinted long after their initial release, are crucial to publishing houses because of their promise of lucrative revenue year after year. But authors and agents are particularly concerned that traditional publishers are not offering sufficient royalties on e-book editions, which they point out are cheaper for publishers to produce. Some are considering taking their digital rights elsewhere, which could deal a financial blow to the hobbled publishing industry.
It would seem that e-books are the literary equivalent to reality TV shows: cheap to produce, and therefore generating higher stream of revenues to distribute. But for whom is the question worth asking. Never mind if the reader prefers the physical book. This is why amazon and such are promoting the hell out of their devices.
Amazon remotely deletes purchases from Kindles. Removes 1984, causing Orwell to promptly pop a 360 underground.
Amazon CEO Jeffrey P. Bezos has apologized to Kindle customers for remotely removing copies of the George Orwell novels “1984″ and “Animal Farm” from their e-reader devices. The company did so after learning the electronic editions were pirated, and it gave buyers automatic refunds. But Amazon did it without prior notice.
Of all the titles it was 1984. Sweet.
Perhaps Apple’s subtle emergence into the ebook market will drive Amazon’s incentive to make a more functional, and less expensive reader.
The talks come as Apple is separately racing to offer a portable, full-featured, tablet-sized computer in time for the Christmas shopping season, in what the entertainment industry hopes will be a new revolution. The device could be launched alongside the new content deals, including those aimed at stimulating sales of CD-length music, according to people briefed on the project.
Book publishers have been in talks with Apple and are optimistic about their services being offered with the new computer, which could provide an alternative to Amazon’s Kindle.
Two occurrences struck me as definitely non-coincidental during the ACRL conference this past week. The first being Friday’s keynote address delivered by Sherman Alexie, renowned author, comedian and veritable renaissance man who happens to be American Indian. His address was poignant, irreverent, lyrical and human.
After spending a few minutes objectifying all the “hot, near-sighted” librarians in the room, Alexie weaved a story with the magic he so effortlessly conjures, discussing various topics ranging from his sickly stint on Oprah to kicking Stephen Colbert’s ass, to applying for having his grandfather’s war medals reissued. Needless to say, the bigger picture of his whole presentation was one that recurs throughout his works, of Indians and Indian stories.
Combined with his presentation was my reading of his majestically written book Indian Killer. Central to the book was the theme that “Only Indians should tell Indian stories”. Specifically, one instance within is the argument between two characters on whether American Indian stories/content should be recorded by non-natives,even if for academic purposes. Does it constitute stealing, since these stories are traditionally familial, and orally transmitted from generation to generation? Would recording the screams of someone being physically assaulted equate to the Indian reaction of stealing their stories without permission?
Ironically enough, one of the more interesting and buried sessions that followed Alexie’s address was entitled From Babine to Yakima: Academic Libraries and Endangered Language Preservation, from Washington State University Librarian Gabriella Reznowski. Gabriella mentioned that this is indeed a touchy situation, one that needs careful attention. There is a difference between saving and preserving native languages, Reznowski stresses, and that libraries can serve as collaborative partners in culture preservation, as long as some considerations are followed, including:
- Deciding whether the Internet is an appropriate venue for placing native cultural resources, rather than simply accessing them in the stacks.
- Are being tribal policies being followed and respected, having gained permission to begin with?
- How much effort is the institution willing to spend to keep up their community and tribal relationships?
Just a few considerations to…consider. We may not be trained linguists, but librarians can be part of something that provides a failsafe against losing one’s history. Though at all costs, we must realize the point at which we may rewrite such history, despite our good intentions.
I’m perpetually amazed at how I’m always late and a day behind regarding stuff like music and Web 2.0. Case in point: I’ve just noticed the additions to the image editing site BeFunky. As if the functionality wasn’t groovy enough, they’ve compiled even more options for optimizing the gonzofication of your photos. Use the cartoonizer, warholizer, scribbler, inkifier, charcola, etc to add varying degrees of wowza to your pics. It’s a perfect tool to use for editing when using comic life. Not to mention seamless integration into your networking sites has been taken care of.
I almost feel badly that the site is free and I have little creatistic ability to begin with.