The other shoe has dropped

At this point it’s almost obligatory that I as a Technology Innovation Librarian comment on the recent hub bub over Harper Collins and Overdrive. The single best place to get completely caught up is over Librarian by Day. Simply put, Harper Collins says the new eBooks sold to libraries will expire after 26 checkouts and that geographical restrictions on those checkouts need be strongly enforced. Pretty much every other blog post on this topic has already pointed out anything and everything that’s wrong with this situation. After thinking about this for a few days, here’s what I have to add to the conversation:

Why the hell is everyone so frickin’ surprised!?

I won’t go as far as to say “I told you so” because to be honest, I couldn’t have predicted this. However, anyone who’s ever heard me speak about eBooks knows that I’ve been leery of them from the beginning. The DRM, the licensing instead of owning, the impermanence, the reliance on easily out-of-date-able hardware,  the platform lock-in. Does any of this ring a bell with anyone?

Sure, I own an eBook (a Sony Reader PRS-500 which pre-dates the Kindle by the way,) and I have every eBook app possible on my droid and my desktop. How much have I actually “purchased”? About $20 worth because I just can’t figure out how to justify to myself something that I just don’t own. If I just wan the right to read something, I’ll get it from the library and return it. That is, as long as the library can afford it once if I’m one of the first 26 borrowers, twice for the next 26, ad nausium.

Publishers that only want to sell someone a license are only in it for themselves! They are not our friends and they love the the corner they’ve put us into. Hell, if the library doesn’t have it people will have to buy it. More money for them.

Yes, I’m pissed off about all this. But I might just be more pissed off at all the librarians who are acting all surprised and betrayed. Betrayal assumes there was trust in the first place and I don’t believe it was ever there to begin with.

Update 02/27:

It has just been pointed out to me that some will read my post as an attack on individual libraries or librarians that have participated in any way in purchasing Overdrive content. This was not my intention. My intention was to rant at those blogging about the recent developments and their lack of surprise as I saw it. I understand the reasons for libraries to participate in such arrangements and do not begrudge them for making the decisions they did. To any particular participating  library or library who was offended by my comments, I apologize.

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2 Replies to “The other shoe has dropped”

  1. I can’t speak for anyone else but I can say my outrage has nothing to do with surprise. We knew this was coming, but it doesn’t make it any better, right or easier to take.

  2. My surprise is mostly at the rancor aimed at OverDrive by some of the bloggers. OD faced a no-win situation in this: accept HC’s modified terms or stop carrying their books. I doubt that libraries would have been happy if they had taken the latter option, either. At least this way they still are allowing libraries to make their own decision about how we will respond to HC’s new requirements.

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