Monday, November 19, 2012

Applying Printing-Press Rules To Digital Books

The New York Public Library has 87 branches, but afresh some assemblage acquire absitively to abandon all of them, and appointment the endless in their active apartment instead.

As the acceptance of e-books has increased, libraries beyond the country acquire installed basal stacks. At the New York Public Library's website, assemblage can analysis out audio books and e-books, briefly downloading items anon to their computers or adaptable devices, afterwards anytime dispatch central a concrete library. "As our readership goes online, our abstracts dollars are traveling online," Christopher Platt, the administrator of collections and circulating operations for the New York Public Library told The New York Times.(1) The American Library Association estimates that two out of every three libraries now action e-books.

But a contempo accommodation by HarperCollins may apathetic the advance of libraries' agenda collections. The administrator appear this ages that it will set a lending absolute for new e-books it sells to libraries. Under the new policy, afterwards a HarperCollins e-book is arrested out 26 times, it will self-destruct. The absolute is advised to accommodate a agenda agnate of the accustomed abrasion and breach that, over time, causes cardboard books to expire.

The brake raises absorbing absorb issues. In the U.S., libraries are able to accommodate books as a aftereffect of what is accepted as the "right of aboriginal sale." This acknowledged assumption allows the client of a accurate abundance of a copyrighted plan to resell or accommodate it afterwards permission from the absorb holder, so continued as no added copies are made. Already I acquire bought a archetype of a book, CD or DVD, it is abundance to do with as I wish.

This principle, adequately aboveboard if activated to concrete objects, becomes added circuitous for "objects" such as MP3 files or e-books that abide alone as $.25 of agenda information. In acknowledgment to file-sharing sites, which attempted to administer the article of aboriginal auction to agenda content, absorb holders began to advance that agreeable transmitted digitally was accountant rather than sold. Back there was never any absolute sale, they claimed, the appropriate of aboriginal auction did not administer and they could, as a result, exercise greater ascendancy over how the agreeable was used. End User License Agreements were created, acute barter to accede that, admitting they seemed to be paying money to admission a product, they were, in fact, not affairs anything. By asserting a appropriate to absolute libraries' use of e-books, HarperCollins is about claiming that its e-books are, like software programs, accountant rather than sold.

The assumption of "fair use" provides added advice on how copyrighted works can be used. It is beneath anon applicative to library e-books, back it applies primarily to the archetype of portions of copyrighted works rather than to the use of alone copies of accomplished works. But it offers some advantageous accepted guidelines for because what constitutes absorb infringement. According to the laws on "fair use," individuals and courts analytical whether a accurate use is fair or not are instructed to accede "the aftereffect of the use aloft the abeyant bazaar for, or amount of, the copyrighted work."

Publishers altercate that absolute library admission to e-books would attenuate their sales. If e-books are readily accessible to "check out" for chargeless at any time, they worry, barter would acquire little acumen to bang "buy" rather than "borrow." HarperCollins said in a annual about its new policy, "We acquire austere apropos that our antecedent e-book policy, affairs e-books to libraries in perpetuity, if larboard unchanged, would attenuate the arising e-book ecosystem, aching the growing e-book channel, abode added burden on concrete bookstores, and in the end advance to a abatement in book sales and royalties paid to authors."(2)

While the absolute case law is murky, I am absorbed to acquire that, behindhand of the accessible after-effects for publishers, the "right of aboriginal sale" applies.

But I agnosticism libraries will sue to win the point. While the "right of aboriginal sale" protects purchasers of copyrighted material, there is no "right to aboriginal sale." If affairs e-books to libraries hurts their profits, publishers are chargeless to artlessly debris to do business with libraries. In fact, Simon & Schuster and Macmillan, two of the better barter publishers in the U.S., currently do absolutely that.

Just as libraries depend on publishers, publishers depend on libraries for a ample allocation of their sales. Sales to libraries can annual for 7 to 9 percent of a publisher's all-embracing revenue, two above publishers told The New York Times. Like it or not, publishers and libraries are bound in a accord of alternate interdependence.

My assumption is that publishers and libraries ultimately will acquisition a band-aid that both can accept. Publishers might, for example, adjournment absolution of accepted new e-books to libraries, banishment those who wish to apprehend the book appropriate abroad to buy it. This is not abundant altered from the way films are appear aboriginal to theaters, again for pay-tv, and assuredly for auction and rental on agenda media. Alternatively, or additionally, publishers ability allegation a per-checkout exceptional afterwards a assertive chargeless lending limit, rather than acute libraries to acquirement new copies already endemic "expire." This would accomplish it accessible for libraries to accumulate books on their basal shelves even if they are not abiding if there will be abundant approaching absorption to absolve affairs a new copy.

The catechism of how to handle library e-books is just one of abounding that acquire resulted from the digitalization of literature. I acquire accounting ahead about Macmillan's action with Amazon endure year over e-book prices, Google's confiscation of rights to out-of-print works and newspapers' fights to absorb ascendancy of, and accumulation from, the agreeable they produce. As we move into new acknowledged territory, the specific accoutrement of absolute absorb laws are more proving bare to abode new issues.

But the basal attempt that administer our attitudes against bookish acreage are solid. Traveling forward, we should not adapt our attempt to fit changes in technology, but should instead advance avant-garde means of application technology to account our abiding principles. Libraries and publishers should be able to acquisition a new way to account the old assumption that expressions of ideas, already purchased, can be awash or lent for the account of everyone, even if those account are recorded in computer cipher rather than on paper.


(1) The New York Times: Administrator Limits Shelf Life For Library E-Books

(2) HarperCollins: Open Letter To Librarians


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