Former leading New Zealand publisher and bookseller, and widely experienced judge of both the Commonwealth Writers Prize and the Montana New Zealand Book Awards, talks about what he is currently reading, what impresses him and what doesn't, along with chat about the international English language book scene, and links to sites of interest to booklovers.
Thursday, May 26, 2011
Libraries face growing demand for ebooks, and complicated rules about using them
Publishers are struggling to find a business model that works as popularity soars
By Janet Steffenhagen, Vancouver SunMay 24, 2011
Chief librarian Sandra Singh wants people to know that ebooks are available at the Vancouver Public Library, although the collection is still somewhat limited. Photograph by: Ian Smith, PNG, Vancouver Sun
The book-lending business at public libraries used to be a simple affair: Buy books, catalogue them, loan them out and keep them in good repair. But that's all changing with the soaring popularity of ebooks.
While libraries try to provide the same seamless service for ebooks as they do for print copies, they are stymied by an array of rules from publishers that dictate which books will be available in electronic form, how long libraries can hold digital rights to those titles and what borrowing restrictions will apply.
That's confusing for patrons who assume libraries have the same control over ebooks as over print copies, and frustrating for librarians.
Some publishers -including two big ones, Simon & Schuster and Macmillan -don't allow any of their electronic titles into libraries, saying they've not yet found a business model that makes financial sense for them and their authors.
Harper Collins, meanwhile, has set a cap of 26 on the number of times its ebooks can be loaned out before the library has to purchase a new licence or forfeit the title.
That's prompted calls for a boycott of Harper Collins and criticisms from those who say the cap is arbitrary and far lower than the number of times a hardcover book can circulate before it's worn out. They fear other publishers may follow suit, punching a hole in library budgets.
These struggles with publishers come at a time when libraries are experiencing surging interest in ebooks.