You may have heard of Cory Doctorow: he is an author (Little Brother and Homeland, among others), blogger, journalist, and the co-editor of popular website Boing Boing. He is also a tremendous advocate for libraries. In particular, he often writes about the relationship between libraries and publishers.
As most readers know (I hope!), all of the Minuteman libraries – Robbins and Fox included – offer e-books for patrons to borrow. These e-books work much the same way regular (“print”) books do: one person can use them at a time, and they can be checked out for three weeks. If more than one person wants to read a particular book, there is a waitlist.
The “one copy/one user” model, as it is called, is an artificial constraint put in place by the publishers, who require each e-book to come wrapped in digital rights management (DRM) software. DRM limits what readers can do with their e-books: an e-book with DRM will only work on certain devices, usually can’t be moved from one device to another, can’t be lent or shared, and can’t be copied.
Of course, publishers are correct to be concerned. E-books are new territory, and it’s much easier to copy a digital file than it is to copy a print book. However, as Doctorow points out, libraries are, and always have been, publishers’ greatest allies. Especially with the decline of brick-and-mortar bookstores, it is often librarians, not booksellers, who connect readers with new authors.
Here are a couple of paragraphs from one of Doctorow’s latest essays on the topic, but I encourage you to read the whole piece:
“There are libraries in every town, and even though they’re under terrible assault in the age of austerity, they remain the mark of a civilized society and benefit from librarians’ amazing organizational skills. The modern library has become something like a bookstore, where helpful staff who love books and authors take enormous pride in ‘‘hand-selling’’ the publishers’ products to their patrons. Libraries host some of the best author events, too, providing a vital space for readers and writers to connect.
Unlike every other channel for e-books, libraries are not the publishers’ competitors. They don’t want to sell devices. They don’t want to win over customers to a particular cloud. They just want readers to read, writers to write, and publishers to sell.”
It’s not all doom and gloom, though. Some publishers are experimenting with DRM-free books, and so far that has not led to an explosion of e-book piracy, so perhaps more publishers will move in that direction.
Librarians continue to push the conversation along, and meanwhile, we’re still getting e-books for our patrons (that’s you!) to enjoy. Here are just a few of the new titles we’ve added in the past few months:
12th of Never by James Patterson
Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichi
Bad Monkey by Carl Hiaasen
The Bat by Jo Nesbo
The Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith (a.k.a. J.K. Rowling)
The Disappearing Spoon by Sam Kean
The Heist by Janet Evanovich
Inferno by Dan Brown
Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg
Love, Dishonor, Marry, Die, Cherish, Perish by David Rakoff
Night Film by Marisha Pessl
The Shining Girls by Lauren Beukes
The Spectacular Now by Tim Tharp
TransAtlantic by Colum McCann
Beautiful Day by Elin Hilderbrand
Bossypants by Tina Fey
Let’s Explore Diabetes With Owls by David Sedaris
World War Z by Max Brooks
Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell
The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer
The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman
Sisterland by Curtis Sittenfeld
The Woman Upstairs by Claire Messud