28 February 2011

Why publishing must change...

Yep, I'm calling out the entire publishing industry.  I've been thinking about this for a while, but the HarperCollions debacle clarified some thoughts for me.  Just like the music and movie industry before it they continue to operate on 19th century practices.  And just like those two industries they keep burying their heads in the sand about changing their practices.

Sure they've jumped on the ebook wagon, but they don't really embrace it.  They make obscure restrictions, they use one format so it can't be used on all devices (and that format varies depending upon the publisher), they attach DRM to the files, and they want you to pay just as much for an ebook as they do for an actual print book...even though they have none of the printing costs behind it.  And that's supposed to be embracing?  Nope, sorry its not.

The publishing industry still has a chance to survive, but they've got to get past "this is the way we've always done it" philosophy.  It doesn't work anymore.  The average user doesn't really care about that.  And libraries and librarians are getting tired of poor decisions and poor restrictions on the part of vendors. (I mean seriously I can only Interlibrary Loan an article from a database if I print it off and then scan it and then I'm supposed to tell you who I sent it too?)  I get they want to make a profit, but there are better ways of doing it than continuing to do the same thing over and over again.

And yes I do believe librarians and libraries need to be willing to accept that we aren't going to be able to do everything that we want.  But this is something that we've got to work at together.  Perhaps a group can be formed (yes I know dangerous thing, but its a start) made up of representatives of publishers, authors, and librarians.  Something to get the dialogue started in person.  To form a framework for a future that we can all accept, even if its only partially.  Blog posts and tweets are only getting us so far and we need something more.  The time to act is now...the question is are we all willing?

The eBook User’s Bill of Rights

From LibrarianInBlack and Andy Woodsworth

(still thinking about what I want to say on this, but its worth sharing)

The eBook User’s Bill of Rights is a statement of the basic freedoms that should be granted to all eBook users.

The eBook User’s Bill of Rights

Every eBook user should have the following rights:
  • the right to use eBooks under guidelines that favor access over proprietary limitations
  • the right to access eBooks on any technological platform, including the hardware and software the user chooses
  • the right to annotate, quote passages, print, and share eBook content within the spirit of fair use and copyright
  • the right of the first-sale doctrine extended to digital content, allowing the eBook owner the right to retain, archive, share, and re-sell purchased eBooks
I believe in the free market of information and ideas.

I believe that authors, writers, and publishers can flourish when their works are readily available on the widest range of media. I believe that authors, writers, and publishers can thrive when readers are given the maximum amount of freedom to access, annotate, and share with other readers, helping this content find new audiences and markets. I believe that eBook purchasers should enjoy the rights of the first-sale doctrine because eBooks are part of the greater cultural cornerstone of literacy, education, and information access.

Digital Rights Management (DRM), like a tariff, acts as a mechanism to inhibit this free exchange of ideas, literature, and information. Likewise, the current licensing arrangements mean that readers never possess ultimate control over their own personal reading material. These are not acceptable conditions for eBooks.

I am a reader. As a customer, I am entitled to be treated with respect and not as a potential criminal. As a consumer, I am entitled to make my own decisions about the eBooks that I buy or borrow.

I am concerned about the future of access to literature and information in eBooks.  I ask readers, authors, publishers, retailers, librarians, software developers, and device manufacturers to support these eBook users’ rights.

These rights are yours.  Now it is your turn to take a stand.  To help spread the word, copy this entire post, add your own comments, remix it, and distribute it to others.  Blog it, Tweet it (#ebookrights), Facebook it, email it, and post it on a telephone pole.

To the extent possible under law, the person who associated CC0 with this work has waived all copyright and related or neighboring rights to this work

HarperCollins and the ebook debacle

I'm not going to attempt to recap the ebook debacle that's been going on because of HarperCollins...Instead I'm going to point to a few great posts and then offer up my thoughts on the thing.  

I've seen a number of folks post that librarians, authors and readers should be outraged and make this known to the publisher.  And I agree...there's just one problem with that statement.  How many of our users understand what's going on?  How well are we communicating why these things happen with our users? 

I'm an academic librarian so my view is a bit different, but even in the academic world where we discuss budget issues and what things cost...our users still don't really understand why things work the way they do.  They get frustrated that they can't print off the entire ebook, or pages easily, or have more than one person view it at a time, or why they can't read it on the device they own.  Saying its a limit of the vendor really doesn't mean much to them.  They can't see the vendor, they don't talk to the vendor and they don't understand the discussions we have with vendors to get these rights.  All they see is us and so we take the blame.  I can only being to guess at the number of users that don't come back to us because of this.  So what do we do? 

I agree that we need to stand up to the vendors, but more than that we need to inform our users.  In terms they understand and get them behind us, to stand up with us so that we aren't fighting this battle alone.  We all need to be in this together.