Jumping on the DRM free bandwagon

If you’re a consumer of ebooks, you’ll be pleased to know that some publishers are now ditching DRM (Digital Rights Management) on their books.

Tor online store

The Tor online store proudly displays its intent to go DRM free

Tor/Forge Books in the US and Momentum (an imprint of Australia’s Pan Macmillan), have both recently announced that they no longer intend to restrict the use of their ebooks using DRM.

‘The problem,’ said Joel Naoum, Momentum’s publisher, ‘is that DRM restricts users from legitimate copying – such as between different e-reading devices. We feel strongly that Momentum’s goal is to make books as accessible as possible. Dropping these restrictions is in line with that goal.’

Speaking at Tor/Forge Books announcement, Charles Stross noted that

[restricting a consumer's use of their purchase] “is at the heart of customer resentment against DRM: once you buy a hardback you are free to do whatever you like with it — read it, lend it, or sell it on…but…DRM e-Books don’t work like that.”

Tor/Forge plans to begin selling DRM free ebooks by July, Momentum by early August 2012.

Vale Michael Hart

Hart was best known for his 1971 invention of electronic books, or eBooks. He founded Project Gutenberg, which is recognized as one of the earliest and longest-lasting online literary projects. He often told this story of how he had the idea for eBooks. He had been granted access to significant computing power at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. On July 4 1971, after being inspired by a free printed copy of the U.S. Declaration of Independence, he decided to type the text into a computer, and to transmit it to other users on the computer network. From this beginning, the digitization and distribution of literature was to be Hart’s life’s work, spanning over 40 years.

- read the full obituary at http://www.gutenberg.org/w/index.php?title=Michael_S._Hart

Just so you know

Amazon announces that they are selling more Kindle e-books than paper books.

Paper books have now become the niche market.

Physical bookshops are closing everywhere, online booksellers are growing.

In 2 years time the only paper books to be mass produced will be romance/crime/biography titles for sale in supermarkets, all serious works will be print on demand only.

In 5 years time there will no longer be any worthwhile mass produced paper books to put on library shelves.

First sale doctrine – still important

Librarians must stand rock solid against any proposition that would imperil the libraries’ unlimited circulation of e-books.

The principle that has always applied to printed book purchases must be applied to e-books. There is no reason we can’t subject e-book licenses to that condition.

I urge all librarians to not enter into licenses with Harper-Collins or any other publisher that wants to limit the number of library circulations.

- fmr ALA President, Maurice J. Freedman on LIS News

Those pesky ebooks

There’s been a lot of talk lately about the relationship between ebook publishers and the terms of use that they are trying to enforce on purchasers of their materials, including libraries. Jacinda Woodhead, over at Mean Land, has pulled together a number of  threads in the ongoing discussion that is well worth a read.

I particularly liked her suggestion that publishers need not be looking for a technological solution to impose their terms and conditions on consumers, such as the automatic deletion of the copy of the ebook that has been purchased after it has been loaned by a library 26 times. Instead Woodhead suggests something akin to the scheme that currently exists in the performing arts world, and in the education field, whereby copyright holders are reimbursed an agreed amount or percentage for the use of their material. Arguably, for the majority of libraries, there isn’t a lot of spare money to go around these days, but a small per use or subscription fee for access to electronic material is certainly nothing new.

Expect to hear more, not less, about where to next for ebooks.

LIS News – ebook user’s bill of rights

From LIS News

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

Why thank you Mr Murdoch – once again

That lovable friend of libraries – the News Ltd empire – this time in the form of publisher Harper Collins, has sprung a new one on libraries and readers. Henceforward they state libraries may only lend out their ebooks 26 times before the book deletes itself from the library’s system. This new limitation is being enforced via OverDrive, who have no problem with it, and why should they.

There has obviously been an outcry about this further diminishment of lending rights, one of the best posts on the subject  being from the Librarian in Black.

Previous posts here have mentioned how every library and reader are being screwed by every publisher and vendor. Will this further insult stop libraries from throwing public money at them, no probably not.

Update

There are many angry readers out there https://twitter.com/#search?q=%23hcod

Libraries and ebooks = less choice, more bother for users

Overdrive has listed the ebooks most borrowed by library users in Australia.

Download eBooks – Adult Fiction
1. House Rules, by Jodi Picoult (Allen & Unwin Pty Ltd)
2. The Distant Hours, by Kate Morton (Allen & Unwin Pty Ltd)
3. Brazen Virtue, by Nora Roberts (Random House Publishing Group)
4. The Forgotten Garden, by Kate Morton (Allen & Unwin Pty Ltd)
5. Jasper Jones, by Craig Silvey (Allen & Unwin Pty Ltd)
6. Change of Heart, by Jodi Picoult (Allen & Unwin Pty Ltd)
7. Appeal Denied, by Peter Corris (Allen & Unwin Pty Ltd)
8. Earthly Delights, by Kerry Greenwood (Allen & Unwin Pty Ltd)
9. Salem Falls, by Jodi Picoult (Allen & Unwin Pty Ltd)
10. Handle with Care, by Jodi Picoult (Allen & Unwin Pty Ltd)

Did you notice something about the list? Why yes the range of authors and publishers – broad isn’t it. Australians are really benefitting from DRM and regional licensing aren’t they.

Ok, Overdrive is making it easier with good apps for Andriod and iPhone users and adding DRM free EPubs from Gutenberg but they are still just a vendor and an unecessary intercessionary. With ebooks, libraries have the chance for the first time in generations to change the paradigm of how they get their content. They can use their large numbers and purchasing power to negotiate directly with publishers and even authors to get their books into libraries. Why are they then still paying vendors?

eBooks

In 1982, it was predicted by the librarian Wilfrid Lancaster in his book Libraries and librarians in an age of electronics that:

A “research library” of the future, then, need not contain any printed materials at all. It could be a room containing only terminals. Apart from archival repositories of printed records of the past and institutions designed primarily to lend inspirational/recreational reading materials, the libraries of today could well disappear.

Well the future is now here. Ebooks by every measure are increasingly becoming the default publishing format. There are now extant libraries that have no paper books, academic libraries across the world are destroying or putting into storage up to 80% of their paper holdings. Public libraries across the world are also closing due to funding cuts. If you are a librarian still unsure of the value of eBooks, there is probably a museum of historic formats somewhere you could be working in. Otherwise, you need to start being proactive about delivering users what they want, in any format at any time.

Btw, here’s a little guide:

From Bookbee at http://bookbee.net

Also: I am still of a mind that there needs to be an Australian library consortia approach to negotiating eBook loans with publishers for our libraries, CAUL is working with vendors, what is being done for public libraries, nothing probably – NSLA, ALIA, PLA, anyone?

Ebooks and Librarians Matter

Kathryn Greenhill has started off 2011 with a thought provoking set of 11 answers for libraries in 2011.

Q. How do we force publishers to give us ebook content that includes works that our users want and that they find easy to download to their chosen device?

ANSWER:

They will not.

It is not in their commercial interests to do so. They are just not that into us.

Kathryn also goes on say that if publishers won’t realise the economic value that librarians bring and make content available to libraries in a manner that is useful for our users, then:

we could save our energy and find untapped sources of content created by our local users and work together to create a single publishing platform and rights-management tool to allow easy creation and access to local content.

I am currently writing a piece on why libraries should cease collecting print books to go into a book (a print one ha!). So the discussions librarians are currently having on eBook integration are valuable. I don’t think however that Kathryn’s suggestion of sourcing local content is viable. Library users want access to worldwide new content (just like ebookstores offer) we need to work better with publishers, and demand more from vendors such as OverDrive (http://overdrive.com), Ebrary (http://www.ebrary.com) and the Ebook Library (http://www.eblib.com) or, alternatively set up our own licencing system but not just with local content, but with all major publishers. The Australian library world already has the NLSA Consortium for organising licencing for databases , this would seem like a natural extension of their work, surely.

Book views sought

Digital book production and global online distribution are fundamentally changing the nature of the book industry. In this time of rapid change, the BISG is seeking your view on the future of books in Australia.

The Book Industry Strategy Group are seeking submissions to their study of the future of books. As there are no Librarians or representatives of readers on the Strategy Group, it is important that the views of book buyers be heard.

Australian publishers are continuing to punish paper book purchasers with parallel import restrictions which make books up to a third more expensive than necessary. This hasn’t led to anything but a subsidy for publishers, less books bought and a loss for Australian booksellers as consumers get around the levy by buying from online offshore booksellers.

Now a number of overseas publishers have raised the cost of ebooks on Amazon (and elsewhere) to at or above the cost of a print book. Already there are the issues around DRM which make an ebook impossible to lend or share, or move to another of your own devices, and there is also the problem of some books not being available in some countries due to rights issues.

The publishing industry is seemingly doing its hardest to drive people to online piracy, by not giving consumers what they want – a fair price, fair use and a choice of titles.

When it takes only a few clicks online to freely (and illegally I should say) download pretty much any book in the current bestseller lists (and beyond) this seems like strange behaviour.

The lessons learnt with music, then film and tv doesn’t seem to be applying here. Publishers say that they are working to protect authors livelihoods by their actions. But in reality they are harming all parts of the industry, the writers, readers and booksellers.

The publishers are seemingly missing the fact that they are the weak link in the book industry and as music artists such as radiohead proved you don’t need middlemen anymore, as anyone can now publish and sell online. And in fact large numbers of authors are already doing this, long may that continue.

ebook use continues to rise

“For the top 10 bestselling books on Amazon.com, customers are choosing Kindle books over hardcover and paperback books combined at a rate of greater than 2 to 1. Kindle books are also outselling print books for the top 25, 100, and 1,000 bestsellers.”

“The Association of American Publishers’ latest data reports that e-book sales grew 193 percent between January and August 2010.”

- Amazon press release

Libraries and ebooks

A very good article from Benedicte Page on Bookseller.com give a very good insight into how publishers are negotiating and thinking about ebooks and library lending. The post includes a speech given by Stephen Page at the CILIP Public Library Authorities conference in Leeds. A portion of which is below.

The members of the Publishers Association have now created an agreed base line position on e-lending. All the major trade publishers have agreed to work with aggregators to make it possible for libraries to offer ebook lending. The following maximum controls were agreed, though I want to stress that some publishers will chose to be less stringent than others. This is merely a base position to ensure that we are able to start to make the complete, vast library of ebooks available for loan:
Firstly the fee paid by a library in purchasing a book covers the right to loan one copy, of one book, to one individual, for a fixed short term period at any given time – various licensing models exist to support this condition.

Secondly, robust and secure geographical-based membership must be in place for all library services, with permanent members required to demonstrate their residence within the locality and with provisions to cater for temporary membership for visitors.

Thirdly, the system works on a download model, whereby library users come on to the library’s physical premises and download an e-book at a computer terminal onto a mobile device, such as an e-reader, laptop or mobile phone.

Finally, a downloaded e-book will expire after a predetermined length of time (e.g. two weeks), after which it will cease to be available to read on the library user’s mobile device.

As I say, some publishers may take a more relaxed view, particularly of remote downloading, but the above criteria allow for a strong beginning that replicates physical lending. It is worth also saying that this may not be the only model. Subscription services are already emerging as in the academic world – Bloomsbury’s Public Library Online being a prime early mover.

We will now work with the digital library suppliers to ensure that this service can be quickly brought to libraries. What’s important is that we have been able to establish the principle of support for lending ebooks, and an environment in which this can be done that will put authors and publishers minds at rest while supporting the notion of universal access. It’s an important first step along the way and no doubt once underway we’ll work out further developments.

There are some good and some bad issues here. Firstly the contention about users having to enter the physical library to borrow is new and will have 2 effects, a nuisance for users, but a gain for library management who still insist that the only
statistic worth having is for people through doors.

That publishers are willing to engage at all and see the value in libraries is hopefully a good sign. However, initiatives like Bloomsbury’s Public Library Online are subscription models, whereby libraries will be forced onto annual contracts for books, and will never own any as of right. And, like any other subscription services, you will lose access to everything you previously had/have if you don’t renew.

The Growing Importance of Ebooks in U.S. Library Collections

Some preliminary findings from a large survey of ebooks in US libraries is avialable at the
Libray Journal website

Most respondents agreed that ebook circulation will be on the rise over the next year. Large majorities of public (84%), academic (77%), and school libraries (65%) believed it would increase, while only 1% in each category believed ebook circulation would decrease.