Kindle and Overdrive = Hooray for Libraries

20 04 2011

I’ve said a number of times on this blog what a huge fan and how supportive I am of libraries and today, I’m just really feeling impressed with Amazon coming around and offering up their format to Overdrive. I know there are some, like the article I link to, who’ll say that it’s just Amazon bowing to the inevitable. To that point, I’ll say only two things, really.

First, are you sure that it was all that inevitable? In the vast scheme of things, Amazon is a big player now. Libraries still are, too, but there’s the impression that they’re waning, especially when cities and states balance their budgets during the recession. You just never know, but Amazon on the whole might have more clout and staying power than they’re given credit for. On the other hand, it helps to sell Kindles, which is their money making baby.

Second, Guy Gonzales said it better than I could:

Funny how pundits always give Apple benefit of the doubt, rarely to Amazon, though the latter is arguably more innovative and experimental.

I’m all for shaking my fist at big capital when it comes to publishing, as has been well documented. I don’t like it when a single retailer controls so much of the market and even less when they begin to dominate the almost the entire chain of book production; writers gotta write still, but after that, I can imagine a dystopia in which Amazon becomes the one and only source for the written word. I think the reasons for that dislike are probably pretty clear.

But credit where it’s due. This is a *good* thing Amazon’s doing, even if self-interest is involved. It’s hard to see how this isn’t a win for everyone and, especially, for books and libraries.

HarperCollins Puts Its Funeral Procession Into Overdrive

26 02 2011
2007 Disney Weekends #4: Darth Vader

"I'm altering the deal. Pray I do not alter it any further."

Just when you thought the publishing world didn’t need another fiasco, here one gets thrown in everyone’s lap. HarperCollins has elected to change the deal that they have with libraries in a mind-bogglingly myopic display of poor decision making. See, HarperCollins did allow ebooks to be distributed through Overdrive, which is a very clever system for treating ebooks like real books. A customer checks out a copy of the book via the Overdrive service, has that copy on their device for 3 weeks or so, and then the copy is removed and back on the virtual shelves for check out by another patron.

And it’s a system like that that has the potential to help libraries and publishers make the transition to the new digital world of books.

That is, until HarperCollins decided to go crazy and play the DRM card, as they announced that they will be limiting downloads of the book to 26 before nuking the copy completely. The library then has to buy another digital copy as we all pretend that 26 is the magic number of times that a physical book can be checked out before becoming an unreadable mess of tattered pages. The Overdrive scenario already employs the simulacra in allowing only so many simultaneous checkouts as the library owns, but this next step of treating the digital apple like a paper orange is too out there. Honestly, how much of the overall dollars going from libraries to publishers is from replacing books that they’ve already bought once before? I’m going to reckon that’s a pretty small piece of the pie.

Libraries and publishers need to be working together during this period of very rapid change or they’re going to kill themselves off. Overdrive is a great way that flows with the change and begin to define a space for libraries in the digital environment and that’s always been good for publishers, who need libraries because libraries produce readers. In other words, libraries overall are going to produce more value for publishing houses and books and reading than they’ll take away by checking out copies to patrons.

Instead of going with the change and looking for ways to make it better, however, HarperCollins appears to have gotten spooked and now stands with its arms outstretched against the oncoming train. This is not good for libraries and not good for them either. If you try to rein in change, you’ll just get flattened. DRM, folks, is bad. Real bad. What better way to encourage reading and readership than to strangle libraries with crippleware. Meanwhile, you can almost hear Amazon giggling in the corner, because they’ll be the big winners in all of this (especially since they’re the ones trying to actually make it EASIER for readers to read books).

Also, the entire fiasco is playing out over twitter now under the hashtag #hcod. Enjoy.

Book Due Date

20 09 2010

I opened up my email yesterday and found a notice from the library that the copy of Alexandr Solzhenitsyn’s One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich is due today. Now, the essential problem that I always face is that I tend to walk out of the library with really good intentions and far more books than I’m going to be able to read. I’m also guilty of being pretty ambitious about some of my selections. This is one of those cases where I decided to pick up a classic along with about 5 other books and just never got around to it.

Now, the book isn’t especially long, only about 180 pages or so and it’s big type and I could read it pretty quickly, but the due date email always prompts a choice. Do I surrender and return it unread? Do I renew it (again and again)? Do I sit down and read the damn thing?

I’ll just go ahead and confess now that it’s probably going to just get renewed and put back on the desk, but I find resisting the due date hard. When I notice the email early, like a few days in advance, I like that it makes me want to find that ambitious version of me who was in the library and wants to do so much more than sit on the couch and watch TV. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t.

It being a Monday, I’m also planning on re-evaluating my big ass life schedule. I need to make some tweaks this week, since I’ve been less than incredibly productive the last two. It might, then, give me a bit of a kick in the butt to read Ivan Denisovich here and remind me that the past two weeks could’ve been worse. They can always be worse. Mondays are about new starts.