Friday, May 20, 2011

Digital Books, Collection Development, & The Licensing Threat

Mike Matas of Push Pop Press demonstrates the potential of digital books. It is quite compelling. However, reading the comments, one realizes that control issues such a right of first sale are problematic. Libraries have had numerous issues with ownership in our digital world. Costs and user preference have driven libraries to collect digital-only journal subscriptions. Instead of purchasing a physical copy that a library can do with how it sees fit, a library purchases a license to access the issues. Without proper negotiation, the library can loose access to back issues if the library does not renew its contract. Thus, the entire collection may no longer be available to the library's patrons. I haven't really followed ebook licensing agreements, but now that tablets and ereaders have taken off and hit a certain saturation point, can we expect the same issues to affect libraries again?

[Side note: Also disconcerting is locking content into proprietary systems. Can we expect the content to perform across all ereaders/tablets? Will publishers form certain alliances with particular ereader/tablet/software manufacturers?]