As we wrap up Read an E-book Week, e-books continue to make headlines. As it turns out, while technology has made it possible to read many books from one device, publishers and other traditional venues of book distribution have yet to catch up.
Limiting Access to Digital Books
Harper Collins, renowned book publisher, has decided to limit the number of times an e-book can be accessed, making it harder for libraries to promote e-reading. Under a policy that began Monday (ironically), libraries can "lease" (for a fee) new HarperCollins e-books and loan them no more than 26 times. At that point, the book disappears — digitally — unless the library pays to lease another copy for the next 26 readers.
Publishers are clearly a little bitter about the popularity of e-books and are taking it out on institutions they know have limited resources. Yet, they also seem to underestimate the power of librarians, who in response have started a boycott via blogs and Twitter protesting what some are calling the digital "destruction" of books. However, it’s not like librarians have many other options for providing e-books -- Simon & Schuster and Macmillan do not sell e-books to libraries.
Punishing the Digital Experience
Libraries provide a viable, affordable resource to book lovers, no matter the format they prefer. Denying them access to digital books, because the publishing industry is struggling to keep up with an evolving digital landscape, undermines the mere existence of books, whose role is to inform and educate.
Previously we’ve reported that providing eBooks for free actually leads to increased sales of the print version. It remains to be seen to what degree traditional book publishers will accept e-reading -- and what will happen to them if they don't.