“Libraries are my candy store.”
I have surprisingly strong views about the efficacy, effectiveness, utility, and appropriateness of digital rights management on files, including both music and ebooks. Generally speaking, I do not agree with the powers that be (publishers) that there is a difference in “ownership” between buying something digitally and buying it in hard copy, particularly exemplified by a book. I do agree that there are different risks to the publisher, but that doesn’t mean in one I have bought it and the other I have merely paid to borrow it. I believe I have the same rights and obligations I had previously. Which means in its most basic terms that I have bought it for me and I can’t reproduce it for others, but the digital element puts two other limitations — I can’t loan it nor can I resell it. I am willing to accept those caveats, but it doesn’t mean I don’t own it. Or does it? If it is ownership in one case but modified terms of ownership in another, does that change? Of course, but as the courts are apt to rule, only insofar as it accomplishes the original goal. Of course all of that is about appropriateness. It says nothing about the utility, etc.
So when I saw an article cross-posted to The Passive Voice about libraries and DRM, I had to click through to the original piece by Mirela Roncevic on No Shelf Required. Some highlights are below but for anyone interested in how libraries are dealing with it, including links to EBSCO’s approach, etc., the whole article is awesome. There are even some decent follow-on citations at the bottom of it.
But DRM isn’t copyright. It refers to actual technology—a code or a set of codes—applied to restrict the digital use of copyrighted materials. In the publishing world, it is a way of ‘protecting’ digital books against copyright infringement and piracy, which have been a major concern to publishers since the advent of the Internet. By using protection—usually via three DRM types, Amazon for Kindle, Apple’s FairPlay for iBookstore and Adobe’s Digital Editions Protection Technology—publishers (or copyright holders) are able to control what users can and cannot do with digital content.
This means that people buying ebooks, whether for personal or institutional use, are paying for usage, not possession (as has been the case for centuries with print books). When encrypted with DRM, ebooks cannot be easily (if at all) copied or printed, viewed on multiple devices, or moved from one device to another. Further, they can only be downloaded a certain number of times (even when legally bought online) and, if necessary, blocked in certain territories around the world (or made invisible to users in certain countries). Such restrictions have given publishers and authors some peace of mind over the past two decades, but they have resulted in many inconveniences for legitimate users, including lay readers who purchase digital content on sites like Amazon and researchers who access digital content through libraries.
Not until recently have publishers started to pay closer attention to the feedback provided to librarians by end users, including students and faculty. A survey published this spring by Library Journal—whose goal was to investigate academic student ebook experience in four-year colleges, universities, graduate programs, as well as two-year or community colleges—found that 74 percent of students accessing ebooks through libraries believe there should be no restrictions placed on ebooks; 66 percent prefer to use ebooks with no restrictions; and 37 percent have taken a principled stand and only use ebooks that have no restrictions when conducting research.
Academic librarians do not shy away from expressing their concerns over the adverse effects of DRM, questioning whether it successfully combats piracy in the first place and pointing to the difficult ‘middleman’ role libraries must play in their efforts to meet the demands of their patrons on the one end and remain respectful of the publishers’ ‘rights’ on the other.
Further, libraries oppose the uses of DRM that lock readers to specific ebook formats, arguing that any institution that lawfully acquires content should be able to allow its patrons to read that content on any device and on any technology platform. Libraries also oppose DRM used to track reading patterns, giving insight into what people read, when, how and where, which jeopardizes patrons’ privacy.
A white paper published by Springer Nature in November 2017 (The OA effect: How does open access affect the usage of scholarly books?), revealed, among other findings, that Open Access books enjoy, on average, seven times more downloads, 50 percent more citations, and ten times more online mentions than paywalled titles.
The long and winding road to DRM-free ebooks in academic libraries | N S R [LINK EXPIRED]
One of the citations is to the American Library Association’s one-pager on DRM, and it does a great job of not only listing different types of DRM, but also some of the issues for libraries:
- Challenges balancing traditional first sale doctrine against potential liability for digital resources;
- Potential expiry dates on content can limit preservation and archival purposes, particularly for culturally and historically significant works; and,
- DRM approaches tend to limit well-established fair use, library or educational exceptions to copyright law.
I know, I know, I’m a library geek. But kudos go to ThePassiveVoice for sharing in the first place.
The seventh item on my vaguebooking list was “07. Seven new topics”. These are new “subject areas” that I want to write about on my blog.
Pop culture is likely one of them, although it might be more narrow than that, maybe “pop culture intersecting with the news”. I didn’t comment on Jian Ghomeshi or Bill Cosby’s news items when they hit, but I loved watching people post and take sides, often looking like internet trolls in comment forums except they were posting the same comments on their own social media feeds. My take is a bit different and is primarily about the law, and the court of public opinion vs. the court of justice or law. I may yet blog about it.
Equally, I love the law. So much so that I couldn’t become a lawyer. I’d like to take a subject area and blog about that, but I haven’t yet found my niche. It may very well harken back to my days at law school when I was working for the Ministry of Education in B.C. and focus on the law, schools, education, and children. I haven’t quite decided yet. But there’s an itch there that I’d like to scratch again.
In the realm of writing, I have three areas that are of interest to me. First and foremost is the changing nature of the business model of publishing. I’m very much in the world where “everyone must choose their own path”, and I may turn my attention again to the world of disrupted publishing. Second, I think there is a lot of general information out there about marketing of books in the modern age, but not a lot that gives a comprehensive list of “here’s everything you COULD do, choose wisely”. I started work on this at one time and would like to go back to it. Finally, I also think there is a ripe area for a different slant on books and publishing, and that’s measuring the performance of libraries. I did some research and even some preliminary writing about three years ago but never brought anything to fruition. I think libraries are going to come under increased fire in the digital age, and while they have a strong role to play, I don’t think many of them are telling the right story or using the right yardsticks. When they tell their story initially, they act as a community centre; when their funding is threatened, they claim critics are burning books and destroying literacy if the library goes the way of the dodo. The balance is off, and maybe I can find something I can contribute to the conversation.
In a similar vein, I’m wondering if I have something to say about charities. I feel that much of the rhetoric out there is a bit one-sided, or at times, diametrically-opposed two-sided. I know, for example, that there is not much out there giving people insights into different types of charities. I also have some questions for myself that I want answered on local basic human needs programming and the most effective means of contributing donor dollars.
Finally, I do reviews for books, movies, TV and music, or at least my website says I do. I’ve been a slacker-doodle for my reviews, and I want to get back into them. I am not yet ready to commit to exactly what the other six categories will look like when I’m done, but I know this one pretty well. So, I commit to:
- 24 book reviews;
- 250 reviews of TV episodes (tweets);
- 24 movie reviews; and,
- 3 new reviews of Billboard year-end results.
That should keep me busy too.
Grant McCracken has an interesting article in today’s Harvard Business Review feed about an innovative library promotion (Innovating the Library Way — note the link may expire). An excerpt from his post appears below, outlining a message his local library sent to the branch’s children:
What do you think your stuffed animal friends would do if they spent the night at the library? Bring them to our Stuffed Animal Sleepover and find out! Will they play on the computers all night? Raid the candy shelves at the cafe? Ride the elevator BY THEMSELVES?
We start with a special Sleepytime storytime for your furry friends, then tuck them in for the night. Overnight, the librarians will keep watch and take photos of everything your stuffed animals do. Come in the next day to pick them up and see what they were up to. Ages 2 and up.
As libraries close due to funding cuts (I have some upcoming posts that will tell library advocates the types of info they should be using to fight a closure), and bookstores go dark, this is a great way to raise awareness of the library among future generations whose demands on the library we cannot even yet picture.