Saturday, October 23, 2010

Ebook Lemonade

Last week, the UK-based Publishers Association announced guidelines for ebook lending, including a requirement that libraries can only provide ebooks to patrons who are physically at a library branch. My friend Laura tweeted, "I think Overdrive can kiss more than half of its library business goodbye after this." I agree. On top of all the other crap we have to put up with to offer Overdrive-managed ebooks to library patrons, this further restriction would be too much.

But then I began to think: this idea could be workable. I could accept those terms--patrons can only download a library's ebooks if they came to the library --if some of the other requirements were lifted:
  1. No waiting. If the library owns the ebook, it is available when you come in to download it, no matter how many other people have also downloaded it.

  2. No DRM, or a loan period so long that DRM doesn't really matter. I'd say at least 6 months; a year would be better.

  3. Costs must be reasonable. Libraries should expect to pay more for ebook distribution rights than they would for a single copy of a hardback book, but costs should be in line with libraries' current expenses. (I think I'll explore what this means in a future post).
If the only barrier to the service is that you have to go to the library, I could accept that, because we could find interesting ways to make that work. Oz knows that we could be doing a better job with download customer service; face-to-face help in the library would be a fantastic improvement. We could explore partnerships in the community to provide E-branches in coffee shops, airports, or other WiFi hotspots. We could develop Ebook Kiosks for malls, community colleges, parks, etc.

We've already given up so much in our pathetic attempts to be at the ebook table. I see some potential here to win back some power.