This morning I was lucky to discover the live streaming feed of the Internet Librarian 2011 conference (Twitter hashtag #il2011). The discussion revolved around ebooks, and it reflected some strong feelings on the topic.
After the Overdrive representative talked about Amazon’s opaque ebook lending model, Sarah Houghton, the Librarian in Black, delivered the smackdown (well, more politely, since it was a professional conference and all). She argues here that Amazon and Overdrive have done wrong by libraries and that the current state of affairs needs to change; when legal copies of ebooks are locked down with DRM but you can do anything with illegal copies, the system doesn’t make sense anymore. American Libraries magazine gives a good summary of librarians’ concerns about the ethics of Amazon’s lending model.
Andromeda Yeltin said that there must be an ebook publishing model that works for all the stakeholders. I’m not sure what that model would look like, but the belief that there is a better one is spreading. I think librarians are getting inspired by the Occupy Wall Street movement, especially with the similarity of the current situation with Amazon to the HarperCollins lending limits debacle a few months ago. @wawoodworth tweeted, “In the spirit of Occupy Wall Street, librarians should consider Overstay Our Welcome HarperCollins.” @techlibber added, “Occupy Amazon!!!”
I’m inclined to agree, especially with adding yesterday’s news (about bookstores refusing to carry print comics after DC gave Amazon exclusive rights to sell digital copies) to the pile of concerns. I’ve checked out two books from Amazon on my Kindle so far, but am not planning to check out any more. As the Librarian in Black said, we don’t know what Amazon is doing with this data. The lack of transparency goes against what we as librarians need: to be figuring out what privacy for library users will look like in the coming era.
It’s not all bad, though. Here are some of the more positive points I took away from #il2011:
- Michael Porter talked about Library Renewal, a community website with the goal of finding “new econtent solutions for libraries, while staying true to their larger mission.”
- Andromeda Yeltin (@ThatAndromeda) said that there should be a price at which an author should be willing to publish under a Creative Commons license. She talked about unglue.it, which will advocate for “Free books for the public. Full value for authors and publishers.” unglue.it is still in development, but for now we can enjoy its predecessor, Gluejar.
- Helene Blowers gave a presentation on “Inno’Play’ion: Libraries, Learning, and the Creative Economy.” I didn’t see the presentation, but saw her slides here. People on Twitter seemed to find it unique and uplifting.
I’m looking forward to watching the rest of the conference! Again, you can find the live stream here.