Hi this is a repost according to the directions; sorry for the delay, I had access problems:
If we look at the three readings together, including the two primers (Meadows, 2010, Polanka, 2012) and the news piece (Rainie and Duggan, 2012) we see a real dilemma facing libraries wanting e-books.
Currently, the number of vendors and providers providing content but in different formats makes the barrier to entry complicated for professionals, confusing for many, and outright baffling for possibly a larger number. While e-books and e-readers offer the promise of great access to content, barriers to access for average users can seem insurmountable. A user may be willing and able to learn to use one system or one piece of software, however if the book they want is not available from a specific vendor, they may find they may need to learn an entirely different method simply to read what they want. This is further complicated by Digital Rights Management (DRM) which may make it extremely difficult to view an item on different devices. A book using Amazon’s file format (AZW) cannot be read on anything except a Kindle.
While it portends to protect copyright, in the way it is implemented seems to automatically mistrust the end user, and create expensive barriers to access to e-books. This problem can extend to libraries, be they public, academic or other, especially if the library wants to provide readers to the user. An investment in one particular device could result in a lot of expensive garbage, should the format become obsolete due to market forces (see Betamax with the advent of video). Of course, all of these DRM technologies can be “hacked” but that puts users and libraries in a situation where they may be in violation of copyright or contracts.
However, as the article by Rainie and Duggan suggests, users are increasingly preferring digital content to traditional print material; in fact they may soon begin to demand it, as users prefer not to want to go somewhere physically (e.g. the library) to read, even for free. We are already seeing some of this with students requesting books be downloadable, simply because it is easier. There are indeed other advantages for e-books for libraries, particularly with items that have a high-theft rate. If it is digital, “theft” (at least in its traditional sense, wherein the stolen item is no longer available) becomes impossible.
I’m hoping that we can in this class find a way to find a synthesis between these seemingly contradictory circumstances, and navigate between a large user-demand for a new technology and a publishing industry which seems resistant to change (read: loss of traditional business models).
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