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The Looming Library Lending Battle

samzenpus posted more than 2 years ago | from the price-of-lending dept.

Books 390

smitty777 writes "The NY Times is running a piece on the tug of war between publishers and libraries for e-book lending. In one corner are the publishers, who claim that unlimited lending of e-books 'without friction is not a sustainable business model for us.' For example, Harper Collins claims in this corporate statement that unlimited lending would lead to a decrease in royalties for both the publisher and the writers. The NYT author further states that 'To keep their overall revenue from taking a hit from lost sales to individuals, publishers need to reintroduce more inconvenience for the borrower or raise the price for the library purchaser.' Their current solution is to limit the number of readings to 26 before a book license must be renewed. In the other corner are the libraries, who are happy that e-books are luring people back to libraries, bringing with them desperately needed additional funding. With e-book sales going extremely well this year and the introduction of more capable e-readers, this debate is likely to get worse before it gets better. The Guardian also has an interesting related piece on the pricing practices of the Big Six publishers."

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390 comments

What does this statement mean? (4, Insightful)

bogaboga (793279) | more than 2 years ago | (#38490398)

...unlimited lending of e-books 'without friction is not a sustainable business model for us.'...

Keyword: "friction", in this context.

Re:What does this statement mean? (3, Informative)

marcosdumay (620877) | more than 2 years ago | (#38490420)

That means the property of real books have that they degrade over time.

I guess publishers take their words by the same place they take their business models.

Re:What does this statement mean? (4, Informative)

symbolset (646467) | more than 2 years ago | (#38490428)

Friction in this context is the level of effort a library patron has to go to to get the book. Zero friction is: as soon as it occurs to them they want the book, it magically appears in their hand. Which is pretty much would unlimited library ebook lending over the Internet would be like. Since it's so much easier to borrow the ebook for free than pay for it, it's not a viable marketplace for publishers to sell books in.

Re:What does this statement mean? (5, Insightful)

youn (1516637) | more than 2 years ago | (#38490478)

It does not really make sense as an argument... you had as much friction to go buy the book as to go rent it. I am really worried that in the digital age, the first sale doctrine is being completely obliterated. Before, you bought a book, a record, anything... you could lend it, resell it, break it even copy it for your own use as you pleased... now, bit by bit (no pun intended)... you get less and less rights on the products you buy

No, not really (5, Informative)

symbolset (646467) | more than 2 years ago | (#38490618)

You can start here [wikipedia.org] and read up on it. It's a rather abstract concept. Publishers need a market with friction because they live on the transaction costs people buying books. In a sense, publishers are the friction.

I don't like these guys but this is the correct assessment of the situation. Limitless free library ebooks are the death of them.

Re:No, not really (4, Insightful)

blue trane (110704) | more than 2 years ago | (#38490684)

Give them a basic income so they can concentrate on doing things that contribute to the more rapid advancement of knowledge, instead of working to impose artificial scarcity.

Re:No, not really (4, Insightful)

rsilvergun (571051) | more than 2 years ago | (#38490796)

Bu.. Bu.. Socialism! Seriously, good luck with that. I'd love to have it, and maybe it would work in Europe, but Americans have a deeply ingrained notion that if you didn't 'work' for it, it's not yours (funny how that goes out the window when we're talking inheritance & trust funds, but double think's strong in this country...).

Re:No, not really (4, Informative)

Baloroth (2370816) | more than 2 years ago | (#38490924)

Actually America already does precisely that in the universities for research. Historically, writers of philosophy, politics, and science have been funded that way across the world. A few literature writers as well (Tolkien and C.S. Lewis come to mind). I believe that is still pretty common. However, authors like J.K Rowling (who IMO don't contribute to the advancement of knowledge) can't succeed under such a system. Or would you propose that we should pay any writer who wants it no matter the actual contribution to society of their work? No, that system would never work because everyone wants to become the next billionaire runaway success writer. The writers themselves wouldn't agree to it: if they actually wanted to, that system is already in place (as I said: university professors do pretty much exactly that in many cases).

Re:No, not really (4, Informative)

rsilvergun (571051) | more than 2 years ago | (#38490994)

Not exactly. [wikipedia.org] The idea with basic income is that you're guaranteed enough money to be comfortable (food, shelter, medical care). This frees you up to take risks (like writing for a living), because you're not risking starvation if you spend a few years writing full time. You see some of this in Canada, where socialized medicine has allowed several writers to work part time for enough to support themselves. In American you can't do that because part timers don't get medical benefits....

To contrast the Universities, you can't get funding unless you've got a proven track record; e.g. it's already your full time job (I'm aware there are exceptions, they are exceptions nonetheless). You can't generally transition from, say, full time accountant to full time writer that way. They won't give you the funding because, hey, you're an accountant, not a writer. Now, get a few successful books under your belt and you'll get grants, but we're not talking about the lucky few that manage to make it; we're talking about the thousands that didn't...

Re:No, not really (5, Insightful)

ubrgeek (679399) | more than 2 years ago | (#38491022)

> authors like J.K Rowling (who IMO don't contribute to the advancement of knowledge)

Right. Because there's nothing to be gained from getting kids to enjoy reading. It's not like they'll carry that forward later into life.

Census usage, pay the authors (4, Interesting)

quixote9 (999874) | more than 2 years ago | (#38490860)

Reduce the friction. Get rid of it entirely. Then count the usage levels of any given work. (Yeah, yeah, I know That's not simple, but it would be a whole lot more straightforward than the current mess.) Then pay the artists / authors / coders / whatever based on how much their work is used or enjoyed.

Then the reduced friction would be in everyone's interest, both the users' and the creators'.

Of course, the publishers would still go fairly extinct. Is that a problem?

Re:Census usage, pay the authors (1)

quixote9 (999874) | more than 2 years ago | (#38490872)

Oh, and get the money to pay the creators from a small fee, 0.1%?, on paper, drives, sdcards, anything used to store and use the works in question.

Re:No, not really (4, Informative)

Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) | more than 2 years ago | (#38490888)

I don't like these guys but this is the correct assessment of the situation. Limitless free library ebooks are the death of them.

Except "limitless" is not the issue at stake. Almost all library e-book lending works just like physical copies - the library can only "lend out" as many copies at any one time as the library purchased in the first place. What the publishers want is to impose restrictions that are even more onerous than the real world - deleting books after a certain (small) number of check-outs.

At best they can argue that physical books eventually wear out, but not in the same time frame these guys are trying force on ebook lending.

Re:No, not really (1, Troll)

_KiTA_ (241027) | more than 2 years ago | (#38490892)

Limitless free library ebooks are the death of them.

And good riddance.

Re:No, not really (2)

Raenex (947668) | more than 2 years ago | (#38490946)

Limitless free library ebooks are the death of them.

From the article: "E-lending is not without some friction. Software ensures that only one patron can read an e-book copy at a time, and people who see a long waiting list for a certain title may decide to buy it instead."

Re:No, not really (4, Insightful)

Belial6 (794905) | more than 2 years ago | (#38490968)

They would have made the exact same argument if they were talking about the founding of public libraries. In 1930, how was there more 'friction' from the library than from the publisher. Answer, there wasn't. Media Barons just want to use the shift in book 'manufacturing' as an excuse to get rid of the libraries that they no doubt always thought were stealing from them.

Re:No, not really (5, Insightful)

FoolishOwl (1698506) | more than 2 years ago | (#38491044)

Professional writers are discovering that they can make far more money by self-publishing on the Internet than they can by working through a publisher, and by charging much less for their works, at that.

See A Newbie's Guide to Publishing [blogspot.com] .

Publishing companies add nothing of value to the process, and are simply parasitic.

Re:What does this statement mean? (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38490508)

They're refering to the degradation of physical material. In library lending, books will hold up through a certain number of checkouts before they need to be repaired or replaced.

Publishing houses are attempting to apply this same limitation of physical books to e-books in an attemp to preserve their buisness model at the expense of the larger consumer market

Re:What does this statement mean? (3, Interesting)

rrohbeck (944847) | more than 2 years ago | (#38490536)

Zero friction is: as soon as it occurs to them they want the book, it magically appears in their hand.

Sounds like P2P to me.
This way of thinking worked soo well for the music industry.
The publishers will go the way of the Dodo if they don't recognize the change of the times. Amazon shows how it's done, as usual. Hey Harper-Collins, you could have significant ebook sales too (which would make up for reduced revenue per sale) - if you wanted.

Re:What does this statement mean? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38490948)

Actually "friction" refers to wear and tear the "book" incurs during it's various trips out the door. The fact that libraries no longer have to buy new copies to replace damaged books is the unsustainable business model

Re:What does this statement mean? (4, Informative)

Trepidity (597) | more than 2 years ago | (#38490440)

In the paper-book-lending context, I'd guess friction refers to things like the need to physically go to libraries to pick up and return books, the need to repurchase books every once in a while if they're damaged, etc. Basically anything that keeps lending from being instant and easy, which publishers are worried that ebook lending will be.

The main fight as I see it is over whether lending should have some sort of royalty model. Traditionally there was a very decoupled one: very popular books would probably sell more copies to libraries, so sales were in a sense proportional to demand, but per copy, there was no greater charge for a book that's lent out every week versus one that sits on the shelf all year. Publishers seem to want more of a royalty model for ebooks where libraries pay by lending-person-days or per X lend-outs or something of that sort. There are some ways of structuring that that would reduce costs for libraries for some kinds of books, mainly that it'd be cheaper to stock huge long-tail catalogues that rarely get borrowed, if it's pay-per-lending or pay-per-lending-day. I'm guessing the publishers might even allow that to happen, and are mainly hoping to capitalize on best-seller titles, which are where most of the profits lie, and where they're worried library lending will cut into sales.

Re:What does this statement mean? (1)

Bieeanda (961632) | more than 2 years ago | (#38490862)

Libraries typically have a limited number of copies as well. That's theoretically much less of a problem with e-books, even with DRM, if the library can have a non-limited number of e-copies in circulation at once.

The local city-wide library uses (or used-- I haven't buggered with it in a couple of years) some obnoxious Adobe program that basically loans out a license to a title for a limited period, and marks that license as 'checked out' on their back end until you check it back in or the loan expires. The documents are encrypted, of course, and can't be easily read without the license key.

Re:What does this statement mean? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38490446)

There is wear and tear on physical book leant out by libraries.
Literally caused by friction!
Eventually the book will just fall apart and no longer be loanable requiring a new purchase.
Ebook don't wear out so the publishers think they will loose money because this re-purchase will never occur.

The publishers are basically claiming that 26 loans of a physical book is its limit and after that point a library would need to buy a new copy due to this damage.

Personally I think this is crap. I've seen the effort that lending libraries put in to protecting and, more importantly, repairing their books.

I want to know how many loans *actually* can occur on a hardback book before it becomes irreparable.
I think a figure of 100 is more likely.

Re:What does this statement mean? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38490670)

>Personally I think this is crap. I've seen the effort that lending libraries put in to protecting and, more importantly, repairing their books.

Yeah, I spoke to a librarian about ebooks a while ago and they don't buy from any of the publishers who limit lending; they lend out popular physical books far more than 26 times before replacing them.

Re:What does this statement mean? (5, Informative)

ExecutorElassus (1202245) | more than 2 years ago | (#38490470)

The term which applies was coined by the excellent David Wong (whose talents are wasted writing dick jokes for cracked.com), and is FArtS (ha ha! "farts!" get it): it stands for "Forced ARTificial Scarcity."
To be honest, there is a perfectly logical chain of events, enabled by technology which already exists, and is in wide use, which effectively eliminates printers, publishers, bookstores, all the shipping of books, and so on. If it costs nothing to make a digital copy and deliver it to my reader, why should I pay for one? The entire publishing industry hasn't figured out the answer to that question, but they're going to have to, fast. One way or another, the print media economy is going to come crashing down in the next few years, wiping out anything that hasn't adapted to the new model (whatever that is).
Publishers know this, and they're terrified. So, they are trying to impose (force) limits (scarcity) on the distribution and use of digital media where no scarcity exists (the artificial part). That's what this "friction" is: an effort by an industry whose days are numbered to prolong - even if for just a little while, and at great inconvenience to the rest of us - the economic model upon which they depend.

Re:What does this statement mean? (2)

blue trane (110704) | more than 2 years ago | (#38490692)

The economic problem is not the central problem of mankind.

Re:What does this statement mean? (2)

ExecutorElassus (1202245) | more than 2 years ago | (#38490798)

I agree, and had no intention of implying otherwise. This is a problem of market capitalism, which - as I am skeptical of the merits of that system - I am happy to see threatening one of its major and longest-lived exponents.

Re:What does this statement mean? (3, Informative)

_KiTA_ (241027) | more than 2 years ago | (#38490878)

...unlimited lending of e-books 'without friction is not a sustainable business model for us.'...

Keyword: "friction", in this context.

They want income from libraries per each book loaned. Presumably this is supposed to be similar to how deadtree books decay and must be replaced by libraries. In reality it's just a money grab from the content middlemen, same as the RIAA, MPAA, etc etc.

what is next collgle libraries can't have textbook (1)

Joe_Dragon (2206452) | more than 2 years ago | (#38490416)

what is next college libraries can't have textbooks that are being sold in the book store. Now e-books end being just as bad as the college book market.

Maybe this is a sign.. (5, Interesting)

ptx0 (1471517) | more than 2 years ago | (#38490452)

Shouldn't changing dynamics of supply and demand dictate the market needs? It sounds like these companies are simply grasping at straws to hold onto the last vestige of their current position by artifically creating demand. It's bollocks, if you can't make a living as a writer then you probably shouldn't be..

Re:Maybe this is a sign.. (5, Insightful)

malkavian (9512) | more than 2 years ago | (#38490774)

Evolution is finely tuned, revolution is almost invariably bloody.
What's happened with Digital is that there's been a revolution. The old establishments are fighting hard to last long enough to evolve some new method of staying in business (and employing people) and continuing.
In the meantime, we have a fight with lawyers, as people try to hold on to the old ways (same as happened with the introduction of the printing press).
The simple press of reality will eventually force the matter, and digital will start to be what it should (i.e. very low cost, almost zero scarcity). What's good for society at large is a slow, planned migration to this, rather than a quick scorched earth approach.
That being said, I'm not saying "Suck it up", otherwise the extremely conservative may well get legislation in place that will effectively break progress for a long, long time.. We all have to keep fighting the abuses that are laid on by the corporations to obtain the freedoms that society needs to flourish. It's an eternal fight.
That's life though.. Without the struggle, there's no progress.

Re:Maybe this is a sign.. (4, Insightful)

Dunbal (464142) | more than 2 years ago | (#38490936)

Evolution is usually pretty bloody as well. Not surviving because you weren't the fittest usually means you end up inside another creature's stomach.

Don't read (5, Insightful)

Metricmouse (2532810) | more than 2 years ago | (#38490458)

"...publishers need to reintroduce more inconvenience for the borrower"... In other words don't read our books.

Re:Don't read (3, Insightful)

Grave (8234) | more than 2 years ago | (#38490972)

"'To keep their overall revenue from taking a hit from lost sales to individuals, publishers need to reintroduce more inconvenience for the borrower or raise the price for the library purchaser."

Anyone who genuinely believes the above is going to reduce piracy/increase profits for the publisher is an idiot. The degree of inconvenience/expense a customer will endure in order to acquire a legal copy of a product is limited. In the digital age, you cannot shutdown piracy the way you could with purely physical products, and the book/music/movie/television industry needs to just stop trying. They are in competition with the pirates for market share, and not primarily in terms of cost. Of course there are some people who will always pirate a product because they are cheapskates, but there are far more people who would much rather have a legal means of obtaining a product that isn't laden with DRM, the inconvenience of going to a physically different location, or other restrictions.

The music industry was the first to get slapped with the wake-up call that DRM is anti-customer, and that digital distribution actually leads to bigger profits, despite low price points. The other entertainment industries would do well to take these lessons and run with them.

Question... (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38490462)

What is the value of something that can be replicated forever.. Perfectly. For what can be considered zero cost.

Is it zero as some believe?

Is it thousands of dollars as the media mafia believe?

Who's being greedy here... Everyone?

Michael S. Hart (4, Insightful)

symbolset (646467) | more than 2 years ago | (#38490498)

As this year marked the passing of this brilliant man who struggled with this question all his adult life, perhaps it would be best to read it in his own words. [gutenberg.org]

Re:Question... (4, Insightful)

viperidaenz (2515578) | more than 2 years ago | (#38490540)

Its what the author (copyright owner) says it is, until the works are in public domain. Not the publisher if they are not producing the copies any more.

The good thing I can see it ebooks lowering the cost for indie authors, cutting out the middle man.
The bad thing is publishers can nolonger afford to pay writers $1,000,000 for a best-seller so there are fewer financial insentives for people to write.

Re:Question... (2)

king neckbeard (1801738) | more than 2 years ago | (#38490590)

The only people the bad thing you mention would possibly dissuade are people that are already famous authors (and thus writing a book is still the most lucrative option available to them) or people who don't have a basic grasp of statistics and think they are going to be the next Stephen King or J.K. Rowling (and thus probably aren't competent writers anyway).

Re:Question... (1)

viperidaenz (2515578) | more than 2 years ago | (#38490700)

Those who are already famous can afford to take more risks and pay for more advertising.
Poor little John Doe aspiring writer can't sell his ideas/soul/first born to anyone who can afford to take on such risk if there is noone offering such things.

Re:Question... (2)

king neckbeard (1801738) | more than 2 years ago | (#38490762)

John Doe is the indie author you just said this was a boon for. The only thing he's missing out on is the potential to make a million dollars on his book. This potential is for all practical purposes non-existent.

Re:Question... (2)

viperidaenz (2515578) | more than 2 years ago | (#38490868)

No, Indie author I previously mentioned is the current indie author. With a rise in ebooks and a decline in paper books there is less of a difference between being independent and signing with a publisher - its pretty much just advertising budgets since publication and physical distribution are taken out of the mix

Poor little John Doe can't say "Hi Mr O'Reilly, I want to write a book on .... Can I have an advance please so I can do it full time and still feed my family?" If Mr O'Reilly doesn't exist anymore.

Re:Question... (1)

king neckbeard (1801738) | more than 2 years ago | (#38490956)

Then John Doe will be an indie author. Now, he may not get an advance, meaning it will take him a little longer to shift to full time, but once he has books written, he will make more money off of them, so the likelihood of him being able to remain a full time author is better.

Only trouble is... (1)

rsilvergun (571051) | more than 2 years ago | (#38490882)

most Americans are perfectly willing to throw away everything for the sake of that non-existent potential :(... Witness our tax system.

Re:Only trouble is... (1)

king neckbeard (1801738) | more than 2 years ago | (#38490940)

And most Americans aren't good authors. I suspect the overwhelming majority of those that think they are going to be the next Stephen King write utter garbage.

It's being handled. (4, Insightful)

kurt555gs (309278) | more than 2 years ago | (#38490480)

I'm sure the somewhere in the depths of SOPA, the "library problem" is being handled.

Re:It's being handled. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38490666)

Here we see the death of the unwritten right to information. While I see no problem with charging for entertainment, Killing libraries, which the publishers intend to do, will kill, not just the right to read, but the right to know. It's not a slippery slope; killing the percieved right is critical to the sustainability of the concept of DRM and the path towards monetizing all information. Stallman's dystopian image is not nearly as bad as I fear.

Re:It's being handled. (4, Interesting)

mapkinase (958129) | more than 2 years ago | (#38490688)

I lived with limited borrowing in libraries with hardcopies, I can live with limited borrowing in libraries with e-copies.

Currently I can reserve a book, cancel it online at my county library and pick it up at any location. The waiting period for one of Songs of Ice and Ire was 200 people. Those are people like me - cheapskates who do not want to cough up any amount for a hardcopy.

If library had unlimited number of books, I assume few people would buy the book and all just go to the library and read it.

I think that the pricing where people should wait for a free book for a limited time is quite reasonable model.

I do not care about a model for movies, tv and music, but books are of a different category and while I won't care if Hollywood or BMG survives, I will care about surviving of publishers and ultimately, good writers.

Rights (1)

Caesar Tjalbo (1010523) | more than 2 years ago | (#38490484)

I live in The Netherlands where politicians too try to bend our on-line behavior in compliance with the copyright law. Parliament hasn't discussed 3D printing in relation to patent infringement yet afaik so we have some (not so) interesting times ahead. Somehow the notion of how fundamentally the world has changed with digital tools and the internet hasn't gotten in the minds of many people yet.

The point isn't that creativity or originality has become something of a lower value than before or deserves less encouragement/defense, the point is that the legal fantasy of "intellectual property" simply doesn't work like it used to do. But we've gotten phenomenal new things of great value too with digitalism and internet.

No really, my binary copy is identical to your digital original and I've gotten my copy from the other side of the world in less time than it took you to equip it with DRM and it's no fucking magic. Yes really.

Turn libraries into publishers and resellers too? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38490502)

I guess I've always wondered why we have book stores at all... since every book I've purchased over the last twenty years I had checked out from the local public library at least once. Since the proliferation of the interwebs, many people are accustomed to trying software or books for free before purchasing them. I see no reason, other than the personal greed of our corporate overlords, that Barnes & Noble et al should exist in 2012.

B&N won't let me try the book for free before making me pay. The prices they are charging for digital distribution are not based in the non-scarcity reality of digital media. Therefore, I suggest the digital book revolution will end before it ever truly gets started; if we serfs allow our corporate Lords to interfere with the decades old tradition of literature lending.

Re:Turn libraries into publishers and resellers to (1)

unrtst (777550) | more than 2 years ago | (#38490644)

Not that it's anywhere near a cure-all answer, but Amazon let's you try a sample chapter or two of every ebook they have. That's been enough for me to figure out if I want to buy it or not, and I often do buy it (even though I disagree w/ the DRM and immediately make my own backups).

Re:Turn libraries into publishers and resellers to (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38490812)

"B&N won't let me try the book for free before making me pay."

Wow, I must have a really progressive B&N in my city - I can sit in a chair all day and read any book as long as I want. Must suck to live where you live.

Information is time is money (2)

qualityassurancedept (2469696) | more than 2 years ago | (#38490570)

I can't really see going to the Library to get an ebook since you can just buy it online easily anyway. The point of the library used to be that the ordinary person in any given community didn't have access to very many books privately so the library made knowledge more accessible by keeping all kinds of books that anyone in the community might reasonably need: philosophy, encyclopedias, maps, science, etc etc. Building and stocking these libraries nationwide was a HUGE industry. Libraries in poor communities where people can't afford a kindle or nook or even just a laptop might still be operating as repositories for community information... but in the end the library will likely go the way of public wifi spots... its a great idea to give people access to information but if some gigantic corporation finds out that millions of people are getting something for nothing... well then it suddenly becomes a commodity that can be turned into a revenue stream. Cities are desperate to keep libraries open, so the big publishers and the New York Times have a captive audience. Librarians will pay because their readers demand it. Cities will pay because they want to keep libraries open. Maybe a wealthy philanthropist can do for E-Libraries what Andrew Carnegie did for physical libraries someday. The difference is that physical libraries had to buy millions of physical books over the course of decades whereas a e-libraries do not. They just buy the books people actually request.

Re:Information is time is money (4, Insightful)

unrtst (777550) | more than 2 years ago | (#38490768)

There's really no difference so long as they adhere to the "if we only have one digital 'copy', then only one person can have it checked out via overdrive at a time". In the past, they only bought the books people actually read anyway (no library has a library of congress size collection of books, and they even sell off their old books to make room quite often).

I'm always amazed that libraries have stayed around as long as they have; very thankful for that, but still amazed. If libraries didn't exist right now, and someone was trying to start some, I'd imagine publishers would be just as scared, even though it means a whole lot of book sales to the libraries, a handy distributed archive for free, and a bunch more potential readers (ex. people that might not have the cash on hand to buy a bunch of books now, but might later on, or even people that simply lack the physical space at home to store them).

Forget this being bad for publishers for a second... ebooks could be very very bad for libraries in general. As long as Overdrive has the copies, there's no need for the libraries themselves (there's still a need for the money to buy the ebooks, but that could get diverted from the libraries to overdrive or similar).

Personally, I think the requirement that ebooks only be checked out 26 (or whatever) times before they have to buy another copy is just ridiculous! I'll concede that restricting each copy to only be used by one person at a time is an understandable correlation to the current physical world, but even that is 100% arbitrarily imposed. Unless society allows things to become extremely draconian and Fahrenheit 451 -ish then, at some point, ebooks and mp3's are almost certainly going to be freely available to all (maybe after some tax to support the storage and bandwidth)... there's simply no technical reason to prevent that.

It's the printing press all over again, and the world will adapt (er... the world at large will drag the small minority that are part of the publishing industry along kicking and screaming the whole way). If I were in print, I'd be scared too - they're going to go the way of monks handwriting bibles eventually.

The real question is how the authors will get paid. If we did have a universal system that had all ebooks freely available, then I'd suspect all other ebook distribution would damn near stop (including giving your friend a copy of your ebook, since they could just go get it themselves for free). If that happens, then we'll have very solid stats on downloads per-title. That could be used to pay the authors. Number of music tracks owned per-person is certainly much higher now than it was in the days of LP's and tapes. Number of books owned is likely to go the same route. Thus, authors could be paid a very small amount per download of their book, and still make approximately what they make today.... we'd just have to get that money into that system somehow (tax?). This is probably a good 20years off still before it gets anywhere near that point... in the meantime, I expect a lot of fighting/kicking/screaming/drm/laws/etc from the industry.

seems like the collage book market but useing DRM (1)

Joe_Dragon (2206452) | more than 2 years ago | (#38490828)

to force places to buy new books for stuff that does not need yearly or less updates. Now I can see map books, travel guides, law books, tax books, some tech books needing yearly updates. But collage some books don't even last a full year before a new book comes outs.

What?! A library *lending* out books!? For Free?! (4, Insightful)

PolygamousRanchKid (1290638) | more than 2 years ago | (#38490592)

For folks who want to read, and maybe even, learn? What is this world coming to?

Where's the Fahrenheit 451 Fire Department, when you need one?

Ironically, it looks like we might see this day, since distribution of physical printed material can't be limited and controlled . . . by whoever wants to control it, for whatever reason.

Printed books . . . they just cause trouble.

Re:What?! A library *lending* out books!? For Free (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38490764)

The problem is...you're leaving out the whole issue of the authors.

I suppose they could write for free, but that'll make it kinda hard to eat. Will the farmers give them food for free too?

No?

Re:What?! A library *lending* out books!? For Free (1)

jedidiah (1196) | more than 2 years ago | (#38490792)

Authors are in fact a tertiary consideration here.

Authors are not farmers and haven't really ever been despite what lies some publisher might have tried to tell you.

Re:What?! A library *lending* out books!? For Free (4, Insightful)

brit74 (831798) | more than 2 years ago | (#38490856)

Sorry, both jobs involve work. The analogy is reasonable. As a software developer, I'm in the same boat as authors. If I can't get paid for my work, then I should go do something else - even if that "something else" involves mowing lawns. Whether or not my skills as a software developer are more useful to the world than my skills mowing lawns is secondary to the question of whether I can afford to make a living doing those jobs.

Re:What?! A library *lending* out books!? For Free (2)

martin-boundary (547041) | more than 2 years ago | (#38490944)

Why are you saying you can't get paid as a software developer? You clearly can: get a job as a programmer, and your employer will pay you (once) for what you write for them during working hours, within about two weeks of the work being done.

The same is true for authors. Get a job as a writer, and get paid (once) for the words you produce for your employer.

The whole not getting paid bullshit is really about gambling. The publishers gamble that they can sell (multiple times) a piece of writing to many people, and make a profit that way. That's always been hit or miss, when it pays off they make millions, and when it doesn't they take a loss.

But it's no concern to you. Unless you're the gambling type and decide to work for them on a contingency basis - get paid in royalties if the publisher's gamble pays off, and not if it doesn't. If that's what you're after, then more power to you, but don't whine about customers stealing your work when it's really that you gambled and lost. You should have got paid in advance.

Re:What?! A library *lending* out books!? For Free (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38491046)

Here's the thing about gambling...we're allowed to make changes to the odds as we see fit. There's no magic Casino that dictates to us what form things must be done by, but a consensual affair which is determined by a combination of consent and coercion.

I feel no particular compulsion to let you pick the game. If you cannot accept the one I wish to play, well, hopefully it shall not come to blows without it being a matter of suitable gravity.

Re:What?! A library *lending* out books!? For Free (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38490992)

Authors should be the primary consideration, if we wish them to produce their works. Much like a farmer, were I to not get compensated for my labors, I would cease them, therefore I cannot blame an author for feeling the same way.

Even plants have a reason for growing edible fruits. It may be a bit abstruse but they do act for a cause.

You may feel you'll get enough on charity, or incidental work, but I think it would take a considerable chance to produce the same degree of results.

Re:What?! A library *lending* out books!? For Free (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38490942)

I understand their concerns. They like to write, and they need money. They want to be paid for the work they did. It's just a shame that our capitalistic society essentially requires us to use artificial scarcity in order for some people to get paid.

It'll fall apart eventually. As technology progresses, society will need to find a new system (or fall apart).

Re:What?! A library *lending* out books!? For Free (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38491020)

Yes, there are certainly issues with the current system persisting into the future, but if we want the author's to continue, and in some cases, perhaps we do, it'll be important to come up with some kind of solution that still leaves them compensated.

I'm not committed to any particular form of it, but some of the specifics I would prefer to keep around.

Re:What?! A library *lending* out books!? For Free (4, Insightful)

Dr. Spork (142693) | more than 2 years ago | (#38490890)

"I'm sorry ma'am, but federal law requires that I incinerate this ebook!"

"But... WHY?"

"It's already been looked at 26 times."

?

Re:What?! A library *lending* out books!? For Free (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38490910)

Publishers have made their money by controlling the paper printing of books - then changing vast amounts of money a middle men. Now you hear them talking about "talent finding". Fuck them. Their entire reason for existing is vanishing - in an even worse way than record companies. We shouldn't be crippling libraries for them and we shouldn't be confusing their years of ripping off authors and the public with "literature" and "learning". We should just say "bye... get on your bike and find another job."

Re:What?! A library *lending* out books!? For Free (1)

ortholattice (175065) | more than 2 years ago | (#38491030)

Ironically, it looks like we might see this day, since distribution of physical printed material can't be limited and controlled . . .

Around 1980, I visited MIT's Dewey Library, which used some draconian measures to control certain financial publications, such as S&P stock evaluations. The material was handed to you from behind a special counter, and you weren't allowed to make copies. I think some books were chained to the counter.

I haven't gone back, so I don't know if this is still the case.

Libraries (5, Insightful)

ChiRaven (800537) | more than 2 years ago | (#38490594)

I have yet to meet a debate in which I did not favor the side of the Libraries, if there was one.

Business aristocracy... (5, Insightful)

blahplusplus (757119) | more than 2 years ago | (#38490600)

... doesn't like when things like lowering their income through radical technology effects them instead of workers. It's ok to look down on the poor and people who's jobs are offshored as not being 'efficient' or 'competitive' but when it happens to business models or "intellectual property" (read: Intellectual monopoly) - heaven forbid!

WTF am I reading? (4, Insightful)

jtownatpunk.net (245670) | more than 2 years ago | (#38490606)

With the In one corner are the publishers, who claim that unlimited lending of e-books 'without friction is not a sustainable business model for us.'

WTF is "friction"? And what is this "unlimited" thing? I don't know how the Amazon deal works but the Overdrive model allows libraries to loan a specific number of copies of each title. There's nothing "unlimited" about that. I'm patron 19 of 22 waiting for one of 3 copies of a title on my list. And what's "friction"? Do they mean I no longer have to haul my fat ass to the library to get the book? I don't have to do that buy purchase their book in ebook form, either. Seems like a pretty level playing field to me. And the artificial scarcity created by the licensing model might push me towards purchasing since I can get it right now instead of a few months from now. Is that what they call "friction"? If so, again...covered.

Publishers, stop acting like you sell paper. You don't. You sell content. Act like it.

Re:WTF am I reading? (2)

Sponge Bath (413667) | more than 2 years ago | (#38491014)

Publishers, stop acting like you sell paper. You don't. You sell content. Act like it.

They license content. Selling implies the buyer ends up owning something. Apparently only corporate persons are allowed to own information and ideas, meat persons are only allowed to rent (ideally on a per use basis).

And fuck publishers. (5, Insightful)

unity100 (970058) | more than 2 years ago | (#38490630)

Society didnt show mercy to carriage industry when automobiles came out.

There is no reason why it should show mercy to publishing industry - carriage industry produced something even. publishing industry is just middlemen. and now, unnecessary.

And look how they threaten new technologies and those who use new technologies - 'without friction' they say. wow. imagine it with carriage industry - if this suing frenzy bullshit had been around back at the start of 20th century, we probably wouldnt be using cars as we are using them today.

i say fuck them. you should say so too. society's progress cannot be held hostage to the desires of a minority interest to protect its private profit.

Re:And fuck publishers. (3, Insightful)

brit74 (831798) | more than 2 years ago | (#38490898)

> "Society didnt show mercy to carriage industry when automobiles came out."

Can I make a suggestion that we stop using the horse and carriage versus the car analogy? It doesn't make sense. As long as you want books to read, you need people to write them. This involves work. The comparison to the "horse and buggy" is flawed because when people buy cars, they stopped needing horses and buggys, which puts them out of business. The creation of books for you to read still requires the labor of authors to write those books, which means you're essentially arguing that you've found a way to not pay the authors but you still want authors to come around and do the work.

Re:And fuck publishers. (1)

0123456 (636235) | more than 2 years ago | (#38490978)

The creation of books for you to read still requires the labor of authors to write those books, which means you're essentially arguing that you've found a way to not pay the authors but you still want authors to come around and do the work.

So you're saying that we should close all the libraries?

Back in the real world, if you go to a writers' forum these days it's full of people asking how they can get their books on Amazon for free so that more people will read them. Most of them can't get into libraries because libraries only buy books from big publishers.

The function of libraries (2, Interesting)

Animats (122034) | more than 2 years ago | (#38490634)

It's a tough time for libraries. First they had to deal with becoming homeless drop-in centers. Then they had to deal with becoming Internet cafes. Now they have to face being unable to lend books.

The future of libraries is in question. If you don't have to go there to borrow books, what are they for?

Re:The function of libraries (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38490870)

The future of libraries is in question. If you don't have to go there to borrow books, what are they for?

One of the libraries near me is turning into a hacker space. Just got a 3d printer, working on setting up an old room in the basement for use on projects.

Re:The function of libraries (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38491060)

Why do you think libraries have a problem with being welcoming public spaces for homeless patrons, or providing Internet services for those to whom it's otherwise unavailable? Christ on a crutch, they're providing valuable public services to underserved populace, we should be increasing the budgets and giving them fucking medals.

I can kinda see both point of views.. (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38490640)

I'm a librarian (in Germany, though the issues here are basically the same), and I think the publishers do have a point. Two points, to be precise:

* A digital copy of a book can be borrowed by a library customer without them having to leave their home. No need to actually get to the library, hunt for the book and then having to get it back 4 weeks later. It's all happening online. That makes borrowing digital books from library a million times easier and more comfortable, and thus make libraries far more popular again.
* A digital copy of a book needs to be bought once, and then you'll own it for all eternity. That is, in theory, true for a physical copy of a book as well, but in practice a library has to constantly (re)buy books it already owns, whether the physical copy is starting to get old and worn or because books are being stolen/not returned, etc.

It is not unrealistic to assume that these two points combined might result in financial losses for the publishers, and a solution for this might have to be found. The suggested 26 uses per digital copy would mean that popular titles would have to be renewed roughly every 2 years (assuming a standard borrowing time of 4 weeks). Currently, the rule of thumb is that a (physical) book should be renewed once it is older than 5 years at the latest. Not all titles are borrowed out constantly, though, so it's entirely possible that the costs for the library would not rise even with the 26-uses-per-copy rule.

Re:I can kinda see both point of views.. (2)

king neckbeard (1801738) | more than 2 years ago | (#38490728)

The publishers might make less money. Cry me a river. Carrying limitations of physical goods to the digital world is pure idiocy.

Also, your given standard assumes that nobody returns a book early. Most libraries I've used only allow you to check out a certain number of books at once, so an avid reader could return many of those books well before the due date. I have no idea how the breakdown of such readers is, but it seems like the kind of thing where something like the 80-20 rule applies (80% of checkouts are by 20% of patrons).

Re:I can kinda see both point of views.. (1)

zAPPzAPP (1207370) | more than 2 years ago | (#38490976)

But aren't those physical limitation the original reason for a library to exist?
If you can copy a book unlimited times with no cost whatsoever, then why would you need a place that stores a bunch of them for lending purposes?
You aren't really lending it anyway, you just copy it one more time. It will still be available to every other visitor, no matter how what.

The only reason you would do this is the low cost access to books for everyone. But in this case, it stands alone, there are no other reasons attached to it, like with physical books. It really eliminates the reason for a library to exist.

Re:I can kinda see both point of views.. (3, Insightful)

stephanruby (542433) | more than 2 years ago | (#38490852)

One additional point that hasn't been mentioned yet is that the price of an ebook usually has lower printing, inventory, and distribution costs than an actual physical book, a fact which is not usually reflected in its price. And sometimes, the ebook version can be the only copy available if the book is out of print in the real world.

And there is also the possibility that some ebooks help drive the sales of their physical counterparts sometimes. Now, I'm not saying that this happens all the time, but in the case of very high quality books, having the electronic version of it is often not enough, and having a good electronic version can often drive one to track down a copy of the real physical book in question.

Re:I can kinda see both point of views.. (3, Insightful)

future assassin (639396) | more than 2 years ago | (#38490866)

This would be like car manufacturers bitching about rental companies maintaining their own fleet for too long because the regular maintenance keeps the cars from falling apart too fast and keep the rental companies from buying new ones more often.

Take the lending out of library? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38490642)

Could/ Would a library tweak their business model?
Their artificial limitations are mainly travel (having to return a book), and monopoly of distribution (free books).
With one limitation removed (anyone can distribute free books - if they are drm free) perhaps they can substitute another ... localize the reading.
This could be achieved in either of two ways.
1. Lend a restricted ebook reader that must be returned within normal library timeframe, loaded with the chosen content (restricted to that ebook reader).
2. Or make the library the location of reading. A unique environment combined with coffee, cake and a comfy seat.

Choice and information is good... (3, Interesting)

jrminter (1123885) | more than 2 years ago | (#38490646)

We have a local clothier with the motto, "an informed consumer is our best customer." I think this applies to publishing.

We are witnessing a paradigm shift in the book publishing industry that rivals the previous one in music publishing. There are some hopeful signs. I think the market will produce more. Consider the changes in the Amazon Kindle service. It has grown rapidly such that now their two largest sellers are Kindle editions. Note that we can now view our content on multiple devices, view sample chapters before purchasing, and rent books. We do this after reading reviews. We see similar encouraging moves from O'Reilly such as providing DRM-free electronic copies of purchased content. Dealing with lending of resources by libraries is the next challenge. No publisher will ever release content if the public can get the content free from a small number of libraries. The parent is correct - that is not a sustainable business model. Safari Books Online is one possible model. It is still a bit pricey for my budget.

As customers, we need to vote with our purchases. Reward vendors who provide good content at fair prices with more purchases. Use the review system to say that we think content is over-priced. At the same time, we need to have realistic expectations. We are paying for infrastructure. Storage for electronic books is not free to the publisher but is likely much less expensive than warehousing paper products. Bandwidth to distribute them and all the infrastructure for secure payment is not free, but is likely less expensive than a distribution channel for paper. Editors, graphics designers, and those who convert the author's electronic input into the proper format for the final document creation software provide valuable services. So do those who market the electronic titles to the distributors. Nobody works for free. That said, we consumers want to share in the cost savings that come from the transition from paper to digital. I think the changes in the music industry suggest that we will have vendors that can thrive when they provide value to their customers. The key will be to find a subscription service that is affordable to the consumer and makes it worthwhile for the publishers to produce and distribute the content.

Guardian article(s) (1)

Fencepost (107992) | more than 2 years ago | (#38490660)

The Guardian article being referenced is probably Dan Gillmor's <a href="http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/cifamerica/2011/dec/23/ebook-price-swindle-publishing">The great ebook price swindle</a>. You can find a lot more about this by paying attention to the online writings of various authors, including <a href="http://kriswrites.com/">Kristine Kathryn Rusch</a> who write about the business of writing as well as being a (widely) published author.

Lending just doesn't make sense (2)

91degrees (207121) | more than 2 years ago | (#38490698)

Actually, ownership of data doesn't particularly. We created a metaphor and it worked well enough to encourage people to write books. The point being that until recently, copies actually existed in a fixed medium so it made sense that you could lend that medium, or resell it or do anything you like treating it and the data came with it.

It is possible to lock digital data to a single device (at least through the honour system) but when you do that you lose a lot of the benefits of a digital copy. We want those benefits. The ability to transfer to another device is essential. But when you do that, the metaphor no longer applies. We end up with a rather awkward metaphor for a metaphor. People suddenly notice that it makes no sense.

I have no idea what the solution is but trying to pretend digital copies are physical copies is not the answer.

Richard Stallman is psychic (1)

Strange Attractor (18957) | more than 2 years ago | (#38490718)

When I read Stallman's "Right to Read" more than 10 years ago, I thought it was more evidence that he is a crank. Look at it now: http://www.gnu.org/philosophy/right-to-read.html. Why is he always so right?

Re:Richard Stallman is psychic (2)

brit74 (831798) | more than 2 years ago | (#38490912)

Nope, Richard Stallman is paranoid and still wrong. I shake my head at his wrongheadedness ever time I see that link come up on Slashdot.

Why not a separate licence? (1)

Hentes (2461350) | more than 2 years ago | (#38490748)

Why not sell ebooks to the public with a licence that prohibits lending, and sell them to libraries with a licence that allows it, for a higher price or a percentage of each lending transaction?

Re:Why not a separate licence? (1)

king neckbeard (1801738) | more than 2 years ago | (#38490790)

Because the no-lending license won't hold up due to the first sale doctrine.

Re:Why not a separate licence? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38490908)

Tell that to every software vendor.

You are not buying the software, you are buying a license to use it.

You are not buying the book, you are buying a license to read it.

"...not a sustainable business model for us" (3, Insightful)

John Hasler (414242) | more than 2 years ago | (#38490820)

So why does your business model need to be sustained?

Publishers are missing the advantage of eBooks (4, Insightful)

hawguy (1600213) | more than 2 years ago | (#38490822)

They just need to make eBooks cheap enough to make it not worth a trip to the library to borrow a free eBook (I don't know if you actually do have to go to the library to borrow an eBook, but maybe you should, causing some friction to the process).

If a eBook costs $10, then it might be worth it for me to go to the library to check it out for free.

Lower the price to $3, and then it's not worth the trip for me. Lower it to $1 and I'll likely buy books just to try out an author, rather than staying with my normal safe choices of authors I know or recommendations.

I've bought a lot of content from Smashwords (usually paying between $0.99 and $4.99 for an eBook). I've bought very few eBooks from Amazon - it's hard to justify paying more for an eBook than it costs to have a paper book (often used, sometimes new) mailed to me.

interesting (1)

shentino (1139071) | more than 2 years ago | (#38490824)

They are being refreshingly honest about it being motivated by profit.

Whether they are just being truthful for a change or just feel so invincible they don't have to hide their true intentions though is another question entirely.

The problem... (2)

Nrrqshrr (1879148) | more than 2 years ago | (#38490840)

The whole problem is the concept of "the middleman". He's between the producer and the consumer, making sure everything works well. But when the system evolves to the point where the middleman isn't need anymore....
Just face it, you'r not supposed to play the same old role and expect it to last forever.

At least we'll always have piracy. (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38490842)

My first thought was "Nice! Hey, if libraries won this one, I could see myself really using their services! Libraries have been drifting off my radar screen for a while." But then I thought: "Aw fuck, here come the copyright trolls, looks like they'll ruin this." And then I thought: "Alright, fuck those compromised artificial limits and pointless flaming hoops. Who needs it when we'll always have piracy?" I have a feeling that many normal people who look at this lame haggling will have a similar chain of thoughts. Libraries are a good thing, and piracy is the closest institution we have to what libraries should be. As long as we have it (and we always will), we'll get by just fine.

Library have been Lending DVD's (2)

Joe_Dragon (2206452) | more than 2 years ago | (#38490844)

for some time now and some how that works will there also be a digital movie and tv show push as well from the Library as well?

Books on CDs (2)

bussdriver (620565) | more than 2 years ago | (#38490922)

Not audio, but text files on CDs. Library already has had audio books for decades; previously on Tape, now on CDs. Using CDs would put it into the traditional role and require some physical interaction and wear.

Sue the publishers for not providing CD versions of books; or when they try to prevent a library from scanning a physical book to CD.

Profit (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38490846)

So how much profit is there in printing digital copies? Publishers likes that part huh?

If the publishers won't let libraries function... (1)

Rix (54095) | more than 2 years ago | (#38490934)

Then we'll build our own on the internets. Needless to say they won't pay any royalties.

The value of publishers (1)

Sprouticus (1503545) | more than 2 years ago | (#38490962)

I just dont see the value of publishers in the electronic world. Since the cost of keeping an ebook 'on file' is so low, libraries can just collect books from authors directly.

If a library wants to avoid the dross, simply hire a service to review books and grade them. If the publishers were smart they would change their business model to reflect this.The library can then keep them in their colleciton based on those grades.

The authors can get a direct check from the librariy to keep the book in their collection for the # of years it is under copyright. If you really have to charge the client, charge them say 10 cents for book under copyright, with 1-2 cents going directly to the author. Without the middleman, the cost gets reduced by a couple of orders of magnitude,

The downside of course is that the publishing houses die. Oh well.

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