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Libraries and Copyright [Oct. 29th, 2011|11:50 am]
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Michael Capobianco, former president (and many other offices) of SFWA, the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, has written an excellent post on some of the issues surrounding libraries, the HathiTrust, Google, and the abuse of copyright by those who want to profit from a writer's work by claiming the work is in the public domain.   Copyright Is People was the starting point for my post, so go read it first, and also read the comments. 

(And for those who wish I'd use an LJ cut more often, talk to LiveJournal.  Currently, I can't make my text go in the gray area that's "behind the cut"...attempts to do so result in being told to make another LJ cut.  LJ should learn from WordPress--on my WordPress-software blogs, I can put the cut where I want to at any time, even after writing the whole piece.)

Anyway--you've read Michael's post and the comments, right?  You do understand that Anonymous is being snarky and troll-like, right?   

To start with, I've been a fan of libraries since I first walked into one and that would be...longer ago than most of my readers have been alive.   I first got a library card at age 5 or 6.   My mother fought with the head librarian and the children's librarian until they quit trying to restrict me to books in my grade level and let me check out whatever I wanted.  It was a library for a town of about 15,000, at that time and it was not overseen by today's sort of library managers, who insist on throwing out (and in some places shredding) any book that hasn't been checked out recently or often enough in the past year.   Books on the shelves were considered a resource, no matter how old they were (that's how I read my way through several volumes of naval history that no one had ever checked out since they were put in place--but by the thumbprints, they'd certainly been read.  They were too big to fit in my bike basket.)   I've admired librarians for keeping all those books in order, and for preserving old books so that I could find and use them.  I've used libraries of all sizes from under 1000 volumes to university libraries filling vast stacks and city libraries (both main and branch) with immense collections.  I've ordered books from Interlibrary Loan (a wonderful program.)   It's from librarians that I learned to notice who wrote a book I liked (not something that interests a child until they have to ask for another book like it--and the librarian points out that knowing the author really helps locate the book.)   Librarians of my childhood and youth and college years understood copyright and pointed out to us the problems with both plagiarism and copyright infringement.  I have librarian friends, at least two of whom are also writers.  

When I was first published in book form, I was thrilled at the thought that my book would be in some libraries (I knew not all) and that people like me (still using a library sometimes despite all the books in my house)  would get to discover my books the way I had discovered so many other writers' books...by cruising the shelves or by a librarian's recommendation.   I was glad that people who couldn't afford to buy my books could read them without charge in a library--thus both supporting the library and (maybe) acquiring such a taste for my books that they would seek them out elsewhere and maybe someday buy one.

But.  But attitudes have changed. With the ease of copying works (starting with photocopies and copiers in libraries) and particularly with the rise of digital works, even librarians--even good librarians--have leapt on the bandwagon of "copyright is a nuisance when I want what I want right this minute and I should have it free."    Although librarians are discarding books--perfectly good books, often rare books, books they didn't even have to pay for because they were donated (and let me tell you, it annoys writers who have donated one of their precious authors' copies to a library and finds out that the library just trashed it)--because they aren't checked out enough.    It's cheaper to "house" digital copies of books.   It's cheaper to just make more digital copies if you have a run on a certain title, than to buy a few more paper copies.   And if you want a book that's not in print--heck, just digitize it and hand it out that way.   Best of all, if you can claim the work is an "orphan" you can claim that copyright shouldn't count.  Only easy, cheap availability counts. 

And authors who complain are just...well, a nuisance that you can slander to your heart's content, because after all they're just writers--what do they know? 

They know Google stole from them.  They know libraries are now stealing from them.   Reminder: I never minded libraries having my books available for people to check out.   That's how I got hooked on books and on certain writers.   The libraries bought the books (albeit at a library discount, but fine) thus supporting my publisher and maybe a crumb for me.    I was in this for the long haul, so the fact that years might pass before a reader who liked Sheepfarmer's Daughter in a library actually bought one of the others in a store didn't bother me.  Doesn't bother most writers.  We have long honored libraries for preserving books and promoting reading and have accepted the short-term loss resulting from 50 people reading the same copy of the book in order to hook some of those 50 people on other books later.  But now...the new attitude among librarians that writers are a nuisance to be slapped down if they object to being digitized and distributed without their consent or remuneration is changing how many writers feel about librarians and libraries.    Combined with the relentless "culling" of library shelves  that results in a shallower selection--that has cost library after library any value as a historical repository--it seems to me, and to many others, that many librarians have become actively hostile to the people who write the books that are the reason for a library's existence.

Mr. Smith, in a letter to Mr. Salamanca, whose work had been digitized without his knowledge or consent, a letter dripping with condescension and, frankly, insulting, states that "libraries are not your enemies" and
"We are in the business of helping authors find readers..."  Which is, frankly, nonsense when applied to the modern model of library, busily dumping books into shredders and incinerators when the books don't find enough readers by themselves.   Libraries today are in the business of handing readers what they already want--the latest bestseller, the books assigned by a professor,. etc.   The other books are just a nuisance, and so are their authors.  Moreover, authors are in a very different business, that of making a living from their writing.  For this purpose, writers do need readers...but we have many other ways to find them than through libraries, valuable as libraries were (and still are, in some cases.)   We, too, have entered the digital age; we have websites and blogs and social media sites (like LJ and Twitter.)  

So libraries are "not our enemies" if and only if libraries increase--or at least do not markedly decrease--our income stream.  Crass?  No, realistic.   
Libraries started dumping their collections for economic reasons.   We protect our copyright for economic reasons.   Anyone who thinks this is terrible/horrible/etc. is welcome to choose a writer to support economically, to become a writer's patron in perpetuity.  Otherwise, shut up about the crassness of writers, who at least earned their copyright by writing the books.   Those who attack copyright are not attacking "giant international corporations" or "the music industry"...they are attacking me and my family, who depend on my writing for basic things like food, clothing, utilities, place to live, etc.   They are attacking every individual writer in the country...those who make more than I do, those who make less, those who are famous, those who are struggling to get that first work published.   And we have just as much right to care about our needs, our budgets, our families as anyone else.    Yet writers are traditionally, and still, expected to "do more with less" than, say, plumbers or the guy driving the backhoe.   We've always been expected to write stuff for nothing, give talks at schools for nothing, let someone use our work "for charity," donate books (not yet knowing they'd be destroyed at the whim of a librarian), give free advice to  as-yet-unpublished writers, etc.  And most of us have done quite a bit of that.

And now libraries (some libraries, certainly many academic libraries and those part of the HathiTrust--and Google of course) expect that writers should just roll over and play dead whenever a library or a big corporation wants to take the writer's work (without permission and ignoring all previous contracts that may still apply)  and let Google or the HathiTrust digitize and distribute the work without any remuneration.

It's as if a farmer discovered that a corporation or non-profit decided that since no one was home at the moment, it was OK to go steal the crop--pick the apples or the pears, pull the carrots and onions--because after all it's more convenient if you don't have to worry about the fact that someone else planted that field, possibly even saving seed from last year, grafting those trees, and doing the cultivation--if you can just pick what you want for free any time you wish. 

People with that attitude are my enemies as long as they're stealing.   They are thieves, whatever mantle of "social service" they wrap themselves in.   Google is a thief.  Hathi-Trust is a thief.    Google's digitization of my work was illegal.  They have yet to apologize to me, or state that they have destroyed the digital copy(ies) they made of my works.   So: thief.    Hathi-Trust has not revealed that it holds Google's digitization of my work (though it's an off shoot of Google's project) , but it has clearly infringed on Salamanca's and others' copyrights: and by the snide response from Mr. Smith, they aren't showing any remorse at all.  Mr. Smith chooses not to understand that the digitization alone--just that--was already an infringement and a theft.  I have no reason to think they are not secretly holding more illegal digitizations than they claim.   So: thief.   It is one thing to have thieves running around stealing stuff and acting like normal criminals.  But to have libraries--LIBRARIES--stealing without any conscience at all?   Because it's convenient?  Because it's cheap?   That's so far over the line, the line is invisible 100 miles back.

Libraries are now upset because publishers are limiting the number of readings per loaded e-reader they buy.  What the Sam Hilll did they expect would happen when they started this "digitize and distribute innumerable copies nationwide free" thing?   Oh, yeah, sure it's easier.  Cheaper.  For the library.   But are librarians completely blind to what keeps writers and their publishers alive?  No, it's not "finding readers."   It's finding readers who pay for the writing.   Those of you who "monetize" (make money from) your blogs by allowing ads, some of which is based on "click-throughs" should get this.   If people don't "click through" to the ad, you get less (in some cases no) money.   Some of you allow the ads because you can't afford to pay for the blog yourself; you get free space that's paid for by the ads  Fine.  Then you know that writers can't afford to live on pure admiration, no matter how much of it there is.  

For anyone who wants a "platform" on which to spout her/his stuff--fiction, nonfiction, poetry, recipes,whatever--there's a cost to put the platform up, be it in print or digitally on your own website.   The cost may be money, or allowing the web host to run ads on your site or blog.  The servers, the electricity to run the servers, the techs to keep the servers running...none of that is free.   Neither are the components that go into a book.   The more of the income stream is diverted by thieves (any kind of thieves, including libraries) the more the necessary price of the book goes up, even if nothing else does.  (Other things do.  Resource scarcity.)   I can't tell the power company that because my book sales dropped, I'll be paying them only a percentage of my electric bill.  The publisher can't tell their power company that.   If I self-published e-books (something we might all come to someday) I still can't tell the power company (or the propane company, or the city water department, or the grocery store) that.   And it wouldn't be fair if I did.  The person who grew the tomatoes that are in the can of diced tomatoes I buy also has needs; the person who drives the city truck out to check the city sewer system has needs.  The guy employed by the printing company who prints the paper books has needs; the guy who drives the trucks loaded with boxes of books has needs; the bookstore clerk has needs.  They should not make less just because I made less, and none of us should make less because some fat-assed smirking lawyer thinks it's OK for Hathi-Trust--doing this wonderful public service of infringing copyright--to steal from me and my publisher. 

Copyright is definitely people.  It's writers, first of all, but their copyright protection also serves everyone in the publishing chain and everyone with whom the writer or the publisher or the printer or the binder or the truck driver comes in economic contact, from the farmers who feed us to the road construction crews and rail construction crews who carry cargo we use or sell.  There are writers, artists, editors, printers, electricians, plumbers, factory workers in multiple industries,  retail business persons in large and small businesses, public and private utility workers...ALL of them, whether they read my books or not, who are affected by thefts from my publisher's income stream and mine. 

So I say to Mr. Smith (and many others) "Keep your sticky fingers off my property."  (And that of any other writer, since--if they get away with it with one, they'll get away with it with us all.)


[User Picture]From: judifilksign
2011-10-29 05:06 pm (UTC)
Huzzah! Well-said.
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[User Picture]From: mrs_redboots
2011-10-29 05:19 pm (UTC)
I always use the non-RTF format as it makes things like putting cuts in much easier - you just go < lj-cut text="Whatever you want to put here" > without the spaces between the angle brackets and the text inside them, and then < /lj-cut > (again without the spaces) at the end. Works every time.
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[User Picture]From: e_moon60
2011-10-30 02:05 am (UTC)
That would be fine except I do not WANT to deal with HTML coding all the time. What I really want is LJ to use the same approach as WordPress, in which I can write the entire post, choose where I want the cut, put my cursor there, and push the button. Voila--a cut. I could use the old method in Rich Text Format, though I had to be very careful and it had habit of inserting more "read more" links than I asked for. But now...it doesn't work. Silly LJ.
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[User Picture]From: tzine
2011-10-30 06:12 am (UTC)
That's what I do when I have to cut, but I always have to do it twice. I write the text, then select some text and press cut. Then I discover that I've put the cut in the wrong place, that the main body of the text is on the page but the intro is missing, so I have to go back to the draft and put the cut in the right place. Then it works. If I used the cut more often I'd remember which around it's supposed to go.
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[User Picture]From: bookblather
2011-10-29 05:24 pm (UTC)
I'm a librarian and a writer, and I have issue with only one part of this post-- about culling collections. Libraries, especially public libraries, cull collections because they have no choice. They have no space, they have no money to preserve the books, they have no way of keeping them around when there's no interest in them. There's no excuse for shredding the books-- responsible libraries sell them at a book sale and thus make more money for themselves-- but with the budget cuts and the increasing lack of respect for libraries as institutions, there's just nothing else that we can do.

That said, every other part of this post is spot-on. There is no excuse for stealing somebody's work. None.
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[User Picture]From: muaddim
2011-10-29 05:43 pm (UTC)
Indeed,i'm quite agree with Mrs Moon !!!
Been library bookworm even before the school,and helped to make a little library in the school i went to (in addition to a usual Hebrew/English/Arabian language books) in Russian,arranged it with the librarians,even became friends with one of them.
Never saw a book been trashed - not in Soviet Union's libraries,not he Israeli ones.
But,it was about 15 years ago,and i have no idea,how it's going to be now.
May be,it's wise to make a version for a Google - type version,where with the Google checkout i could pay for it - buy for me,or just rent it !!
P.S. I couldn't buy a "The speed of dark",in US -based online bookshop.
I torrented it,and i wish i could pay for it (the price of e-book) directly to you,dear Mrs Moon .
I sorry for torrenting,please forgive me 8)))))
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[User Picture]From: e_moon60
2011-10-30 02:14 am (UTC)
I understand that libraries often have no choice. There was a terrifying post in a British blog about this (I thought I'd bookmarked it so I could easily refer to it, but I can't find it in the list)--describing how even the British Library culls to destruction...and many libraries (including the one the blog author worked for) did not send books to sales, or allow them to be given away. No, the word came down that they were to be destroyed, and they were destroyed--burned or shredded. Some rare, many irreplaceable, some just not circulated enough. In our small-town Texas library, a person from the state library association comes through once a year and tells the librarian what to cull...and the choice is based entirely on circulation except for reference books not checked out.

The issue of "no interest" really bothers me. Circulation is not a measure of interest. I read some books in the library (especially large, heavy nonfiction books) because they were too heavy for me to carry home, and they had never been checked out--but I kept finding page markers and other papers with notes on them showing that they were "of interest." When I was at Rice University, I was the only person who had checked out one book since it was brought into the collection--and I checked it out repeatedly. It was very important to me; I kept trying to memorize it. Had someone culled it the year before I arrived I would never have known about it, and would never have been led into one corner of history that has since fascinated me. Some of the most important books (to me) that I read in junior high and high school were old--very rarely checked out, if at all--but these books are valuable to the people who need them. If librarians work to a popularity metric--which is what circulation is--how and where are people going to find the older books they might also enjoy, benefit from, be nourished by. (Most of the books in my childhood libraries--public, school, high school--were not recent. These were the memory banks of the culture. Losing that is losing our heritage.)
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[User Picture]From: tzine
2011-10-30 06:16 am (UTC)
Agreed. Libraries are really under seige, which is odd but I won't start a rant here. As for the books, all they can do is make sure at least one copy survives in a special library for the purpose, but that's not much use to the browsing reader. No room for serendipity there. Ditto for the copies kept in the National and state libraries.
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[User Picture]From: silverbackbutch
2011-10-29 05:41 pm (UTC)


for speaking my feelings. I'm an artist, but our work is covered by copyright too. And somebody taking a picture, photocopying our work, digitizing & re-creating it takes money out of our mouths.
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[User Picture]From: harvey_rrit
2011-10-29 05:59 pm (UTC)
The only flaw I see is that the farmer doesn't have to invent the carrot anew each harvest.

Oh, and the farmer is allowed to use a shotgun to keep thieves from starving his family, but we aren't. That's a flaw too.

(I didn't say the flaws were yours.)
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[User Picture]From: nmissi
2011-10-29 06:17 pm (UTC)
You're alive; protecting your work provides an incentive for you to write more books... it's a win-win for everyone. But the other side of copyright law is less happy; books with nebulous copyright, out of print, unable to be read... I think the Hathitrust people intended to make such books available again.

My pov on copyright was fixed by a personal situation. There was a book I loved as a child, copyrighted the same year as Walt Disney's "Steamboat Willie." This book had been out of print since before I first read it. My middleschool librarian gave it to me to read, and it is one of the books that I view as formative to my personality and self. (The book is Lucile Morrison's Lost Queen of Egypt, btw.) Anyway- when I was grown, and wanted my sons to have a chance to read it, I discovered the artwork made this book "collectible." I couldn't lay hands on it for less than 160.00. But it was due to come into the public domain! Yay! Or not. Because Disney pushed thru legislation bottling up "Steamboat Willie"- and everything else of the same age. To protect their stupid mouse, they deprived me of my book. It's still under copyright- even though no one is printing it and the author is dead. I did exchange letters with someone who was managing the author's papers for a library; I was told they'd love to be able to re-issue the book, because they get letters about it frequently- but the estate doesn't hold the copyright. It reverted to the publisher after her death. They have no interest in offering it again.

And so no girl of eleven is going to trip over that book in a library, and become enchanted as I did. The book is doing no one any good, because only collectors can afford a copy. This, to me, is criminal, and an affront to the memory of the author herself.

Just a reminder that the people trying to change copyright law aren't all thieves. It's one of my deepest political convictions, that copyright law is impoverishing the cultural commons and starving the public domain- and that we have to do something about it NOW. But I'm not after your work, I promise. Well, not yet, anyway. But when you've been dead for decades and nobody remembers your name, people like me will be fighting to make sure readers can find you, even if the publishers aren't interested anymore.
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[User Picture]From: bookwyrm_sr
2011-10-30 03:04 am (UTC)

Lost Queen of Egypt

I actually have a copy of the Lost Queen of Egypt. It is an ex-library one, in library binding. I have no idea if it is considered "collectible" or not, but I purchased it over the internet over 15 years ago from some folks whose business was attending library sales and then re-selling the books. It was one of many books about ancient Rome and Greece (Caroline Dale Snedeker), Egypt (Morrison, Eloise Jarvis McGraw, Andre Norton), and Roman and post-Roman Britain (Rosemary Sutcliff) that I devoured as a youngster. Some of which are still in print, but others sadly are not.
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[User Picture]From: e_moon60
2011-10-30 03:55 am (UTC)
I will agree that Disney did bad things. I will not agree that Disney doing bad things is a reason to harm all the other writers whose work is still under copyright.

People trying to change copyright laws have not been ASKING writers what copyright means to them, and what changes would be beneficial FOR WRITERS. They've been looking at what THEY want and ignoring what writers need. Which is natural, but it's equally natural for us to look at what we need. We should not be hassled about our copyright because you are mad at Disney or the music industry. We are not Disney. We are not the music industry. We are individuals trying to make a living from our work and leave something for our families after we die. I'm sorry you can't have a copy of a book you love. But why is it fair for you to attack a copyright system that is protecting me because you can't get one book? Why is it fair for you to threaten that you will be "fighting to make sure readers can find you" when that may mean that my disabled son cannot inherit my property--the right to the books I wrote?

As it is, my son can benefit from the copyright while people do still remember. He will have the option of putting the works out himself (with help) if no formal publisher wants to keep them in print--and he will receive whatever income there is. Your proposal would leave my son getting nothing, and you and people like you will get the profit. How is that fair? What have you done to earn it? Just read and liked the book? Fine, but that's not a tithe of what it took to make it.

You see, the situation is no longer that the publisher losing interest in a work and letting it go out of print means the work will stay unavailable as copies rot. Writers now have the opportunity to keep their own work available as long as they choose, once the contract with the publisher is ended. Writers are even now republishing work that went out of print decades ago--the copyright owner is doing this and getting whatever profit he/she can. Writers' children are (for the most part) capable of continuing this process; their parents agents and others will help them in a way that traditional publishers could not or would not. This is the new model of restoring out of print work. It does not require a change in copyright law, and it keeps the decisions in the hands of those who created the work. That's the point. It is our work. We put in the hours; we did the research; we sweated over the wording. It's ours--our property. Not yours. Not the world's...ours. And we should have the right to consider it part of the estate we leave, just like an orchard or a house or a sweater we knitted or a table we made.

If I were to change copyright law, it would be to undo the Supreme Court's decision that corporations have the same rights as biological persons...to, in effect, disallow Disney's eternal copyright of what it did not (as an entity or as a person) create. A corporation's copyright (if it has one) should not be in perpetuity or endlessly renewed. But trying to cobble something together to hobble the deep pockets of Disney will inevitably harm the real live people who are individual writers.

I do not believe that current copyright law--even allowing for Disney--is really "impoverishing the cultural commons", and I certainly don't think that hasty changes in the law are a good idea. Particularly since the publishing landscape has changed and is changing, and writers should have the chance to republish their own work if they want to.

Both Google and Hathi-Trust made a big to-do about how they were only putting into circulation books out of copyright....but they lied. Google digitized my books, and would have distributed them in direct competition with my publishers, if they had not been stopped by legal action. Hathi-Trust has not shown due diligence in researching its list, and has been rude to a Pulitzer Prize-winning writer who objected to having his book digitized. That's not serving the cultural commons. Serving the "cultural commons" would include consulting with writers. Otherwise writers have no recourse other than to defend their rights vigorously and call it as they see it.

Edited at 2011-10-30 03:55 am (UTC)
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[User Picture]From: redvixen
2011-10-30 02:00 pm (UTC)
You're alive; protecting your work provides an incentive for you to write more books

Umm, actually no that isn't an incentive to write more books. Copyright protection covers the proceeds of sales of copies made from one original work - whether a story, a song, or piece of artwork.

Everyone needs to earn money so they can live. Some people are able to do it by creating stories, music, and art. The difference between someone getting paid for writing a novel which can be published several million times and a person who puts in a day's work at an office is that the office worker is paid a set rate for so many hours worked a week, no matter what they do. The writer puts in her time and effort to create something which might or might not sell and is paid based on how well the story sells.

Copyright protection is there to make sure the author, songwriter, musician, or artist gets paid for their work. The ability of their heirs to continue to receive the royalties is the same as if the office worker put money into a stock investment that transfers to their heir upon their death. The original commitment of time, energy, and effort comes from the first person and is passed on to their heirs.

The Hathi-Trust group is not trying to change copyright laws. I read through all the links just to make sure of that point. They were looking for books they could declare were orphans so they could make copies for free.
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[User Picture]From: keristor
2011-10-29 08:14 pm (UTC)
I liked Mellissa's coffee-cup example. Sure, if the person has actually left the company then it makes sense that someone else can use their cup. But just asking the first people you see if it's theirs is not adequate, is not "due diligence".
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From: Gary Butler
2011-10-30 01:09 am (UTC)

Counter point

How much money would be taken out of authors pockets if libraries didn't exist? I work at a medium sized library in Ohio and we hold many of your books in our collection. Including audiobooks. There are over 120000 libraries in the United States and the number of books that we purchase can't be insignificant to your bottom line.

I imagine this is even more pronounced in the more expensive formats.

You can argue that you might sell more books if they couldn't be borrowed for free but I doubt that would be true in most cases.
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[User Picture]From: e_moon60
2011-10-30 02:02 am (UTC)

Re: Counter point

If you read my post carefully, you would have noted that I specifically said that I had always favored libraries and--like most authors--knew they purchased our books originally. I said I was in favor of libraries holding purchased copies of my books and lending them to patrons for free. Please go back and look. My argument is not aimed at libraries who do what they've always done, but at libraries infringing copyright by lending "copies" they never bought or had donated to them.

But just because I favor doing what libraries have always done--purchasing books and making them available for patrons to borrow--that does not mean I favor anything a library may choose to do with the book they purchased. And that includes digitizing a paper book and then distributing digital copies (for instance, to all the students in a class when normally the library might buy a few more copies to allow for the book's having been assigned, or when students might otherwise be expected to buy it for themselves.) Distributing a digital file of a book--which is what is contemplated by the academic libraries--is not the same as lending a physical book in the collection. It is not lending at all: it is giving someone a book that neither the library nor the patron purchased. When a library's activities directly conflict with sales now--but would not have twenty years ago before digitization was easy--then I object. Digitization of a physical book--rather than purchase of an e-book--is both illegal, a violation of copyright, and puts the library in competition with my publisher. That's my beef with Google, and that's my beef with libraries involved with Hathi-Trust.

I did not argue that I might sell more books if they couldn't be borrowed from libraries--so your bringing that argument up is just a red herring. There's no way to prove what the effect of library purchases is on any one person's book sales, because there are no hard data on the number of people who buy, or do not buy, a book they first borrowed from a library. I've had people tell me they never intend to buy a book they can find in a library, but I've had other people tell me they buy books that they found and particularly liked. How many of each type? We don't know; nobody does.

So your question "How much money would be taken out of authors' pockets if libraries didn't exist" can only be answered with "Nobody knows." Once upon a time, libraries were where most people found books to read that weren't in the local bookstore, or that they could not afford. That's no longer true. The internet changed the playing field. A young person or adult looking for a book on any topic can do an internet search and--with a credit card--order it from Amazon. They can read excerpts. They can engage on literary topics with people around the world, getting reading recommendations not from librarians but from others who like the same kinds of books they do. Libraries are still very important in getting children started reading--getting them hooked on books--and for holding collections of works no longer easily available. (Notice: holding, not making copies of.) But I doubt that they're the primary way adult readers--and probably YA readers--find out about new books or writers whose works they haven't read. Most writers have websites and blogs; many of us have free material up online. Writers are much more accessible to readers than they used to be.

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From: ejmam
2011-10-30 07:06 am (UTC)

Shredding e-copies

The only part I disagree with is selling ebooks with a set number of charges. That seems insane to me, especially since real books sometimes last much longer. I don't want my library buying those ebooks; it's a waste of money. And as a reader, I'll just not get to read them. I would never buy an ebook for my own use that exploded after a set number of reads. Neither would I buy a book that required me to shred it after a certain period of time or a set number of re-reads. I don't really see the difference between shredding books and making e-copies go poof.

Ebooks will probably naturally age as digital standards change. VHS tapes don't get checked out that often any more.

Most of the librarians I know don't support piracy; I think; I guess I also disagree with the generalization to all librarians but that seems more a rhetorical point than a substantive one. I definitely agree that authors deserve copyright protection and that stealing books is wrong.
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[User Picture]From: e_moon60
2011-10-30 05:28 pm (UTC)

Re: Shredding e-copies

I'm sort of, but not completely, with you on the ebooks with set number of checkouts. I think eight it ridiculous...yes, most real books will last through eight checkouts easily. I'd be inclined to set a time limit instead--since libraries now cull much more stringently than they used to, perhaps 5 years? Though the average mass-market paperback doesn't stand up well to library usage...I have 40 year old ones at the house that have gone yellow but are still readable because they've been read perhaps once or twice a year and cared for in between, but I've seen library paperbacks that were in shreds after two years.

"Probably" and "sometimes" are, in logic, terms that severely limit what conclusions can be drawn...for instance, "Ebooks will probably naturally age..." is a hopeful statement for those who want no use or time limitations on them in library conditions...but there's no certainty that the underlying software that creates the files will change (lacking that, new ereaders will be designed to read existing files.) (Well, maybe there's certainty...Microsoft has certainly screwed with Word enough that my Word can't read .docx files. And yes, it's true, that the digital files I have of my first books--in WordStar--are now pretty much in the category of pre-Rosetta-stone ancient rock-scratchings. But surely not everyone is going to follow Microsoft into their kind of software morass and make all existing ebooks unreadable by all new devices...are they? Never mind.)

I know that not all librarians are in favor of the changes in copyright law spearheaded by some librarians. But the "some librarians" include powerful libraries with large budgets and the ear of politicians. University libraries, for instance (even my own alma mater has flirted with the notion), some large public libraries. When you read Mr. Smith's letter to Mr. Salamanca--Mr. Smith representing a university library involved in the Hathi-Trust--you can see how much contempt academic libraries have for the individual author (and the Authors' Guild, for that matter.) Writers are perceived as the problem child in the whole situation--we're individuals, we're scruffy, we're spread out all over the country (and world), we're probably (because some famous ones were) drunks and druggies and weirdos, we don't know what's good for us (as Mr. Smith) let alone what's good for everyone else.

Google would not have succeeded in digitizing all those books without help from the libraries who contributed the books. Hathi-Trust would not be what it is without the collusion of libraries. They still proclaim social value...and imply that the social value of writers--who create the works libraries collect--is less than that of the libraries. Which gets up my nose. There were writers before there were libraries. Libraries would have no purpose if we did not write...if we had not written.
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From: ejmam
2011-10-30 05:56 pm (UTC)

Re: Shredding e-copies

I put the "probably" and "sometimes" logic gaps on the side of those magically poofing ebooks. They are guessing that print books would "probably" not last any longer than the arbitrary number they slap on their ebooks. Some do, some don't. But I wish publishers would be up front with what they are doing -- they are renting out ebooks, not selling them, and I'd prefer my library tax dollars to go to publishers with less complex models. Sell the ebooks. Some will not get read at all, some will get read many times. Just like the paper copies. Sometimes horrible things happen to servers (I don't know if libraries get the ecopies stored in the "cloud" or whatever they call it).

And there are no guarantees of the future, but looking at software's past, the idea that current methods of e-storage will be unusable in a decade or so seems fairly safe. I would not put any important documents into electronic storage without having a paper backup.

Most of the librarians in my personal circle are local people -- school libraries and neighborhood branches are where I meet them. I think you are right about the research librarians and bigwigs in the large public libraries; they seem more likely to have condescending views of the masses, where the authors are milling amongst the unwashed public.
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[User Picture]From: e_moon60
2011-10-30 06:28 pm (UTC)

Re: Shredding e-copies

The switch from paper to electronic media worries me precisely for the reasons you brought up and some more: digital media are an unproven way of storing information for long periods. We know paper lasts--good ink on good paper lasts hundreds of years...or more. I've looked at paper documents from the early 1700s that were perfectly readable. Paper documents and books require only moderate (as opposed to digital) storage technology to keep them "alive" for long periods. They can be defaced, but missing pages and marks on pages are easy to detect. They require no technology to access: you can read them in daylight if there's no electricity.

Digital media are not only limited by the durability of the substrate but require supporting technology that is vulnerable to multiple kinds of degradation, from regional power failure to deliberate and difficult to detect intrusions that alter or destroy the stored texts. As far as we have experience, all digital media fail in time. And--as too many intrusions have shown--all digital media are subject to both unauthorized access and alteration by unauthorized access. Without the original file to compare, it's going to be impossible to say whether the digital copy of a book has the same words in the same order as the original book. (Given the penchant some political groups have for rewriting history...this is not good.) Moreover, they cannot be accessed without special equipment, without electricity to run that equipment, and storage conditions for the accessing equipment that also require other supporting technologies. Digital files are quick, easy, useful (I use them all the time) but they lack the qualities that made paper documents and books our civilization's memory bank.

That's why I think the destruction of paper copies is so wrongheaded...even understanding that libraries must make space for new acquisitions. A good digitalization program (the British Library's putting very rare books up in very high quality files so fewer people are handling the old texts) is one thing--but they aren't then shredding the originals. Ebooks could eventually threaten the production of paper copies (personal communication from my editor on the rising cost of producing hard copy as the fraction of ebooks sold rises...and that would be a disaster.
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[User Picture]From: farmgirl1146
2011-11-01 04:08 am (UTC)
Thank you.
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From: paulliver
2011-11-04 02:11 am (UTC)
I've been pushing away at trying to make a living as a writer for 12 years, and did manage to sell some short stories, but these last couple years the news about how publishers are squeezing on writers and how other organizations are trying to cut us out altogether and the Great Recession... I petered out a few weeks ago and took up learning out to cook, not for money, I have a regular job, but for me.
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