An excellent article at Inside Higher Ed suggests librarians need to exercise some caution when moving from print preferred to digital collections. Librarian Daniel Goldstein touches on many issues previously raised by this blog and the need for “e-book ownership to be more closely equivalent to ownership of a physical book than is currently the case”.
He concludes that “we need to renegotiate the way libraries operate in the e-book marketplace so that they can fulfill their unique and irreplaceable functions while also ensuring that publishers and authors receive their due. It will be expensive, if we can ever get there. Books will cost more and libraries will have to develop the infrastructure needed to host, preserve and deliver the books they acquire”.
Two more articles discussing interlibrary loan restrictions and ebooks have been published.
Hilmar Schumundt’s article on SpigelOnline International: The Digital Paradox – How Copyright Laws Keep E-books Locked Up, considers how e-books are being locked up behind ‘digital bars’. Libraries are often not permitted to share e-books via interlibrary loan due to licensing restrictions. Schumundt notes ‘the book doesn’t go to the reader, the reader comes to the book – just like in the 19th century’. The article also discusses how digital protection measures are now sophisticated enough to enable ditigal material to be shared without copyright being infringed.
Timothy Geigner’s article on techdirt: Everything Old Is Unavailable Again: How Copyright Has Ebooks Operating In The 1800s, picks up on this ‘epitimone of inefficiency’. According to Geigner the problem is a combination of governments unwilling to consider change and publishers. Academic publishers are ‘most egregious’ as:
In many cases, it is the readers themselves who, through their taxes, pay the university authors whose studies they are then unable to access. It is also likely that many professors themselves cannot even afford a subscription to the journal in which their work is published.
Wayne Bivens-Tatum, librarian at Princeton University, has published an article on Library Journal regarding interlibrary loan licensing restrictions for ebooks. He argues that:
“Libraries that progress towards an all-ebook future without solving these problems risk destroying the ILL arrangements that benefit all of our users… I’ve seen it argued that librarians are responsible for purchasing resources for their own users, and they can’t be concerned with the users at other institutions. That’s a shortsighted view that ignores the fact that schemes of cooperation like ILL are necessary for everyone, and that contributing to its demise will harm everyone’s users, including your own”.
The Oberlin Group, a consortium of 80 US liberal arts colleges, has published a statement calling for academic libraries to reject licensing restrictions with publishers which prevent libraries sharing e-books via interlibrary loans.
When libraries ‘purchase or rent material we cannot share with citizens beyond our campus borders, we turn our backs on a great strength of the academy—the ability to build complementary collections and share them in good faith with researchers and the community of readers’. The Group also calls for libraries and publishers to work together ‘in making good scholarly literature available to everybody who needs it’.
The full statement is available here
As previously discussed by this blog, The Greater Western Library Alliance and publisher Springer have partnered to create the Occam’s Reader project. The pilot program will begin in March and allows the corsortium of 33 academic libraries to share e-books via interlibrary loan.
The Chronicle of Higher Education has published an article outlining how the project will run. The software allows the lending library to upload the e-book onto a web server. The patron requesting the e-book at another library recieves an email with a username, pasword and link to a log-in page. The user can then sign in and read the requested book. Borrowed e-books can be read but not copied, printed out or downloaded and are automatically deleted from the server at the end of the designated interlibrary loan period.
The Occam’s Reader Project (a collaboration between Texas Tech University, the University of Hawaii at Manoa and the Greater Western Library Alliance (GWLA) ) and publisher Springer have entered into an agreement to run a one year pilot program allowing e-book interlibrary loans (ILLS). Although ILLS have always been possible under the terms of Springer e-book licenses, there was no process for doing so. The new software creates a process for requesting, processing and delivering e-books.
This is the first major collaboration of its kind between academic libraries and a major publisher and has the potential to revolutionize how e-books are shared by libraries.