"Immersion in the life of the world, a willingness to be inhabited by and to speak for others, including those beyond the realm of the human, these are the practices not just of the bodhisattva but of the writer." --Jane Hirshfield

Thursday, February 16, 2012

No E-Books for You

Melville House reports that Penguin has stopped selling e-books to libraries, in the fear that borrowing them will become too "frictionless" and will cut into book sales.

"That means four out of the Big Six publishers — Simon & Schuster, Macmillan, Hachette, and now Penguin — have made their ebooks unavailable to libraries. HarperCollins makes its books available, but in a deal that restricts each ebook to 26 circulations — a deal that has been angrily criticized by librarians. Only Random House, with its own announcement last week, allows libraries unrestricted circulation of its ebooks."

I know the intent is to keep people buying actual books made of paper, but what will the effect be? With fewer bookstores, independent or otherwise, to introduce people to books, and with libraries unable to keep all the physical books in the world on hand for browsing, won't this just mean reduced access to books? Some libraries, like mine, participate in a network-lending system. I can borrow any book in the mid-Hudson system by requesting it, but they still don't have everything, and the books they tend to get rid of are the same older books that nobody is requesting any more. Will it amount to the same thing, sooner or later, or are the librarians putting their heads together to make sure there is at least one volume of each in the system? How much easier would it be to have them all as e-books?

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