eBooks: To Read or Not to Read
July 02, 2012
When I first heard of eReaders, I wasn’t exactly sure what to think of them though I had thought they were fascinating little devices. Granted, I’m usually out of the technology loop by about a year or two, even though I should be on top of these things being in my youth.
After hearing from my brother-in-law about the ability to put textbooks on them, my instant reaction was to go buy one. I thought high school books were bad, college textbooks are just plain crazy—in weight I mean, the books themselves hold lots of awesome knowledge. I’m sure to have some back problems by my early thirties. But after buying the new device, I found that not many of my actual textbooks were available in eBook form. Sad day, right?
That was fine, a little frustrating, but at least I was able to purchase three of my seven books and get some of the weight of the world off my back—literally. I bought a world geography book on my eBook, and it was fantastic when I saw my peers lugging around a thousand page book weighing-in at three pounds, or so.
However, after a while, I wanted to use it for reading. So, I searched for public domain books, because when you work in a library for long enough you get used to things being free. I found a couple places like Google books that had public domain title. But, they were so old that when scanned in they were really awkward to read.
My library sleuthness started to show, and I looked into OverDrive. I probably should have thought of this first, but I’m human. The most reasonable answer doesn’t always come in the way that makes most sense.
I found the book in eBook form for my book club at college, Black by Ted Decker. I was rather proud of this because I got to show off my fancy eReader to my friends and make them all a little envious.
But I did wonder why we didn’t have quite as many titles as we had in physical books. I soon found out that it’s not all just because we don’t purchase them, but publishers are making it hard for libraries to get eBook titles. They are also making it hard to get titles on eBooks for everyone—hence why I could not find many of my textbooks in eBook form. Only two publishers have contracts for selling eBooks to libraries, and they have very strange requirements. One is to replicate the wear and tear on books which then have to be replaced; after 26 checkouts of a particular title, the eBook expires and the library has to repurchase the item.
As I search through our own books, 26 checkouts seems unacceptable for any one item. People take care of books when they check them out from the library. It’s a community resource—a community book. And now, there is a really neat feature on OverDrive that may persuade publishers to sell eBook titles to libraries. It’s a green button for you to purchase the book rather than just check it out—or to purchase after you've read it and decided it's worth having in your personal library collection. Neat? I thought so.
So while there is still a lot of debate about what’s fair to authors, publishers, and libraries, there’s one question that’s left out much of the time, what is fair to the readers?