Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Re: From Stacks to the Web: the Transformation of Academic Library Collecting

Posting to Autocat

On 27/02/2012 15:33, Brenndorfer, Thomas wrote:
The report seems a little too optimistic: Quote: "While the printed book is far from extinct, many users find the e-book reader experience to be as good or better than a paper book and the digital rights management systems have satisfied publishers." Contrast that assertion with the news about Penguin Books exiting the library e-book market: Quote: "However, one upshot of those talks, as LJ reported, was publishers' concerns that if library loans become too "frictionless," in other words, do not involve a physical trip to the library to borrow and return a book, that it will eat into their sales. The desire to increase this friction may lead the recalcitrant publishers to demand a business model in which they will only make their ebooks available to public libraries if they are used in the library or if a patron is required to bring their device to the library and load the title onto the device in the library, then bring it home. This would essentially eliminate all the convenience of borrowing ebooks from a home computer or device."
Good point. In my own opinion: sooner or later, these people will be forced to come around and give the public what they want. While I realize that these companies do not want to see their business models change, that is just too bad--it is changing whether they like it or not. Newspaper publishing is changing, journals, music, movies, and yes, libraries too. Nobody in those industries want those changes, but they are happening no matter what. We can either adapt, which means to figure out what people want and provide it as best we can, or just shake our heads, say no, no, no! and slowly become extinct. The Penguin attitude is exactly the same as that taken by the dinosaurs and unless they are incredibly lucky for some reason, they will end up in the same place. No tears from me!

We can reply, "Oh! But Penguin is a major publisher." What happened to Kodak? They were much bigger than Penguin ever was.

Apologies for tooting my own horn, but in my paper in Oslo,, I focused on libraries, but exactly the same idea of "survival of the fittest" goes for *all* organizations. Everybody is feeling the heat (or cold!).


  1. Jim,

    "Newspaper publishing is changing, journals, music, movies, and yes, libraries too. Nobody in those industries want those changes, but they are happening no matter what. We can either adapt, which means to figure out what people want and provide it as best we can, or just shake our heads, say no, no, no! and slowly become extinct. The Penguin attitude is exactly the same as that taken by the dinosaurs and unless they are incredibly lucky for some reason, they will end up in the same place."

    Hey there - Nathan in Minnesota, USA. I actually think the quote above shows a fair compromise - insofar as it means not just getting the publisher's word for it - but getting a law passed that says this is OK, and that publisher's can't charge libraries more than normal persons. The fact of the matter is that although you could be right about publishers going the way of Kodak, I doubt this will happen, because it is hardly likely that the smaller publishers (or independent ones) who aspire to take the market from the big ones are also going to want libraries to have "frictionless" lending... Smaller publishers have much less margin for error (right?) and they need to put food on the table to...

    I think the frictionless lending concern is a big deal. Here's the way I look at it:

    The internet is an amazing blessing - and it certainly has "changed the game". But as regards copyright law, until we have made "place" irrelevant through teleportation technology, we must still think in terms of location, location, location. If teleportation technology is developed, then that would be the time for us to start seriously re-thinking copyright law in ways that make sense. Until then, to even start to think that copyright law can be ***radically revamped**** will lead to disaster. For if we think this way, we create an atmosphere where we will be less likely to see reality, and then, inevitably, when the day of reckoning comes, all will be lost (vague, I know, but true, I think).

  2. No one claimed private ownership of anything, but held all things in common... so it says in the Bible of the first Christians in Jerusalem. They voluntarily sold all they had, and gave to any among them who had need... And yet, even they would likely to have said that in a worldly sense, the property was owned by the Church - and not the whole world - even if before God, they only saw themselves as managers in His Vineyard. The Christian Scriptures, at least, give no indication that the idea of "owning" something in the world is something evil. In the late 18th c. this idea blossomed even further with the creation of copyright law. Persons had a right not only to personal property, but intellectual property as well. People should be able to make a living based on the "hard work" of their thinking, and if the fruits of their thinking - and hence the thinking itself - is seen as valuable, and we want such thinking to be rewarded, the law must be set up to allow for this to occur.

    (and frictionless lending - especially if we are talking about large consortia sharing e-materials - is a big deal)

    I heard a Indian Christian man named Vishal Mangalwadi speak recently, and he says that in the West, there was a certain kind of mindset, attitude... piety, that created "a uniquely rational religious man who became capable of developing complex theories. These theories created [a] capitalistic economy and institutions that produced civil societies where power was subject to agreed-upon principles." (this in his book called Truth and Transformation, 43)

    Now, with the internet, there is a great disruption as regards the issue of "intellectual property". Take what Angelo Fernando, writing in a recent issue of Communication World, says of Wikipedia: "that no one really owns the content is still a disruptive idea." Indeed - the question of course, is whether or not something like this is ever possible. People will assert themselves, and those with the most power will get their way.

    And therefore - someone eventually will need to "get their way" because society will need them to be the strongman to bring order when the center cannot hold. Vishal gives us a nutshell view of the kind of decay that is currently happening as regards issues of copyright (and so many other areas in the West: one thinks of all the ridiculous financial instruments and strategies that have wreaked havoc):

  3. In 1985 Ruth and I were back in Holland - this time with our two daughters. One day, when Ruth was lecturing, I took the girls on a sightseeing tour of Amsterdam. I tried to use a machine to buy a day pass for buses and trams. Since the instructions were in Dutch, I asked two young women, 'How do I get tickets from this machine?' They turned out to be Americans.

    'Why do you want to get tickets?' they responded. We've been riding around for a week. No one has ever come to check any tickets."

    Their shamelessness shocked me more than there immorality. The represented the new generation, liberated from 'arbitrary' and 'oppressive' religious ideas of right and wrong. University education had freed them from commandments such as 'You shall not steal.'

    'It is wonderful,' I said to them, 'that there are enough commuters who pay so that the system can carry some who don't. Once your schools succeed in producing enough clever commuters, your country will catch up with mine. You will have ticket inspectors on every bus and have super-inspectors to spy on the inspectors. Everyone will then have to pay more. But corruption won't remain confined to the consumers; it is a cancer that will infect politicians, bureaucrats, managers, operators, and the maintenance staff. They will take kickbacks, commissions, and bribes to use substandard parts and services. Soon your public transport will resemble ours: frequent breakdowns will slow down not only the transport system but also your roads, efficiency, and economy.'

    You don't have to be a zealous Christian like Vishal to see that his point here is spot on. Trust deteriorating... A little leaven. Theft is rampant and will only become more so. Those concerned to uphold the "agreed upon principles" - whether they refuse to walk away from their mortgage or follow copyright law - make functional the predictable system that allows people to both benefit by it and exploit it. As these people convicted by the notion of a common good disappear, society will corrode.... A "commons" is indeed needed - but the need for this does not excuse those who would steal from those who, for this or that reason, are not ready to share the fruits of their labor.

    I just think "frictionless lending" doesn't help the situation. If I were a publisher, I'm sure I would to being doing things somewhat like Rupert Murdoch in order to keep things viable...


    ps - if you want to debate me on this, I'm not sure how much time I'd have to engage (much of what is above is copied and pasted from thoughts I had written down a while back...)

  4. Hi Nathan,

    Always good to read what you write. I'll try to explain my own ideas.

    First, it very definitely is important for the creator(s) of a resource to be reimbursed for ther work. The problem is that the traditional publication/distribution networks did not allow that, or at best, did so very inefficiently. When publication equalled physical materials (vinyl records, books, paper journals, etc.) the primary problem was risk. It cost a lot of money to print up everything, send them all over the place and, in the case of books if not other materials, have to buy back what wasn't sold by the retailers. This was genuine risk, I do not question that.

    Therefore, in the printed world, the people who got rewarded were those who took the risks of doing all of this, that is, the publishers, and the creators got whatever was left over. This often turned out to be nothing, like the authors of scholarly journal articles. This is what the Murdochs and Berlusconis and Elseviers and Springers are: they are risktakers. They are not creators of intellectual content. That's why they got so much of the money. I sure wouldn't pay any money to read a “scholarly” article or a novel by Murdoch or Berlusconi.

    Creators of the intellectual product would be able to get a major share of the money only when they became risk-free, e.g. Ann Rice, Rolling Stones, etc. Therefore, traditional publishers are paid for the risks they take, which really are substantial.

    In the present climate, this has changed. There is much less risk involved—or at least, there doesn't have to be. Sending a copy of an electronic file costs practically nothing, and if someone wants a physical copy, it can be created at the other end, by burning a DVD, or on an Espresso book machine, or just by printing it out.

    Therefore, the value of the copy has decreased substantially and if traditional publishers want to keep getting the amounts of money they have gotten accustomed to, they either must come up with a new business model, or... do whatever they can to maintain the value of the copy. One method comes up with something new, the other simply tries to keep the old ways working.

    If publishers want to come up with something new, then the question is: what exactly is the value-added provide by the publishers to what the creators initially created? This is where I believe the entire debate becomes interesting.

    In the case of scholarly journal articles, publishers are now reduced to claiming that the value they add is: managing the peer-review process (not providing it) plus, the metadata that they create. Both of these claims are under major attack now and I think, will probably founder. With scholarly books, the authors are normally expected to come up with page costs, which pay for the publishers costs of peer review and copy editing, while the authors are normally expected to pay for indexing, getting permissions for images, etc. and other costs. These costs are normally included in the grants authors are given to write their books. I believe this will also founder eventually because there are different possibilities to replace it—today.

    Even for non-scholarly creations, including novels and music, there are a number of possibilities today that potentially provide the actual creators with much better options than what they have always had. If someone can provide their novel, or whatever, directly to the public without the publisher, then can get a much higher percentage of whatever is sold than with any publisher. The big difference here is distribution which is quite different on the web. A lot of this depends on the continuation of Net Neutrality.

    What I am trying to explain is that while I believe that creators should be fairly compensated for their work, this has rarely happened in the past. Today they may be able to, but it is a new world that everyone must deal with and eventually accept.

  5. Jim,

    What can I say? You educate me good. Thanks for helping to put all of what I said into the bigger picture. I'll try to reflect on all of this a while before replying again (if I do).

    Thanks so much! Again, I appreciate your passion and devotion to these topics and your efforts to engage with others and disseminate your ideas.

    Best regards,