Friday, February 25, 2011

When EBooks Go Bad

Sarah, the Librarian In Black, in a post rousingly titled Library eBook Revolution, Begin, covers recent changes in how the way ebooks licensed from Overdrive (which we do not have where I work, but which a lot of public libraries use) will be managed.

She breaks down three major changes, of which the first mentioned is the one that struck me most just because it's closest to my personal workflow.

Essentially, ebooks would be licensed for a limited number of uses, after which they would no longer be available (and presumably would have to be re-purchased).

There are a few things here that might kind of make one bristle.

I'm grouchy enough about annual maintenance fees for large ebook collections--now I'm supposed to be cool with the idea that once Person Number 26 (the reported number of allowed checkouts) is done with this single item, it's going to disappear?

And, because I am Technical Services, this point especially gets me:

How could you even put this content in your catalog? You’d have to track circulation and then remove the title from your catalog once you hit your cap. Can you imagine the workload impact?

Yes, that could be pretty annoying. I mean, nothing lasts forever, but if you're spending time cataloging things you kind of want to be able to assume that they'll stay in the collection until you remove them.

Obviously the vagaries of existence on the shelf means that some things will be lost or stolen rather than intentionally weeded. That's kind of a point in favor of ebooks, since there's not a physical item to be lost.

But it's definitely a point against ebooks if they get intentionally weeded for you, based not on your library's exacting standards ("this cover is ugly"), but on the fact that some arbitrary number of people have looked at it. As I said, I don't use Overdrive or the e-checkout model, but I'm pretty skeptical on behalf of those who do.

Christina Pikas is equally displeased about this on her LIS Rant.


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