Used E-Books?  As anyone who reads our library tech blog regularly knows I tend to get up on my soap box over the issue of digital content ownership or more precisely the lack thereof! I think the fact that you can buy a print copy of The Grapes of Wrath, buy a DVD copy of Star Wars and a CD copy of Abbey Road and actually own those items and keep them forever, donated them to your public library, bequeath them to whomever you wish in your will, sell them or give them away because you own them but that you cannot likewise actually purchase electronic versions of the same items makes no sense. It is not as if the words of the Grapes of Wrath are different if you read the printed book or the e-book, or that the movie Star Wars has a different ending if you watch a digital copy of it on your tablet or laptop or that the songs on Abbey Road are different if they are digital and played on a Smartphone, tablet or computer than they would be if you played the CD on the CD player in your car.

And as a librarian in a public library I am a firm believer that being able to own the printed word in book form is an essential thread in the tapestry of intellectual freedom. And I hold the reverse to be equally true – that the fact that you can’t own books, in the form of e-books, is a growing threat to intellectual freedom.

Of course, public libraries are known as places that protect and preserve information; the intent being that as much information is openly available to members of the public as possible. Further and in relation, the ability to own books, in the form of printed books, has traditionally been a pillar of our free and open democratic society. And the fact that anyone can go to a public library and read any of the books or journals kept there or access information online for free – that allows people access to information that they can use to think and grow intellectually and fosters creativity and depth and breadth of informed decision making regarding a great variety of issues.

For indeed, how can you research a subject be it the history of economic growth in the U.S., the reasons World War I exploded into being in 1914, the best refrigerator to buy or the best county legislative candidate to vote for without having access to books, periodicals and Internet accessed information about those subjects? And most people don’t have the money to purchase all the books and reading materials they’d need throughout their lives to research subjects for personal, academic or professional reasons; nor do a solid number of people have the option to have paid Internet access in their homes.

With all of that in mind, I think public libraries have an essential role to play in preserving and protecting information so it is available both now and in the future for anyone who might need to access that information to make an informed decision, do personal, professional or academic research, write a credible fact based report or simply to learn and grow as an individual.  And being able to preserve and protect information requires that we be able to purchase the information contained in books and journals as we have traditional done – and in the 21st century that material has to include e-books – this is essential because we are moving towards a society that is increasingly accessing the “printed” word through e-books and e-books are currently not being sold by publishers but instead are being licensed to public libraries and individuals as if they were a new version of Microsoft Word that you can license and use but not own and not give to anyone else.

Having gotten up on my soap box and said all of that – you won’t be surprised to hear me say I was thrilled to read an article in the New York Times this morning titled Imagining a Swap Meet for E-Books and Music which discusses the very point that consumers and public libraries cannot currently own digital content, in the form of e-books, e-videos and e-music titles and that this fact is being challenged by lawsuits and on the coming-soon-front the fact that both Amazon and iTunes are apparently working on used e-book stores to work into their sales ecosystems that will allow their customers to sell their purchased e-books and other e-items (music and videos); this in opposition to the way publishers and media companies have sold digital books, audio books, videos and music over the last ten years – as if they were copyright protected software.

Here’s the link to the article:

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/03/08/technology/revolution-in-the-resale-of-digital-books-and-music.html?ref=technology&_r=0

Political Silencing Attempt At Blocking Report On Radical Intellectual Property Reform Backfires: Recently the Republic Study Committee, which is a conservative think tank housed inside the House of Representatives, directed one of their staff members, 25-year-old Derek Khanna, to write a report on the subject of intellectual property reform. And in 2013 intellectual property refers not simply to physical materials in the form of printed books, printed journals, DVDs and CDs but also to digital content in the form of e-book and electronic video and audio works.  Now I know I mentioned that this think tank is a conservative one – so you won’t be surprised when I tell that they weren’t pleased when Mr. Khanna wrote a report titled “Three Myths about Copyright Law and Where to Start to Fix it” in which he set down on the printed page the very opposite of what the conservative think tank wanted – that in contrast to current conservative political and business views that hold that strict copyright control is a good thing and fosters innovation within U.S. society that, as Mr. Khanna states in the report, the opposite is true. Mr. Khanna notes of current copyright law that: “copyright violates nearly every tenet of laissez-faire capitalism. Under the current system of copyright, producers of content are entitled to a guaranteed, government instituted, government subsidized content-monopoly.”

Of course Mr. Kannah in essence wrote what the Republic Study Committee thought was a very liberal report and they fired him for that fact, blocked him from getting another job with a different Republic group and tried to silence him by deleting the official report. Mr. Khanna has bounced back from all of this by going public with his report and doing his upmost to promote the ideal of intellectual freedom and that, in relation, our current copyright system needs major reforming. He was even instrumental in gaining attention, along with his fellow petition organizer Sina Khanifar, for the recent petition found on the official White House website that protested a proposed legal amendment that would ban consumers from “unlocking” their cell phones once their initial contract with their carrier (i.e. AT&T, Verizon etc.) was completed. In other words what conservative politicians were trying to do was make it a crime to take the cell phone you paid for that you own after your cell phone contract with the initial carrier ends and switch to a new cell phone carrier and still use that same cell phone. Oh there was little loophole in the legislation you could ask the initial cell phone company through which you bought the cell phone for permission to switch to a new carrier and still use that phone.  Somehow I sincerely doubt that the original cell phone carrier would give you that permission if there was any way around doing so!

And perhaps needless to say there is a link to an article on this subject included in this blog posting! The article is from the Tech Crunch site, and is titled How a Fired Republican Staffer Became a Powerful Martyr For Open Internet, here’s the link:

http://techcrunch.com/2013/03/08/how-a-fired-republican-staffer-became-a-powerful-martyr-for-open-internet/

And if you’d like to check out Mr. Khanna’s report regarding needed copyright reform – here’s the link to the whole enchilada:

http://www.publicknowledge.org/files/withdrawn_RSC_Copyright_reform_brief.pdf

The Photo Finalists in the 2013 Smithsonian Nature Photography Contest: And if you’ve read this far you may be pleased to see that this final topic has nothing whatsoever to do with e-books, digital content or copyright reform! I came across the photos that Smithsonian readers have picked as the ten finalist photos in Smithsonian’s 2013 Photo Contest and they are really cool!  All the photos focus on the natural world and were taken by amateur photographers and are breathtaking so I urge you to check them out!

And you can check the photos on the Smithsonian website via the following link:

http://www.smithsonianmag.com/photocontest/10th-annual/10th-Annual-Photo-Contest-Finalists-Natural-World-194333591.html

Have a great weekend!

Linda R.

References

Chaffetz, Jason. (2013, March 8). How A Fired Republican Staffer Became A Powerful Martyr For Internet Activists.

Finalists PhotoContest 2012. Smithsonian. Online. Accessed March 8, 2013.

Khanna, Derek. (2012, November 16). RSC Policy Brief: Three Myhts about Copyright Law and Where to Start to Fix it. publicknowledge.org. Online.

Streitfeld, David. (2013, March 7). Imagining A Swap Meet for E-Books and Music. New York Times. Online. 

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