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I wanted to write a railing piece about the new Harper Collins twenty-six checkout limit on ebooks, but Friday I had to finish a day of work and take my wife out for a date night before I could sit down to write.
This has given me the opportunity to read the reactions of librarian-bloggers. The reactions fell into two camps. The largest group was the" believers", those who saw ebooks as a means of library renaissance on the foundation of digital content. The other group was the "skeptics". These, I include myself in this group, were willing to incorporate ebooks into the library collection, but did not put all of their trust into the format for the salvation of libraries.
After reading and pondering the news of the last few days, as well as the last several months, I wonder if Harper Collins hasn't done libraries a favor in disguise.
Harper Collins has allowed us to rethink our infatuation with digital books, DRM restricted digital books in particular. We think that those who interested in librarianship are naive when they say that they want to become librarians because of the books. But maybe books, paper and ink books, are what our work is primarily about.
The combination of paper and the printing press spread the blessings of literacy to the greatest number of people around the world. This fact is contrasted to the digital divide that is growing into a digital chasm, with the development of every new and expensive form of digital device.
The decision by Harper Collins will not dampen the popularity of ebooks with a certain percent of the populace, but I find it interesting that the classics are rising in popularity once more, because they are free to download, being out of copyright. Just maybe, the many who have purchased, or received ereaders in the past couple years, are not that excited about buying the rights to read a book, rather than owning the book itself.
The majority of the book purchased, both paper and electronic books, will be purchased by people who do not "need" libraries, but there will always be a larger number of people (the children, the poor and the elderly), who receive the vast majority of their reading resources from libraries.
Our digital rights may change, but our mission remains the same- provide our communities with the information essential for democracy.