There has always been a hesitation to fully embrace the new. This existed when the codex,or books, with pages that you turn, took the place of scrolls that you roll, as illustrated by this hilarious video. Next, came the invention of movable type, in particular Gutenberg’s printing press. That was met by disdain from the elite due to the fact that the mechanization of the written word further widened the circle of readers, knowledge, and power structure. Now over 500 years later, electronic communication is making its impression by way of the electronic book (e-book). Whether they are reading using an e-reader such as Kindle, Nook, iPad, or a phone or computer, the dissemination of e-books is not stopping and it’s in our interests as library students to learn as much as we can about e-books, their distribution, and a new term for me, Digital Rights Management (DRM).
DRM, as said in Wikipedia, refers to “technologies that are used by hardware manufacturers, publishers, copyright holders and individuals to limit the use of digital content and devices.” When applied to e-books, this can lead to publishers making drastic decisions on how their authors’ works are read. An example, and current polemic amongst public libraries, is with publisher Harper Collins and their 26 check out limit. An e-book can be borrowed a maximum of 26 times, after which a new e-book must be purchased and again limited to only 26 checkouts. Such a limit has its problems, as this video by Pioneer Library System of Oklahoma explains. Each publisher’s DRM is unique and Harper Collins decision has certainly caused quite a commotion among the public libraries.
Yet, there are other publishers, the small independent ones, whose alternatives demand further contemplation. If e-books are to be embraced, why not comingle written and electronic content together. At least that’s what one publisher, Melville House Publishing, is doing. They sell what is called a Hybrid Book, where the print version of a book comes with additional material, called Melville House Illuminations, that “consist of highly curated text, maps, photographs, and illustrations related to the original book”. What I equate it to, is what music distributors have done to sell their recording artist’s records. They load them with additional features, such as the music video for their single, bonus tracks, or special cover art. This is just a one example of what publishers are doing to incorporate print material with electronic content but what are we as library school students learning about e-books? Being rather green to these terms, I’d like to take a class next semester that introduces me to electronic collections and services, but I’d like to hear from our readers:
What you have experienced when learning about e-content? If the future of books is looking increasingly digital do you feel your library school education is preparing you to handle electronic content?