Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Why Ebooks Are Great for Libraries

Two weeks ago, I talked about reselling paper books. I'd meant to talk about e-books on the following Friday, but I lost track of everything as I tried to finalize the files for Hero De Facto so I could send them to my formatter.

So back to our original topic...

In general, you can't resell e-books like you can a paper book. Your e-book is essential software. If you read the Terms and Conditions of your retailer, you'd find out what you're actually buying is a license to use the software.

The issue of selling electronic files has been partially dealt with through litigation in the music industry and computer applications. However, that case law has yet to be applied to e-books. After seeing what happened with the music industry, many retailers and publishers slap on DRM (digital rights management software) to keep readers from making illegal copies.

What about your software backups then? Technically, you may not be allowed to do that on some e-books. After being in the IT industry myself, I'm a HUGE believer in backups, which is why I don't put DRM on my files. I also request that retailers don't use DRM on the e-books I publish.

DRM punishes legitimate buyers of e-books by not allowing them to make software backups. Nor does DRM actually prevent piracy. Guys, I've been out of IT for over twenty years, and I can crack most DRM'd files. For the record, I wouldn't on principle, but most pirates don't have any sense of ethics. DRM isn't going to stop them.

So what does this have to do with libraries?

With e-books, libraries can buy a book that will never fall apart. They won't have to spend their minimal funds having to replace a book some idiot patron defaced. Or stole.

Remember when I talked about authors I discovered through the library?

The same holds true whether you borrow a paper book or an e-book. However, I'm discovering more and more indies who are as short-sighted as trad publishers. They think they are being cheated for a library buying their e-book and then, in theory, allowing the e-book to be borrowed forever. The trad pubs put a timer on their e-books so the library can only loan a particular e-book X times before the library has to pay a new licensing fee.

Except the library won't be able to do to loan an indie e-book forever.

Why? Because our tech is changing so damn fast. People forget the Kindle and the iPhone were both introduced in 2007, only twelve years ago. My iPhone 4 is considered obsolete even though it's only five years old. Libraries will have to pay for new licensing when formats change.

Then there the issue that folks using the library may not have the money to buy an e-book. I used our county library like crazy when I was a poor student and an even poorer college graduate. Guys, I couldn't afford a freakin' TV! I depended on the library for my entertainment.

On the other hand, I still used the library when I did have disposable income. The library allowed me to try out several different series and authors. Then I'd buy the ones I wanted to re-read multiple times.

At a time when so many of my fellow writers bemoan the lack of discoverability, they ignore one of the easiest solutions--their local libraries. And the thing I really don't understand are the same writers who will GIVE AWAY thousands of e-books through Amazon are the same ones bitching about libraries not paying them for every copy borrowed.

If anyone can explain it to me, I'd like to hear it.


  1. I've been posting about the evils of DRM for many years. If anyone manages to explain that whole twisted mess to you, pass it on to me, will you? [eyeroll]


    1. It's a twisted attempt to control people and things. "Life will out." So do stories. They are a part of us, and they will find a way to exist despite the big companies efforts to control them and us.
      here are folks who would consider me an idiot, but I also donate to folks who put out freeware that I've used.

    2. Same here. [nod] I donated to Duotrope when you didn't have to, and didn't mind at all when it went pay. It's a good service, and is worth paying for.