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FEDERATION OF AUSTRALIAN HISTORICAL SOCIETIES INC
e-BULLETIN No. 96 – 1 March 2012
Hon Editor, Dr Ruth S. Kerr
Charles Hamaker, Associate University Librarian for Collections and Technical Services, Atkins Library, University of North Carolina–Charlotte, USA, has provided an analysis, in the lengthy article Ebooks on Fire - Controversies Surrounding Ebooks in Libraries, of the risks for research, ownership, preservation and standard of scholarship in the eBooks phenomenon.
Following are some edited excerpts from the article, which can be read in full by clicking on the link above.
Perhaps the greatest impediment for the transition from the tradition of the printed book to the ebook comes from the malleability of the etext. While it might not matter to the occasional or recreational reader, the ebook presents a host of challenges for the role of the book as transmitter, carrier, and shaper of our written word cultural heritage.
Ubiquitous web and print ads tell individuals and libraries to “buy” ebooks. But long-term preservation and retention rights to stable content are not the norm, because many resellers and vendors don’t possess those rights from the publisher or author. Instead of true ownership, most ebook “purchases” are more like leases, and leases with few residual rights at that. The only way to assure continuing access and storage for an ebook is a permanent download to a device with rights not governed by strict DRM (Digital Rights Management) systems. With content delivered from a hosted service on the web (aka the cloud), the “purchaser” has no control over the content.
Protecting the Text
From the Random House license on the web with library resellers comes this simple statement that can potentially diminish the continuity of the record of published works. It implies changes that authors and publishers and governments and a host of other actors could utilize to destroy the historic record:
RH reserves the right, at any time … to replace, edit or modify the contents of any RH eBook.
– www.randomhouse.biz/booksellers/pdfs/eBooksLibraryTOS1210.pdf (accessed Oct. 9, 2011)
The ability to modify the published text without notification, tracking, versioning, archiving, or any other means that might provide the original text for readers is destructive to the tradition of the history of the printed word and the tradition of Western scholarship.
Who owns the book? Ebooks are a challenging area for libraries. Licensing is a critical issue because ebooks are being marketed as if they were analogous to print purchases. They most definitely are not. They can be available one day and gone the next.
Although OverDrive [www.overdrive.com] publicity says patrons will “download” if a library “buys” a book, in fact, the download is a temporary file, disappearing from the patron’s collection when the due date is over. In the electronic world, only the copyright owner can definitively “sell” a book. Others have rights negotiated with publishers which may not include “permanent” sales. As one commenter has said: “Vendors’ marketing materials often use language that implies ownership of content; and as libraries feel continued pressure to add third-party e-content services, they are signing contracts without appreciating the long-term consequences.” (See Matt Weaver, “The Language of the Deal” [http://libraryrenewal.org/2011/07/11/the-language-of-the-deal], accessed Sept. 26, 2011.)
Acquisition processes and decisions take an inordinate amount of time whether ebooks are treated individually or in mass purchases. Platform differences, printing, and downloading restrictions are critical to clarify. Bibliographic records need to be identified and modified. And the licenses for each different platform and sometimes for individual books must be negotiated.
There are often limitations to what can be done to an ebook. Some systems do not permit printing of any content, with simple cut-and-paste often disabled. The ebook is often burdened by DRM software. As currently provided, most ebook systems do not meet the long-term requirements of many libraries and their users for access, pricing, utility, and preservation. At the University of Illinois–Urbana-Champaign, Wendy Shelburne, electronic resources librarian, is not accepting purchase of ebooks unless the library receives archival rights. More libraries need to be specific about what rights are being purchased when ebooks are being acquired.
If the reseller’s system determines who can use the material and how, DRM software and circulation restrictions might end up recording individual user information. That most basic of responsibilities of libraries, to protect patron-specific information on usage of library materials, might not survive in the ebook era.
A key requirement for resellers is often one book, one registered user, enforced by auditable requirements in some licenses. Resellers must maintain records to prove that this is what is happening as well as to prove compliance with other DRM mandates. OverDrive has notified libraries that publishers want to limit “geographic and territorial rights for digital book lending, as well as to review and audit policies regarding an eBook borrower’s relationship to the library (i.e. customer lives, works, attends school in service area, etc.)” ([http://librarianbyday.net/2011/02/25/publishing-industry-forces-overdrive-and-other-library-ebook-vendors-to-take-a-giant-step-back], accessed Sept. 26, 2011). If resellers maintain the record, publishers and others could audit performance of such restrictions. Even with these types of issues appearing in contracts, Macmillan and Simon & Schuster have not agreed to sell or lease their ebooks to libraries.
Amazon’s new announcement concerning public libraries, the Kindle and OverDrive, makes the link of the library reader to the content explicit. If the library user wants to buy the book later, their annotations from the original “read” of the library “copy” are available in their accounts. One of the principles of contemporary librarianship has been the commitment to de-link patron and title information once a borrowing transaction is complete. With OverDrive and Amazon, this principle, designed to protect confidentiality, becomes moot for their ebooks.
OverDrive’s instructions are specific:
Click the ‘Get for Kindle’ button. This opens the Amazon.com website. You may be required to sign in with your Amazon.com account if you are not already logged in.
And the resultant accounts obviously link:
Patrons checking out Kindle books will be able to use Amazon’s Whispersync technology so that they can highlight and add margin notes to Kindle books they check out. The notes will not show up when the next patron checks out the book. But if the patron checks out the book again, or subsequently buys it, the notes will be there.
–Michael Kelley, “Amazon and OverDrive Roll Out Kindle Books to Libraries” ( Library Journal Newsletter [www.libraryjournal.com/lj/newsletters/newsletterbucketacademicnewswire/892118-440/amazon_and_overdrive_roll_out.html.csp], accessed Sept. 23, 2011.
At the 2000 Charleston Conference, Bob Molyneux said: “We now have the potential to lose more of the intellectual output of the human race than has been lost since the beginning of written history” (The Charleston Advisor , April 2001, p. 55 [https://escholar.uncc.edu/dspace/bitstream/2029/41/1/aap.pdf], accessed July 5, 2011).
Preservation should be an overriding concern that publishers and librarians and other cultural institutions share in the development and/or deployment of ebook ecosystems. Fear of not getting the last bit of income seems the primary goal for systems development today. But there are other issues just as pressing as income streams.
The problem, mostly unaddressed, of long-term retention of electronic books, is critical. It is not acceptable for the publisher or aggregator to also be the “guarantor” of the long-term security of the same files it provides to libraries. Splitting the “archive” off from the “current” offer while using the same distribution and IT resources is not archival retention; it is betting that the whole system won’t go under. Archiving is best handled by entrusting it to institutions that have the survival of intellectual content as one of their core purposes. There is little evidence of archival concerns from the ebook publishing industry overall.
The digitization of books worldwide should depend not only on publisher archives, but on library archives. This should be a primary lesson. Publishers don’t preserve long-term (except in rare instances), libraries preserve our intellectual patrimony. Do we need legislation to mandate multiple libraries as official repositories of our collective intellectual property specifically to protect and preserve the tsunami of electronic-based IP? Do we need libraries or specially created organizations to develop and fund their own ebook archival systems? Are CLOCKSS/LOCKSS and Portico, two primarily library-centric organizations, enough? Instead of the hodgepodge of aggregators who may have partial rights to protect the content they are leasing and providing to libraries for the long-term, we may need newly created cooperatives to develop ebook systems that provide perpetual rights and are not at the mercy of provider idiosyncrasies. If not, are we reduced to concluding the only preservation for long-term use is analog due to current industry practices? Print it out or lose it?
UPCC, the Project Muse consortium for scholarly press ebooks, has announced archiving rights and perpetual access for its collection of University Press titles, a welcome development. UPCC will also provide chapter level linking. Duke University Press also has archiving as well as chapter level reserves. (See the UPCC policy at http://muse.jhu.edu/about/archiving.html.)
MetaArchive [www.metaarchive.org], which describes itself as the “first private digital preservation network,” may be an appropriate direction for curation of digital content; it is a cooperative and a “secure and cost-effective repository that provides for the long-term care of digital materials” created by its members [www.metaarchive.org/the-cooperative].
UC Libraries Academic E-Book Usage Survey; Springer e-Book Pilot Project [www.cdlib.org/services/uxdesign/docs/2011/academic_ebook_usage_survey.pdf], accessed July 7, 2011.
For further discussion of DRM issues and library use, see Jason S. Price, “Patron-Driven Acquisition of Publisher-Hosted Content: Bypassing DRM,” Against the Grain , Vol. 23, No. 3 (June 2011): 16, 18, 20. Also available as Jason S. Price, “Patron-Driven Acquisition of Publisher-Hosted Content: Bypassing DRM” (2011). Library Staff Scholarship Paper 2 [http://scholarship.claremont.edu/library_staff/2], accessed July 8, 2011.
For multiple perspectives that present the current status of ebooks, see this article in the quarterly issue of NSIO’s ISQ journal: October Ivins. “Views of the E-Book Renaissance,” Information Standards Quarterly , 2011 Spring 23(2):3 [www.niso.org/publications/isq/2011/v23no2], accessed Nov. 4, 2011.
(Source: email@example.com – 31 January 2012;
Charles Hamaker. Ebooks on Fire - Controversies Surrounding Ebooks in Libraries)
The harmonisation of Australian work health and safety legislation means that volunteers and others in every workplace across Australia will be protected in a consistent way. This protection has been called for and welcomed.
There has been some adverse publicity in the print media around these changes and some volunteers have expressed concern.
More information about the Work Health and Safety (WHS) Act can be obtained from Volunteering Australia, Workplace Health and Safety Queensland
‘Budget cuts of around $4 million to the Federal heritage division have effectively put national heritage assessments on hold, swamping staff with paperwork and a backlog of 27 assessments.
Heritage division assistant secretary, Paul Murphy told a Senate estimates this morning the backlog included ‘‘complex assessments’’ for heritage listing of the Tarkine wilderness in north-west Tasmania, Cape York and Canberra.
But the number of heritage assessments on hold - and likely to lapse - is potentially much higher. Mr Murphy said there were currently 27 assessments ‘‘on staff workplans’’ from previous years, with budget and staff cuts forcing the division to reduce efforts in areas such as assessing listings for historic buildings and World Heritage nominations.
Mr Murphy said the number of heritage nominations being assessed had been reduced, and nine jobs had been cut in the past six months. The division is also looking at the possibility of outsourcing heritage assessments to external consultants.
Mr Murphy said the division had reduced assessment efforts ‘‘in international areas’’, as Australia was no longer a member of the World Heritage committee.
Asked if the division had provided advice to Federal environment and heritage minister Tony Burke on an emergency heritage listing for the Cape York peninsula in northern Australia, Mr Murphy said ‘‘no time frame’’ could be given for when advice would be provided. He could also not say when a decision on the Cape York emergency listing would be made.
‘‘It may well happen this year,’’ he said.'
(Source: ‘Cuts cause heritage assessment hold’ by Rosslyn Beeby, Science and Environment Reporter, Canberra Times 14 February 2012
Senate Estimates Committee – 14 February 2012)
On 2 February 2012 the Queensland Union movement celebrated the Brisbane General Strike of 1912 with a rally in King George Square Brisbane and Family Day at the Ferny Grove Tram Museum. A history of the Tramway Company manager, Badger, and the strike has been written by railway historian, David Burke of New South Wales. A general history is provided on the website of the Queensland Council of Unions.
The High Court of the United Kingdom has determined that the Wedgwood Museum should be sold in order to contribute towards payment of the company’s debt of £134 million (AUD$197 million). The court ruled that the museum’s trust is liable for the debt of a pension fund of the Waterford Wedgwood Company and its 7,000 members. The UN heritage Committee is opposed to the sale. UNESCO placed the museum on its UK Memory of the World Register.
(Source: Australian Financial Review 7 February 2012 p.19 quoting Telegraph)