E-books in Libraries: Ryan’s Rant

Guest Blog by Ryan Patrick, OLA Store Coordinator

Thanks, Ryan, for sharing your idea with us!

Like many Canadians who have received electronic readers over the past year I have gone through the steps in setting up accounts, downloading apps, trouble shooting and jumping through the hoops to be able to download e-books from the library on to my reader. Well, trying to download e-books. Unfortunately most of the e-books at the public library are currently on loan and so I wait on the waiting list with others until the book I’ve requested becomes available – much as I would for a new book “in print”.

That’s when I think… this is crazy. In the world of cyberspace and the globalization of the Internet why am I limited to my municipality’s or city’s e-book selection. Why can’t I log on to any library system in Ontario, for that matter Canada, and download the book that I want? Why are municipal libraries using more and more of their funding to put into electronic resources to then turn around and say that they are only for their patrons and not for folks outside of their constituent boundaries? Why do we not let libraries do what they do best – serving patrons on a face to face basis in our local library? Why don’t we put our collective efforts into a lobby for the federal government to create an e-book lending service for all Canadians? Or at least start provincially – with an e-book lending service for all Ontarians? Local public libraries can continue to offer print books and e-readers, as well as programs and personal service.

Now I realize with the above model I still maybe on a waiting list for the book I am looking to download but I would imagine that I would receive it sooner and the potential of a virtual Nation library is something that should get us all excited. Think of benefits to patrons if we added a social layer, like Bibliocommons or similar, to the site, giving people the ability to interact with others reading the same or similar books across the country and share thoughts and stories. I am sure publishers and authors would appreciate the statistics portion of the site; imagine knowing how many people in Canada checked out your e-book!

In this political age of downloading services- and digital age of potentially equitable services – isn’t e-book lending something we need to push back up to the provincial or federal levels — to give a “level” e-reading playing field for all Ontarians or Canadians?

One thought on “E-books in Libraries: Ryan’s Rant

  1. Rich Wiggins

    Way back in the early days of the Web, I served on the board of the Michigan Electronic Library, or MEL. The proposal on the table was to have a way for citizens to easily access content licensed by the Library of Michigan for them. Representatives of local public libraries wanted people to get a library card from the local library, and use their assigned user number to subscribe. They wanted to capture statewide users as local customers. I suggested we use the Michigan driver license number. Eventually after much wrangling, that came to pass. The governor took credit. The state librarian gave it to him. And the local library 5 minutes from my home belongs to an array of consortia each demanding a different version of my library patron ID. Let’s face it: libraries want to own their local patrons, and publishers want to control e-book distribution. In the long, long run, the local library wants to be the middleman, and it is a losing proposition. No one in this scenario cares about readers and reading. It’s turf.

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