Ahh, 2014 has finally arrived. A lot of people got really excited when it began, so they must know something I don’t about how exciting the year is going to be.
Unsurprisingly, the director of the Office of Information Technology Policy for the American Library Association (ALAOITPLOL) is “optimistic about libraries and ebooks for 2014.” He probably has to professionally optimistic, so I’m not sure that should count.
A VP for an independent ebook publishing platform has “a vision of the future that brings bookstores to every town and invigorates libraries.” You can probably guess what that vision is. “In this vision, libraries of the future are our local bookstores. I see a future where libraries let people borrow digital books—or buy them.” Lordy.
What should we make of all this optimism and vision?
If the goal is merely to make ebooks available through public libraries, then 2014 might indeed be the turning point, the year the publishers finally realized they could make libraries pay through the nose for unnecessarily stunted technology.
The Big 5 publishers will all be “selling” ebooks to libraries for extravagant prices while seriously restricting access to the content to one user at a time. What publisher wouldn’t want that deal?
Looking at it objectively, what librarian could seriously approve of that deal?
Oh well, at least libraries can become bookstores. You see, bookstores have been disappearing from communities. But libraries can replace them…somehow.
Libraries already have plenty of print books, so the key is making libraries a hub for selling ebooks, says the VP of an ebook publisher. Huh?
Can’t we just buy ebooks online? Isn’t that kind of the point? Avid readers with eclectic tastes were never satisfied with most independent bookstores anyway, unless we’re talking stores like the Strand Bookstore or something. We go online because it’s easy to find books, so why would we go to libraries for that?
Because, supposedly, “human interaction and the advice of knowing readers are vital to vibrant reading communities.” I guess.
I sort of figure that lots of readers have more in their reading list than they’ll ever get to, so they don’t need knowing readers. Everyone else can probably rely on the recommendations from Amazon or Goodreads.
A bigger question is would librarians want to become booksellers. Isn’t that the sort of job that people earn library degrees to stop doing?
On the other hand, loaning and selling independent ebooks might be the best future if libraries ever decide to stop throwing good money after bad “buying” ebooks from the Big 5.