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Giving The Reader Their Due

March 7th, 2011 by · 2 Comments · opinion

With the tidal wave of talk about eBooks this past week, there has been a good amount of writing about the reader and how these changes would affect them from the vantage of the library. However, I haven’t seen much actual talk to a reader regarding these changes. It’s been in the background of my thoughts since I believe that neither the publisher nor libraries but readers have the larger controlling stake in this discussion. They are the ones who will dictate the market to the rest of us. Libraries will just follow along as they always have.

But in thinking about eBook piracy, DRM, and format, I think that readers have already started the shift when it comes to those aspects. It reminds me of the quote from John Gilmore:

The Net interprets censorship as damage and routes around it.

While this is not a censorship issue, it does share a basic “why can’t I get to my content” aspect. And with the readily available tools that people create to allow them to remove DRM, to convert eBooks into formats they can use on their eReaders, and to share with friends (out of genuine good intent), I think readers are already making themselves known what they think the standard of care and handling should be when it comes to eBooks. While libraries cannot follow them entirely on this path, it indicates to me that the care and interest for books and their availability is a shared concern. So, that leaves me with some questions.

Are we giving readers enough credit in this eBook debate? What is their role in all of this? Will they be able to do what we cannot?

reposted with permission from Agnostic Maybe

image via Flickr

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2 Comments so far ↓

  • Perry

    Good point. I think these types of industry discussions tend to forget that the book is written for the reader.

  • monopole

    It reminds me of a story related to Xerox Palo Alto Research Center (PARC). PARC had essentially developed the Altos system a computer with mice, windows, ethernet and laser printers back in 1976 see this link for details:
    http://www.digibarn.com/collections/books/xerox-parc-1970-80/alto-article/
    Essentially they had created a system 10-20 years in the future.
    What happened?
    http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m1316/is_n5_v21/ai_7675535/
    When the PARC scientists proudly displayed a personal computer at a 1977 management conference, the wives of the Xerox executives were enthralled by the graphics, the mouse, and the color printers. But the men, who had little understanding of office automation and a macho aversion to typewriter keyboards, peered in a standoffish way and asked, `Oh, can it do that?’”

    The top executives in publishing and bookselling seem to be cut from the same cloth, seeing books, eBooks and eBook readers as somewhat unpleasant widgets to be marketed in the same fashion as breakfast cereal.

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