Crafty Space Invaders

The fervour stirred up by the HarperCollins eBook policy is pretty amazing, and well, sort of overwhelming. Just check out the #HCOD Twitter stream for an idea about how much there is to sift through.

I found at least one satirical luddite manifesto (beware Skynet!). I’ve never gone in much for Swiftian hyperbole, but they’re out there. For my part,  I prefer more irreverent, practical approaches. I like Boing Boing’s recent post showing how well HarperCollins print books hold up after 26 loans. 

Even though there’s so  much out there, this repsonse from Library Renewal’s blog resonated with me:

Sure, we can be outraged.  But that’s not going to help anybody, and it does not help our institutions, or our partners, to adapt to changing market conditions. If we want to continue to have access to commercial content, we need to go to the table and make deals with publishers, creators, and rightsholders who will work with us…

So what can we do, if not take our ball and go home? Start making the case… The case that libraries of all sizes must develop the technical and political infrastructure to negotiate for and host digital content on our terms.  The case that the publishing industry as it now stands could walk away from libraries en masse tomorrow and come out smelling like a rose… and that such a move may be inevitable as the squeeze continues… and the case that we can’t buy our way out of this problem, even if we had the money. We need to invent our way out of this problem, and adapt to changing market conditions with solutions that work for patrons, for libraries, and for creators.[full post]

Absolutely. It was a good thing to read when other releases like the one from Steve Potash (OverDrive CEO) were getting the high school radical in me totally riled up. Potash concluded his post this way:

…We will protect your ability to make informed choices and we will work with you to set the direction and policies that serve your customers’ interests.[read the full message]

It’s basically caveat emptor, and since libraries are the buyers in this scenario, he’s telling us we should be wary. Not unexpected, it’s hardly what I wanted to hear from the rising-star intermediary between public libraries and licenced eBook content.

The ramifications, the solutions, even the breadth of what the HarperCollins/OverDrive problem is a lot to unravel. Add in that the economic and cultural inpact of eBooks is still in its infancy and no one really knows what will happen. All sides just know what they’d like to have happen.

For my part, I believe it will be through careful, timely consideration of the situation AND dedicated, direct action that librarians and their libraries will weather this. It’s not an issue that will be resolved in a few weeks. Even if HarperCollins changed their minds tomorrow, there will be other publishers looking to try something similar.

I think it’s going to be a long fight. But, if it’s one thing libraries can do is last.

Keep Calm and Read a Book