Monday 27 September 2010

The quiet mysteries of library ebooks

Reading a piece about second-hand ebooks, passed on to me by my new colleague Sebastian Davey at Swan Turton, I was reminded about an ad I’d seen on the train – about ebooks being available at my local library. So I went to see what was on offer. Here’s an extract from the FAQ:

How long can I keep them for? You can keep your chosen eBooks for two weeks.

Can I renew them after that time?
eBooks can't be renewed in the traditional sense. However, if no one else wants the books you can borrow them again at the end of your two-week loan period.

Will I get any fines if I am late in returning my eBooks?
No. You don't even have to return them. The file will simply become inactive after two weeks.

Will I be left with anything on my hard drive after my books have expired?
Yes, a file will remain which you will have to delete. We have written some simple instructions to help you to do this.
What a delight! No more library fines …

So how does PLR work with ebooks? After all, you aren’t really ‘borrowing’ the ebook – you never give it back. The file just becomes inactive. The library is giving you a sublicence that comes to an end. Not the same thing as borrowing a physical book. Well, it’s all in that section of the Digital Economy Act that hardly got a mention in the heated debates, section 43.

It amends the Public Lending Right Act 1979 to say that

“book” includes … a work, other than an audio-book, recorded in electronic form and consisting mainly of (or of any combination of) written or spoken words or still pictures (an “e-book”);

“lent out”—
(a) means made available to a member of the public for use away from library premises for a limited time, but
(b) does not include being communicated by means of electronic transmission to a place other than library premises,
I know the Digital Economy Bill went through in a bit of a rush, but what on earth does (b) mean? It sounds like you have to go into the library with your Kindle and download it there.


GrahamT said...

I suspect sub-para. B) was intended to prevent the inclusion of works obtained through document delivery services – which are mainly copies of chapters or articles but do occasionally include all the text of a short work or pamphlet. Although these days the majority of this type of material is provided electronically using Digital Rights Management, the main function of this process is to deliver a file that MUST to be printed out. Sub-para. A) covers the delivery of an e-book which must remain as an electronic file, even though it too is a DRM managed file.

Anonymous said...

For added fun, now you WILL have to physically go to the library to get an e-book... *sigh*