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« And they want to ATTRACT members? | Main | Before we take the e-book plunge »

Before we take the e-book plunge - redux

Just after finishing yesterday's post I encountered this terrific report: Digital Books and Your Rights: A Checklist for Readers by the Electronic Freedom Foundation.

The report raises a couple questions that I am ashamed, as a card carrying member of ALA, that I did not think to ask:

  • Does the service protect your privacy by limiting tracking of you and your reading? ...
  • Is the service censorship resistant?

Both of these questions have significant library/school counterparts and may be more important than the ones I asked yesterday:

  1. Will your e-book service protect the privacy of your students and staff? Good librarians have always been diligent about protecting the privacy of their patrons. I would expect the same privacy to extend to users of electronic materials. I have no issue with collecting aggregated data on usage, but we don't want to be able to track individuals reading records.
  2. If you "selling" a collection of e-books, who is doing the choosing and how are you dealing with "banned books," a multiplicity of viewpoints on topics, and controversial topics? Will these collections be bland for the same reason textbooks are bland (your content can't anger nut cases on the left or right of the political spectrum: See "Foiling the Language Police").

I need to give more thought to intellectual freedom issues surrounding e-books in libraries. Read the EFF report. It's a great starter!

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Reader Comments (3)

I was asked to look into e-books for our district for an admin meeting recently. The basic question was whether or not we can save money by using them. My quick look did not reveal a lot about budgets, but raised several unsettling questions about curriculum and how we teach.

Doug made a different assumption about their definition than I did. While Doug's concern about formats and readers are very valid, the question is really much bigger than that. It actually turns out that ebooks are included with many of our current text book purchases. In this case ebooks are accessed via the web - no special format or reader required - just access to the web. Once looking at an ebook on the web, it quickly becomes apparent its not much of stretch to creating a complete on line interactive class. Compared to using the same book for 6 years or more, the on line model makes much more educational sense. But it also really challenges our current teaching model - following a text book, perhaps with occasional work book updates.

It is possible with some publishers to buy ebooks only for about 20% less than the paper book. That would save some funds by purchasing a classroom set of books with some loaners. Otherwise access would be over the internet. But the larger question remains - do traditional books continue to make sense?

February 18, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterChip Treen

These are great questions to consider. Our (medium-sized university) library has e-books that supplement our physical books, and they are basically accessed via computer. Our subscriptions include Books 24x7, e-brary, NetLibrary. I think at the college level, this kind of access is ok for the types of books in the e-book collection--mostly business reference books, IT reference books--books that most students will want to get specific information out of, not read cover to cover. However, we have serious space issues and our director is interested in increasing our e-book holdings (including the idea of introducing a few Kindles to the collection) and I think these points are great to raise before moving forward.

February 18, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterLibby

Hi Chip,

And it may well be that e-books get a foothold in schools via e-text books and supplemental materials rather than the library.

How are you addressing some kids not having Internet access which would preclude access to textbooks/e--books too?

All the best,


Hi Libby,

I see reference materials as being a very practical use of e-books, especially for older users. I am struggling more with long narrative works that can't all be absorbed at the computer workstation.

I'd be interested to hear how your Kindle experiment works out. I just can't figure out how the economic model would work.


February 19, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterDoug Johnson

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