Category Archives: access

whose ebooks?

I have been a proud Kindle owner since July 2008 (yes, my first generation Kindle is still going strong), so while I don’t borrow ebooks from the library, I’m a big supporter of ebooks in general.  I can’t ignore the discussion of HarperCollins’ ridiculous new ebook policies that has taken over the library blogosphere and Twitterverse.  If you haven’t read up on it yet, check out Bobbi Newman’s blog post which sums up the issues well and links to many other blog posts and articles on the subject.

What’s most concerning to me is that HarperCollins may be targeting libraries and library patrons today, but will their plan of attack hit ebook owners in the future?  The thought is horrifying.  Hopefully the collective response against HarperCollins will show other publishers that this strict route is not a good move.

Below is the eBook User’s Bill of Rights, drafted by Sarah Houghton-Jan and Andy Woodworth (I think).

The eBook User’s Bill of Rights is a statement of the basic freedoms that should be granted to all eBook users.

The eBook User’s Bill of Rights

Every eBook user should have the following rights:

  • the right to use eBooks under guidelines that favor access over proprietary limitations
  • the right to access eBooks on any technological platform, including the hardware and software the user chooses
  • the right to annotate, quote passages, print, and share eBook content within the spirit of fair use and copyright
  • the right of the first-sale doctrine extended to digital content, allowing the eBook owner the right to retain, archive, share, and re-sell purchased eBooks

I believe in the free market of information and ideas.

I believe that authors, writers, and publishers can flourish when their works are readily available on the widest range of media. I believe that authors, writers, and publishers can thrive when readers are given the maximum amount of freedom to access, annotate, and share with other readers, helping this content find new audiences and markets. I believe that eBook purchasers should enjoy the rights of the first-sale doctrine because eBooks are part of the greater cultural cornerstone of literacy, education, and information access.

Digital Rights Management (DRM), like a tariff, acts as a mechanism to inhibit this free exchange of ideas, literature, and information. Likewise, the current licensing arrangements mean that readers never possess ultimate control over their own personal reading material. These are not acceptable conditions for eBooks.

I am a reader. As a customer, I am entitled to be treated with respect and not as a potential criminal. As a consumer, I am entitled to make my own decisions about the eBooks that I buy or borrow.

I am concerned about the future of access to literature and information in eBooks.  I ask readers, authors, publishers, retailers, librarians, software developers, and device manufacturers to support these eBook users’ rights.

These rights are yours.  Now it is your turn to take a stand.  To help spread the word, copy this entire post, add your own comments, remix it, and distribute it to others.  Blog it, Tweet it (#ebookrights), Facebook it, email it, and post it on a telephone pole.

To the extent possible under law, the person who associated CC0 with this work has waived all copyright and related or neighboring rights to this work.

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Posted by on February 28, 2011 in access, ebooks



say yes to less

This week I finally got around to reading the January 2011 issue of Library Journal.  I really enjoyed Aaron Schmidt’s article “The Benefits of Less,” which discusses how library websites try to do too much.  The basic premise is that more content requires more decision-making and time, while also complicating the website experience for users.  Libraries should instead skim down their websites to only the most important and frequently used pages.

I couldn’t agree more.  Although I’m the type of person who will scour a website or search engine to find the answer to my question (only if the answer doesn’t exist online will I contact a human being), I don’t think that’s the route most people take.  My experience staffing IM reference and the circulation desk has shown me that the most frequently asked questions have answers available on our library website — but the homepage is so packed, no one wants to click through all the links to find where the answer is hiding.  I feel the same way about most websites in general.  There’s just too much.

Additionally, managing less content will probably lead to better quality.  This quote in particular resonated with me:

It sounds simple, but the more things a library tries to do, the less attention it can devote to any one thing. Without the attention they deserve, web content and services can’t be as effective as they should be.

I guess it ultimately boils down to — do you want to do a lot of things that are only average, or do only a few things that are really awesome?  I prefer awesome.

I should really apply this advice to my life.

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Posted by on February 2, 2011 in access



the blurry line between private and public: what do we have a right to know?

This question is one I’m constantly thinking about, so I suspect this post will only be “part one.”  Last semester I wrote a research paper examining different cultural values of knowledge sharing and the impact of open access on cultural materials, specifically Native American archives.  And the question came up once again after reading this Boston Globe article on restricted Robert F. Kennedy papers and this response by Representative John Tierney.  I also often think about this question because our society seems to have an obsession with speculating about the private lives of celebrities, as well as trying to learn everything about secret societies (and scientology).  What information does the public have a right to know?

I completely understand the argument for opening access to the RFK papers because I’m a huge advocate of government transparency (I’m not very trusting when it comes to big institutions like the government and massive corporations).  I do believe that open access to government information is the foundation for a strong democracy, but how does knowledge of people’s private lives or cultural rituals promote democracy?  Or rather, is not knowing personal details damaging in some way?  Sure, I may be curious occasionally (or often) about who is dating who and what they were wearing on the street, but I don’t believe I have any sort of right to know.  When it comes to public officials, I think I ultimately only care about their character and integrity — and lying or misleading the public about their personal lives and beliefs can certainly affect my opinion, leaving their personal lives in a swampy grey area.

In my research paper from last semester, I argued that open access is not always in the interest of the public good, nor is restriction of access always in conflict with the values of information science.  Because access is not a simple issue, archivists must become familiar with different cultural perspectives on information, privacy, and knowledge sharing.  We need to be aware of what things can be considered culturally sensitive, even if we don’t necessarily follow guidelines such as the Protocols for Native American Archival Materials.  Archivists are certainly not alone in facing these issues but can learn from and work with other professionals who critically examine similar questions, especially anthropologists and sociologists.

Another story to add to this discussion concerns Franz Kafka’s papers.  Kafka burned most of his work during his lifetime.  When he died, he left his papers (manuscripts, diaries, correspondence, sketches) to a close friend — and asked that the material be burned unread.  This request was ignored and resulted in the publication of The Trial, The Castle, and Amerika.  Did Kafka’s friend do him a favor, or should it be considered a betrayal?  Currently, his papers are trapped in a legal battle.

This posts asks many complicated questions, and I know they’re not easy to answer — but they’re all important ideas to explore.

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Posted by on January 25, 2011 in access, archives, privacy


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