WILL UNWOUND #701: “iDiotic Thoughts from an Old Curmudgeon”March 8, 2012
One of the great things about getting old is that when you say something really stupid or do something really stupid…you have an excuse. It’s like that classic line that I got from my four year old granddaughter Sophia when I picked up her iPad and unintentionally shut off the cartoon that she was watching because I didn’t know what I was doing: “It’s too bad, Grampy, that when you were my age the internet was in black and white.”
It is with the impunity that comes with being social security eligible, therefore, that I pose the following question. This may sound incredibly stupid to you but why is the library profession making such a big fuss about being shut out of the ebook market by the big six publishing companies?
I truly don’t get it. How many libraries stream movies or music for patrons? My guess is very few. So why should we worry about streaming books? Yes, I know that more and more patrons are buying eReaders and I think that is cool. But by the same token more and more movie watchers and music listeners are consuming movies and music by downloading them from private companies to their portable devices. So why should the buyers of portable reading devices expect to be able to download their ebooks from public libraries? Why is this a library responsibility if we are not streaming movies and music? That’s my short term question.
My long term question may sound even more clueless but what the heck I’m 62: Why is it in the interest of libraries to aid and assist the evolving ebook revolution. Won’t ebooks put a lot of libraries out of business? If ebooks become the reading format of choice, why do you need local libraries? Do the words “Tower Records” ring a bell? How about “Blockbuster Videos?” Surely you remember “Borders Books” don’t you? If books cease to come out in glue and paper why would you need local libraries? Wouldn’t a few massive data centers located strategically around North America do the trick? Let the government pay for such a nationalized system and let the former patrons of libraries download their books from it?
Last question I promise: Do you find it as ironic as I do that many professional movers and shakers (the very people who openly rebel against the dreaded six words “We’ve always done it this way”) are now using those dreaded six words in their blogs to attack the publishing companies for not providing ebooks to libraries at fair prices and under fair conditions? With the recent Random House move to jack up library ebook prices, the blogger community is in a renewed state of revolt (remember all the angry words that were directed at Harper Collins last year). And their main line of reasoning? It’s terribly unfair that publishers are not playing by the old rules. Let’s go back to the way we’ve always done it. Boo hoo.
I don’t get it, but I’m old.