We have here what is sometimes known as a wicked problem.
On the one side, communities would like to be able to pool the resources of their members to acquire digital content that may then be shared and consumed by everyone in that community.
On the other, content creators and publishers would like to maximize their revenue from the content they produce and distribute.
Libraries want to pay the least amount possible but still have the maximum rights to share it among their communities.
Publishers want to make sure every possible reading transaction is monetized, so as a result want to minimize the sharing rights of the people and organizations they sell their content to.
I don't know the answer to this question but I was hoping that the accumulated wisdom of the masses of my readers might have some good ideas and share them in the
What is the most fair library/publisher ebook business model or set of business models for mass market, non-academic books?
Some further reading, both posts by others that have inspired this post and some of my own previous ramblings:
- Publishers hate you. You should hate them back. (My main inspiration for this post.)
- We will measure our loss
- Libraries and the Commodification of Culture
- An ebook plan by Iris Jastram and Steve Lawson
- Penguin ebooks & The Research Works Act: Publishers gain, communities lose
- Around the Web: HarperCollins library ebook linkdump apocalypse (#hcod 'r us) (Updated!)
- Towards a library ebook business model that makes sense
- The eBook Users' Bill of Rights
If the first-sale analogue people (Lawson, Jastram, LaRue, ...) have been arguing/working for was established as a digital principle, it would be a coherent baseline. Libraries wouldn't necessarily love the limitations and would look for more innovative deals; publishers would want to offer solutions / licenses that could make them more dough; but there would be a this-is-what's-basically-fair consensus, to guide everybody. Since popular books don't hold the same relationship to libraries that academic journals do (ie, large volumes of people actually buy them for personal consumption), there wouldn't be an out-of-control growth/price-increase spiral like with the serials crisis... because it would still be reasonable for plenty of people *not* to participate in such deals.
So far, I think the Colorado model (LaRue, Lawson, Jastram et al) is the fairest. I think it might even work for independent publishers, those tens of thousands of companies who really care about books and who I regard as a big part of the desirable futures of book publishing.
It may well be that the only way it can work is by assigning the idea of copyright to the dustbin we laid the Feudal system and Slavery in.
What's the point of a book published when you don't want the public to read it?
The only surefire way of ensuring a digital copy is only treated like a scarce and singular uncopyable work would be an imposition of a nanny on every eyeball and in every brain.
Not worth it.
Copyright is an agreement and this isn't an agreement, it's fiat decree.
So lets chuck it away like we did with the other ideas that stopped working.
Or keep with it and accept that it is mostly unenforceable in a digital age as long as nobody is making a business of it, where you have at least a chance (and a reason) to stamp out (in the case of people buying rippoff copies, they'd have spent the ticket prices on the original, hence an actual loss is proven).