E-book waiting queue?

Come to think of it, were libraries invented today, they would no doubt be classified as ‘orrible, ‘orrible illegal piracy and demonized up and down the main street. Books! For free! What about the authors? The poor authors, and their publishers and the publishers’ children with no shoes! Why, what a perverted thing!

Come to think of it, in such a world I would be a criminal since I now and then donate a copy of some good book to the local library. In that respect I’m a bit like that most terrible of all Internet criminals, He Who Distributeth Others’ Copyrighted Works For Free!

Which is strange because… er, how on Earth do you do a free-for-all library with e-books without those that want money for the books taking you and crucifying you upside down over the main entrance?

Do you have… what, an e-book that works for a month, then goes dead no matter how you shake your Kindle or Cybook? (And what stops you from making your reader live the same month over and over again? The most obvious and obnoxious solution would be that the reader would have to have a connection to ping the library for each page to see if you still got the book — somehow such an invasion of my reading space makes me retch. There oughta be privacy even in your electronics.)

And would it be (like some universities have) that such a book couldn’t be had in a working state by no more than (say) two people at the same time? And that the “library” then has given compensation to the publisher/author for (say) two copies? (Or, to pose a true library-killer of an alternative, that the library gives a (daily, monthly, yearly) payment to keep the book available — goodbye libraries if that’s the way! Libraries work because a book, once you pay for it, can be read again and again without any additional cost.)

While that kind of a model sounds aggrevatingly stupid (“An e-book waiting list? What, faking a technical limit? Argh nurgle slaanesh yibb-tstll!”), it’s the only working way my poor and easily distracted brain can think up.

Well, short of all e-books being available for free, in libraries and otherwise, and the author (and his contracted proofreaders, editors and aestheticizers) getting paid by voluntary donations. That way pure e-bookshops would cease to be, and instead merge with libraries.

Would that then lead to authors paying librarians to stock their books… and maybe, nudge nudge, to recommend their books to reading-hungry customers looking for something good? Because it can’t be the reader that pays the librarians — if you have to pay to access, it isn’t a library, just a bookstore so shifty it won’t even let you keep what you pay for. And while I love bookstores, libraries are sacred.

But while I want to think that second model is possible, there’s this voice that whispers “you know people are bastards, don’t you?” — and I would believe that inner bastard o’ mine, if this voluntary model wasn’t somewhat bastard-resistant as long as there is a fraction of conscientious people in the mix: it doesn’t matter if a million readers don’t pay, if ten thousand will. Then again, such a system doesn’t seem so stable because (if there is nothing else) you can always get a bit more out of it by just being a bastard, reading and not paying; I’m not sure the sight of authors begging to get paid so they “don’t die of scurvy like that Canadian short-story writer” is a personal enough incentive to the average coin-jingler.

And too much open whining for money might even be counterproductive — it would all work if there was a culture of paying without being forced to, similar to how you just can’t walk away without a fiver or a twenty from those Yuletide schoolchildren offering a packaging service for your gifts outside the bookshop, for a donation of your choice; “nothing” isn’t a donation many would choose. Not repeat customers anyway. But that’s because you’re face to face, and though it is perverse “a class trip to France” sounds more needy that “lime juice, I really want to avoid scurvy!”

Well, it’s easy for me throw up things like this since I have nothing on the line.

3 Responses to “E-book waiting queue?”

  1. Bob O'H Says:

    Libraries work because a book, once you pay for it, can be read again and again without any additional cost.

    In the UK, at least, authors are paid when their books are taken out of the library. Not a great deal, but there is a cost.

  2. masksoferis Says:

    Bob: …and, after scratching my head for a while, then scratching the net for another, I discover that in 2006 a similar law (though apparently the author has to apply for it, and it’s not directly tied to the number of loans; a confusing grant kind of a mess) was passed in Finland. It seems the UK compensation is something like 5.57p per loan; but I couldn’t find any trace of the Finnish system beyond the 2006 law and the news-items about it.

    Then I ran into mentions of a Finnish net idea called Bookabooka that tried to be a forum for students to lend (for a bit of money) their course books to each other, with Bookabooka taking its piece from delivering the contact details. And the news items were (of course!) about this service running into serious (and apparently still unresolved) trouble with the copyright people in April, as the new and old laws apparently make this kind of service illegal, since by them lending things is something where the author (and the nefarious agencies representing such) can ask for compensation even after the first purchase. (The comments about this were, er, heated.)

    Dagnabbit, this I get from not watching the news sharply enough. How am I supposed to be an upright and law-abiding person when no-one tells me these things!

    (Oh, and for some mystery reason X the spam queue has been acting up; swallowed your comment for a while for no reason. Sorry.)

  3. masksoferis Says:

    …aaand immediately after that I follow one more link and see that the system I mentioned above (library-compensating grants to authors and translators that apply and are lucky with dice; given by shadowy organization(s) X, paid by agency Y which may or may not be the state; not tied to loan numbers but instead to something like 10% of the money libraries spent on acquiring books the last year) has apparently been in place since the Sixties, and the 2006 law was only some EU uniformization and tweak-extension of it. (And, not very surprisingly, educational and academical publications ain’t eligible. Go figure.)

    And now I shall spend the whole weekend thinking why the bleep I spent six years learning Swedish when the state could have done me a bit more good and taught me about its laws and structures instead.

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