E-Readers Change the Book World

by Helen Zhang, age 14

With the fast-growing trend of e-readers in stores and online, it stands to reason that libraries will follow suit. If other providers can scan books, why can’t libraries? Nevertheless, authors and publishers disagree.
According to a survey by the American Library Association, two-thirds of American libraries offered e-book loans in 2009. Libraries plan to increase the number of available e-books offered by scanning out-of-print books. As a result, over a million public domain books and several hundred books that are still covered by copyright, but are out of print, will be added.
Libraries are also increasing their supply of e-books by purchasing them from companies such as Overdrive Incorporations. The Internet Archive project, also known as Openlibrary.org, plans to add 70,000 books purchased by Overdrive Inc., to its library catalogs.  But it doesn’t stop there ⎯ the organization also intends to increase digital libraries beyond the contemporary books sold by Overdrive Inc.
To read these books, readers can download and read them for free on computers or e-reading devices. After the loan period ends, software makes the books inaccessible.
Openlibrary.org plans to limit e-checkout to one person at a time. That person will be loaned a digital copy of an in-copyright book for two weeks. During this period, the original book can’t be loaned, due to copyright restrictions.
This project has its fair share of critics. Copyright law is still unclear in the digital book world. Google Inc. has already faced many challenges from authors and publishers over its digital book project.
Paul Aiken, executive director of the Authors Guild and also one of the many who challenged Google, starts by saying, “it is not clear what the legal basis of distributing these authors’ work would be.” He then adds, “I am not clear why it should be any different because a book is out of print. The author’s copyright doesn’t diminish when a work is out of print.”
Thomas Blake, the digital projects manager at the Boston Public Library, one of the many participants of the project, disagrees. “Having to receive prior permission from a copyright owner to scan a book is onerous,” he said. ”If you own a physical copy of something, you should be able to loan it out. We don’t think we’re going to be disturbing the market value of these items.”
Some authors don’t mind seeing their works distributed in this way. One example is Stewart Brand, author of the 1988 book “The Media Lab,” one of the scanned books now available for loan. Mr. Brand, along with many others, thinks digitizing books has the potential to improve knowledge.
“I figure libraries are one of the major pillars of civilization, and in almost every case what librarians want is what they should get,” he adds.
Regardless of which side is correct, the argument over copyright issues about e-books continues today. As the growing trend of using e-readers demonstrates, it’s becoming more and more popular.
To learn more about e-readers, check out fellow Simpson Street Free Press reporter, Shah Hamadan’s article on e-readers.

[Sources: The Wall Street Journal; The New York Times]