ATG Article of the Week: Ebooks in 2013: Promises Broken, Promises Kept, and Faustian Bargains

Ebooks in 2013: Promises Broken, Promises Kept, and Faustian Bargains”  is an article by Clifford Lynch Coalition for Networked Information executive director.  It appears in the latest American Libraries digital supplement, Digital Content: What’s Next?  and provides an insightful and provocative critique of the current world of ebooks that you won’t want to miss. 

Never shy in expressing his opinions, Mr Lynch acknowledges the enthusiasm that greeted ebooks initially but claims that they have “failed to deliver on on much of their promise” and “have become a vast lost opportunity.”  He points the finger at rights holders. He argues that due to concerns from both publishers and authors there are too many complexities and restrictions limiting the full potential of ebooks.  Issues ranging from legal struggles over pricing to digital rights management constraints to “smoldering discomfort” over privacy and data collection all come into play. 

However, he reserves his most pointed criticism for the unfulfilled promise of libraries circulating ebooks to their patrons.  He notes that while much was expected “the reality has been appalling.”  A viable model of library ebooks acquisition and circulation has fail to materialize and he worries that “the current situation… puts the library’s long term ability to carry out is mission at the mercy of publishers.” 

Mr Lynch also addresses broader societal concerns focusing on issues of ownership, permanence, and preservation as barriers to ebooks ever truly replacing print as “a long lived and reliable means of preserving and transferring knowledge.”  He then goes on to finish by discussing what he considers “the coming crisis.”  

But rather than ruin the ending for you, we’re going to let you read the article yourself.  It’s another one of those instances where you’ll be glad you did!


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