ATG Article of the Week: The Hidden Costs of E-books at University Libraries

Peter C. Herman is a professor of English Literature at San Diego State University and he has a few things to say about The Hidden Costs of E-books at University Libraries in this article that recently appeared in the Times of San Diego.

Whebookile Professor Herman admits to a couple of pluses for eBooks over print like access and portability, he says that the main advantage of eBooks, at least, for libraries, is price.  He notes the reasonable costs associated with current eBook packages – at least on the surface.  But as he digs deeper, Professor Herman sees what are other, hidden costs.

He discusses familiar concerns about a less satisfying college reading experience with eBooks and goes on to note the fact that libraries do not actually own their eBooks quoting Clifford Lynch that “nobody buys an e-book: one licenses it under typically very complex terms that constrain what you are allowed to do with it.”  This leads Professor Herman to an examination of those constrains ranging from download limitations to restrictions on interlibrary loan to disappearing eBooks at the publisher’s discretion.

Professor Herman also makes the provocative claim that libraries, “lured by the initial low price and the promise of convenience,” have entered into a “Faustian deal” with providers.

Of course, you’ll need to read the article to get full force of his argument.  But, regardless of whether you agree or not, its worth the effort.   

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