OThis week (and possibly at secret locations), top officers and officials from ALA meet with publishing companies Simon & Schuster, Macmillan, Penguin, and Random House publishers in New York City. The announcement of these meetings has moved me to a place of cautious cynicism. As much as I had previously hoped for publishers to meet with the library community, I’m sketchy as to the possible results and benefits from these gatherings. The ALA’s list of demands starts off with a demand for publishers to listen to their demands and (I love this part) “deal with libraries and […] do this as soon as possible”. I’m unsure as to the origin of this Jack Bauer sense of urgency; libraries have already missed the eBook train. (And by missed, I mean “kept off of it”.) While some might see this as a time for catching up, I’d be more interested in what it would take to catch up as well as the terms associated. More than likely, if current eBook licensing arrangements are any indication, it could have the makings of a pill that is too bitter to swallow.
Publishers, for their part, aren’t in much of a better talking position. If they are counting on brick-and-mortar stores like Barnes and Noble to be their saviors, then libraries are a natural second choice for physical locations that supply books to a population. But, since we lend materials (and lending is a codeword for “lost sale”, no matter if a person patiently waits three months to read a book), this presents a unusual hesitance for allowing the lending eBooks to libraries. Coupled with the fact that they have “new concerns about the security of our digital editions”, this might be a starting stalemate for any meetings.
Personally, I would *love* to hear any and all explanations given to this latter point. So, a person who downloads an eBook directly from Amazon or Barnes & Nobles is not a threat, but someone who is required to installs Adobe Digital Editions, make an account with Adobe, then use their library card through the library’s website is a threat? How different is the file in these cases that makes one a problem and the other not?
Simply put, this won’t be a “Come to Jesus” moment for publishers nor will it be a breakthrough for less restrictive library eBook lending. I’d like to imagine that these meetings would be productive, but I think that the only thing they will produce are press releases about their productivity.