Five Laws of Library Science (ebook edition)

On the heels of my post about ebooks and the library, I had a thought about the Five Laws of Library Science by Dr. S.R. Ranganathan. If I might be so bold, I’d like to suggest a ebook version to the Five Laws. So, here it goes.

1. Ebooks are for use.

People want to borrow ebooks; libraries want to lend ebooks . Stephen Abram’s latest blog post points out the current prevalence of ebook lending in libraries and their popularity. Ebooks are a viable lending material for libraries and a commodity that libraries should be adding to their collection (barring patron research that indicates otherwise).

2. Every reader his or her ebook.

At present, ebooks are subject to the whims of multiple interested parties. Libraries should be working towards lifting restrictions or limitations on access to content, be they coming from the publisher, author, copyright, or otherwise. In addition, we should be looking to securing ebook versions that are accessible to the hearing and sight impaired.

3. Every book, any ereader.

The ideal would be that any ereader would have the capability of reading any ebook regardless of the origin. While this is true with some devices currently on the market (such as the iPad), at present a person cannot pick up a Kindle can receive content from anywhere but the Amazon store. As libraries move forward, it should be advocating for ebook availability on any ereader device.

4. Save the time of the ereader patron.

At present, the average process for borrowing an ebook is an arduous task. There are many screens to click through, multiple boxes to enter patron information, and then (eventually) the task of downloading material (and possibly transferring it to another device). The platform for borrowing ebooks needs to be more in line with the interface of iTunes or Amazon: enter your library card number, browse the titles, select the titles that you want to borrow, and then an automated checkout.

5. The library is an evolving organism.

With the evolution of the library, there will be some things that work very well; those will be universally adopted. However, like species evolution, there will be a lot of things that don’t work: this is the process of trial-and-error at work. And, like most science experimentation, it will not be a clean process. In fact, I would say it will be fraught with failures, doubts, arguments over intent and theory, and all of the other joys that taking steps into a greater information future will entail. In the end, libraries will get to where they need to be in terms of lending ebooks.

In keeping these revised laws in mind, I hope this captures the spirit of the shared future of ebooks and libraries. I’d like to hear your thoughts on this revision or alternative laws or wordings.