Wednesday Links: 4-7-10

Some news about books and ebooks from around the web:

  • Here is an article from the NYT about literature and cognitive science. Basically, it’s about how empathy relates to reading fiction, and how readers process interrelated or overlapping points of view. Or “what the scholars call levels of intentionality.” Read it.

Obligatory iPad and Amazon news—and lots of other stuff—after the break.
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Power-Mad Macmillan CEO Hates, Doesn’t Understand Libraries

On Wednesday, blogger Eric Hellman wrote this recap of an event at which Mamillan CEO John Sargent spoke (via). Sargent’s comments on libraries were quite distressing; he described borrowing library ebooks like this: “It’s like Netflix, but you don’t pay for it. How is that a good model for us?”

Yikes. Sargent’s anti-library-ebook argument is essentially that borrowing physical books from a library is a major drag, so people don’t do it so often. Borrowing ebooks is super easy, and that will bring the publishing industry to its knees.

Hellman, who actually asked Sargent the library question at the event, says this: “he has gaps in his knowledge of libraries.” I would put it in slightly stronger terms: it sounds like Sargent hasn’t borrowed a library book in 20 years, if ever.

Sargent doesn’t know about online card catalogs, which allow you to order physical books and have them waiting for you at the branch of your choosing. He thinks ten people reading a book will destroy it. He thinks anybody can get a card to any library in the country (in fact, you have to be at least a state resident, as I found out last year when I talked to Rachel Martin, a librarian at the Seattle Public Library). Basically, Sargent doesn’t know much about checking out books.

More troublingly, he seems to see libraries as foolhardy businesses that aren’t charging (and aren’t tithing out publishers) enough. Personally, I see free access to public libraries as a fundamental human right in an industrialized nation. It’s a sizable difference of opinion.

And I’m noticing something else: the more Sargent talks, the more dictatorial and greedy he sounds.
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On eBooks and Libraries: An Interview With a Librarian

Rachel Martin is a librarian in Technical and Collection Services at the Seattle Public Library; she coordinates the OverDrive digital catalog for the library. She was kind enough to answer a few questions about ebooks, libraries, and the OverDrive catalog, which allows libraries to lend ebooks, audiobook mp3s, and other digital media. You can check out the OverDrive collection at the Seattle Public Library here.

Chamber Four: Not all libraries are offering ebooks. How did SPL hear about OverDrive and decide to use it?

Rachel Martin: We were aware of OverDrive early on as they began promoting the service to public libraries. We were excited to offer a service to our users that provided both ebooks and digital audiobooks.

C4: Does the OverDrive service cost money? Does the library pay by ebook copy you make available, or all-inclusively for the service itself?

RM: Libraries pay a one-time upfront fee to get a customized website and to set up the service and then we pay a quarterly hosting and maintenance fee. We purchase each copy of a book that we make available to our patrons.

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