From the 1st of November 2011 and for one year initially a new e-book deal will make it possible for readers and lenders to borrow e-books from the Danish libraries, effectively eclipsing the previous one. The project is funded by the Office of Library and Media and partnering with them are among others the six central libraries in the country, Denmark’s largest publishing houses – Gyldendal and Lindhardt & Ringhof (and also Rosinante, an independent corporation within the Gyldendal-conglomerate) – and the distributors DBC and Publizon (the latter is owned by, drumroll please: Gyldendal and Lindhardt & Ringhof). (1)
As with paper books the lender gets the e-book on a 30-day loan and the e-book will be protected by DRM. The deal has been a long time coming, partly because the different participants had a hard time negotiating the pesky details, such as how much money the author’s and publishers would get per e-book download. And while it has received the seal of approval by the Danish Writer’s Association (DK: Dansk Forfatterforening, DFF), the deal has already conjured up quite a lot of criticism.
Who get’s to play?
One big aspect is the publishers: it is probably no surprise that the publishers involved in this deal are the hard-hitters of the business. Now, full disclosure, a great deal of publishers were asked to join in on the negotiations, many turned it down. These two publishers are effectively the only ones with enough power at the moment to sync money behind the project and simultaneously offer a vide array of titles which combined gives them pretty much the run of the place, publishing-wise. In a letter to an author, Gyldendal explains their reason for going into this partnership as such:
»E-books should be available where the reader is. But free reading via the libraries must at the same time not cannibalize the digital market we are in the process of establishing, where the author and publisher are dependent on the price of a book.« (2)
The fact that they are the only ones and so are representing the publishing area of the deal means they set the ground rules that other publishers will play by in later stages, not to the liking of said publishers. A deal of this magnitude, I feel, is something that should have been orchestrated at a level where governmental institutions were the initiators and deal-creators, to ensure that it doesn’t become about favoring one publishers demands over another, and also so that these publishers who are in on the deal can’t be held accountable for the points of the plan. Instead the management of the deal is done at a more local level – the previously mentioned six main libraries. And while it is true that Gyldendal and Lindhardt & Ringhof hold a majority of the titles that are being published in Denmark, they are not representative in nature of the Danish publishing industry. It therefore seems a bit off that they would call the shots in regards to what the lenders can or cannot lend at their local libraries. (3)
The money issue
Next up is the criticism that the loans will be to expensive for libraries – see article in Politiken about prices – although at DFF’s webpage it states that payment will be no more than that of a paper book with a calculation of approximately 40 loans per book. The Librarian Association does however think the model is too expensive.
The chairman of the Librarian Association, Pernille Drost, says to Bogmarkedet:
»The price is too high. The publishers justify the high price by saying that they don’t want to risk a drop in the purchase of paper books. But I think the high price means that many libraries will not have enough money to subscribe to the service, because the economy is just not there.« (4)
The setting of the price is done by a so-called staircase model, meaning the more the book is lent the lower the price of the book will be. Any and all books under 12 months start out with 18,50 DKK pr. lend pr. book. (5) It is then up to the libraries if they want to set limitations of number of loans pr. book, giving them the authority of decision locally. I would not feel comfortable proposing any other model at this point, but I do tend to see a great deal of critical points that will work rather excluding in regards to smaller and alternative publishers, and with the more and more diminishing chunk of money that goes to libraries I could see that local libraries would have no chance to offer their lenders the same service as other libraries. This last fact alone is very troubling to me, since the great tradition of public libraries is too important a service organ to be sucked into the power play of market wave-riding.
Looking with anticipation to future developments in this case.
(1): Toke Riis Ebbesen has written a very good entry about the news here (note: it is in Danish)
(2): The letter is in Danish and is available at DFF here.
(3): More on the deal by Søndag Aften here.
(4): Bogmarkedet interviews the chairman of the Librarian Association here.
(5): Angermann writes an entry calling for local deals in e-book lending – read it here.
As of yesterday I have completed my first year of MA in Comparative Literature! And luckily the semester ended on a high, so I am mighty pleased 🙂
I woke up at 5.20 am yesterday, and could have ripped my pillow to pieces because I wasn’t scheduled to give my presentation until 1.30 pm!! So I had to figure out a way of using up seven useless hours without succumbing to my compulsory need for changing the presentation, adding to it or chucking it in the bin. I was actually kind of proud of my study, but there is always the nagging little voice, “what if I just tweak this, or focus on that… did I explain this well enough or did I get it wrong???”
FINALLY the hour had come (well, as always with a ten minute delay), and I walk in the room where months of studying, reading, writing, thinking and theorizing will either pay off or swish out of my head. In my case the former won over the latter and I walked out of there with a rush I so love when it comes to studying and exams. It is a unique feeling – sometimes a bit anticlimactic, but when you get it right, you get it right!!
So I had a celebratory beer with my boyfriend, and got a bit tipsy as the combo between no breakfast and the adrenaline that had buzzed in my body for nearly 12 hours straight collided with the alcohol. 🙂
So, today is the first day of my summer vacation, and in honor of the buzz I am still on (something like DiCaprio’s ‘I’m the king of the world’ exclamation – complete with the absolutely ridiculous, and toe-cringing, woohoo) I will be embarking on a long list of postponed books, that for too long have yearned for my attention, yes babies momma’s comin’ 😀
I think I shall start with Karen Blixen’s ‘Seven Gothic Tales’, and then work my way through the books, at the rate and manner befitted of their station.
Oh, and I finished Frankenstein on the e-reader two days ago. I don’t really know what to say. I think the modern jaded consciousness will never be as shocked or thrilled as Mary Shelley’s contemporary readers would have been. It is a good read considering the philosophy behind it, but the style of language is too rigid and stilted for me to get behind the text and lose myself in the misery. ‘American Psycho’ on the other hand, now there is a different story!
Plus, I will not be investing in an e-reader of the sorts I tried out, sticking to my books for now. But I really want to try another e-reader, because I am sure that there is good in these things, if only for the sake of the trees…
I couldn’t keep my fingers out of the cookie jar, or rather the e-reader bag, after the post yesterday. I figured I had earned myself a treat since I, unwillingly and with no quarter, found myself locked inside my apartment for over a week writing papers and reading all there is to know about modern Chinese literature from a historical p.o.v. So I turned the reader on and selected ‘Frankenstein or the Modern Prometheus’ as my test-dummy. It is 576 pages long in this reader, and I managed to read about 75 pages before I fell asleep; glasses incessantly poking the corner of my eye, and with animal instinct firmly gripping the reader.
The experience I have had with an e-reader has so far been a bit ‘bleh’. Conservative as I am, I don’t associate the joy of reading with button-pushing, hard steel (or cheap plastic) covers and blinking screens imitating a page turn. And so many buttons to press. Oddly it seems more fast-paced to read a book on an e-reader than it is when reading the paper version. It is if the connotations of bigger (or smaller, since that now is a plus), faster and better associated with electronics these days translates onto my reading habits, whereas with the physical books I go through a whole other motion when reading. I guess it is a sensory thing, and all I have to do is redirect my synapses. I mean, I used to hate Parmesan cheese, but now I love it. How hard can it be to love an electronic device that, if you use logic instead of sentimentality, could save tons of forest from being cut down, just because I have to settle my fix of literary cravings? I should applaud the progress and efficiency.
I will say this in defense of the e-reader: usually when I fall asleep with a book in my hand I crease the cover, lose orientation regarding what page I am on, and I have even torn a page out due to disrespect of gravitational laws. But yesternight there was no such fret. When I woke up this morning, I was on the exact page I fell asleep at and there was no harm done to the cover.
Have you read a book or paper on an e-reader? What did you think?
A whopping 17 days since my last entry just shows how hard I have worked on my exams 🙂 And with this steaming weather it is an accomplishment in itself to lock oneself up inside.
But since I now only have to edit my 20+ pages paper on ‘Women and Sexuality in literature in China – from the 1920s to The Talks at the Yenan Forum on Literature and Art in 1942’ (please feel free to suggest a better title :)) before Monday, and read up on the 1000 pages for my oral exam in Strategic Communication on the 14th, I thought I could indulge myself with a little post.
1. For a little while now a little bag has lain on my sofa table that I brought home with me from my last library visit. But since I have been so occupied I have not dared look into it, because I know it would set everything else on pause. Inside the bag is an e-reader, an honest to god e-reader! Going from a person who thought it an offense to put books on audio, to getting exited about a leather-bound ‘fake’ book, I have now succumb to the electronic literary world. It is a Sony e-reader, Portable Reader System – PRS-505 (stupid name), and it is now loaded with 71 books, so I’ll have plenty of options once I get cracking on this baby.
The good thing is that after the 14th, me and my e-reader will be surgically fixed to each other; the bath, beach, bus, you name it, we’ll be there; together. The bad thing about the situation is that I only have it until the 26th of this month (stupid library regulations). I’m not really sure I will get any feel for e-readers in so short a period.
2. I have bought some new books (you don’t say! Shocker…). Which makes the total count of books I have scheduled to read in my summer vacation; drumroll please…. 32!
It will be interesting to see just how many books I can cram into my bags when going to the Faroes – 20 kg allowed on the plane, so if I shave everything else to a bare minimum, then maybe 10 books. Then again, I could take carry-on worth 5 kg, that’s easily 4 books + computer. All I know is that this is going to be the best vacation ever! Since there hardly ever is any kind of weather on the Faroes which would be appealing to anyone to spend a whole day out in, I can slump into my mother’s cozy red chair, guiltless for not getting my 30 min. of fresh air pr.day. All’s I need is some tea and the occasional food drive by.
So, anticipating nothing less than a rocking summer, me and my books wish you a happy weekend and a glorious summer vacation (for those where this is applicable, for the rest; huh? No summer vacation?)