Jason Griffey is head of Library Information Technology at the University of Tennessee. He has an article in the Library Journal that is worth looking at. Here’s an excerpt:
Treating the digital like the physical is insanity of the highest order. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: publishers that restrict content in an attempt to control it in the same way as they can control a print book are fighting a losing battle.
A misfit between models
On the one hand, I believe that publishers and authors will, in the digital age, benefit from freely sharing information and that DRM and other protection mechanisms are crazy. On the other, I have argued on behalf of libraries that ebooks and other digital content deserve the same First Sale rights that physical purchases have—we should be able to loan them in the same way, use them to fill interlibrary loan requests, and more. But that expectation makes me guilty of exactly the same category of mistakes for which I have called out publishers: confusing the digital world of information with the physical world of print.
How does the digital distribution model break our existing print-based models? The first, and most obvious, is the DRM-driven limitations placed on digital media that mimic the physical. Limitations on number of checkouts is one of these; digital information is infinitely reproducible at effectively zero cost. Why should anyone have to wait on a digital copy? The answer is that they shouldn’t.
The second is that when you divorce the content from the container (a refrain I’ve used a lot in the last year), libraries are often ill equipped to deliver the content in device-neutral ways. Again, this is almost entirely because of the necessity of the existing economic structures of the producers of the information. Publishers desire to keep making money, so they impose limits via digital lockboxes that prevent true content portability.
The only way that I can see to resolve these mismatched views is to consider the idea that the First Sale principle doesn’t apply to ebooks and other digital content. Maybe this is the fact: information in the digital age is such a different beast than in the print age that we not only shouldn’t draw analogies but we actually can’t.
Thanks to Ed Klopek for the tip.