News & Notes – 2/02/2012

February 2, 2013 public libraries, textbooks 2

Happy Groundhog Day! 

By D. Gordon E. Robertson (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 ( or GFDL (], via Wikimedia Commons
Do you suppose he’ll see his shadow this year?  I hope so; we haven’t had much winter around here this year (the last cold snap excepted), and I know the kids would like some decent snow.  (Me too, to be honest.)  But either way, I’d like a break from this now-it’s-cold, now-it’s-hot schizophrenic weather we’ve been having; it’s driving the plants crazy.  I saw daffodils blooming last week.  In January.  In Virginia, where they shouldn’t be blooming until late February or early March. 

I have a lot for you in this week’s News & Notes:

  Jane Litte over at Dear Author posted an interesting editorial asking, “Have Publishers Won the DRM Debate and Does It Matter?  (Not exactly, yet; and maybe.)   Her argument, in part, is that publishers and readers have come to a sort of uneasy truce, where publishers put the DRM on and savvy consumers take it off again.  The comments certainly bear the latter out.  Litte also argues that DRM “has done nothing to abate piracy; it has eroded value; and it has increased platform dependency,” and that even abandoning it won’t reverse those trends.  I’m still thinking about that.  It seems to me that abandoning DRM might help reverse platform dependency to some extent, or at least help publishers and non-Amazon e-reader and tablet makers compete with Amazon.  It would certainly be a boon to the non-tech-savvy readers who, as Litte points out, don’t realize that DRM is a problem until their ereader breaks and they buy a competing platform… or until the store they bought the book(s) from goes out of business or removes a book from the customer’s account.  Not everyone is comfortable enough with technology to install and use Calibre and its plug-ins.  Anyway, there’s some food for thought in Litte’s essay; go take a look.

While we’re on the subject of DRM, and by extension piracy, last week I missed an editorial on “Why Winning a $7,000 Piracy Lawsuit Could Be the Worst News Ever For Book Publishers.”  The author, John Paul Titlow (on ReadWrite Play), argues that using BitTorrent to promote content is a better model than suing people who download pirated books through it — as John Wiley and Sons did to a couple of New York residents recently.  (Apropos of which, if you download pirated ebooks via BitTorrent, be aware that the precedent has now been set, and you can and may be sued.)

Over on Salon, Laura Miller examines the recent Pew study on “Library Services In the Digital Age” and concludes that contrary to libraries’ policies over the last decade, one thing people want from their libraries is, well, quiet.  There are other interesting tidbits and statistics in the article, which is worth reading whether you are a librarian or a library patron. 

Good news for environmentalists: HarperCollins will no longer use paper associated with rainforest deforestation.  They are the last of the top ten publishers to adopt such a policy.  I hope overseas branches and foreign publishers will also adopt such a ban.  Rainforest depletion affects us all, whether we realize it or not. (

Jeremy Greenfield suggests “One Way Ebook Subscription Services Could Work” in a (very) short post on DBW (Digital Book Wire.) 

Publishers Weekly reports on Amazon’s fourth-quarter and yearly sales and the trends they reflect.  Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos says that ebook sales are up by 70%, while print sales only increased by 5%; it’s not clear from the article whether those figures reflect units sold or overall dollars.  Also buried in the report is the fact that while overall fourth-quarter sales were up 22%, net income dropped 47%.  Apparently Amazon is losing money on something — perhaps its Kindle line?  They did engage in pricing wars as well as introduce several new Kindle tablets and the Paperwhite this year.

Neil Schlager, owner of a small educational publishing company, muses on the future of textbooks, while Jeffrey K. Young explores the state of textbooks today — in particular, the ones that offer “a course in a box.” (The Chronicle)

If you’re a Neil Gaiman fan, you can listen to Gaiman talk about his imaginative favorites (in movies and TV) in an interview with NPR’s Morning Edition.  If you don’t have time to listen, there’s a brief run-down at the link above, along with video clips from some of the works he mentions.  And while we’re on the subject of Neil Gaiman, Gizmodo has a short article in which Gaiman explains why secrets don’t leak out of the Dr. Who office.

Have a great week!

2 Responses to “News & Notes – 2/02/2012”

  1. Lark

    Thanks, Kimba! Me too, but I don’t think it’s likely to happen. Amazon is too wedded to its proprietary format, and they’re having too much success to consider abandoning it. But it sure would be nice if you could buy any format anywhere!