back to article Library ebooks must SELF-DESTRUCT if scribes want dosh - review

The UK government will consider paying writers each time their ebooks and audio books are borrowed from public libraries - just like scribes are recompensed when their dead-tree tomes are loaned. Culture minister Ed Vaizey announced a decision will be made after a formal review concluded libraries must stock digital titles or …


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  1. Christian Berger

    Back into medieval times

    When books were something expensive and only few people could afford to read it.

    Come on we are in the digital age now. It is now cheap to copy books which opens up a whole new world of possibilities. We have to stop trying to push back progress and try to live with it. Digital book burning doesn't solve any problems. (In fact it's even more likely that people will just scan an OCR it from their e-book reader if you have such draconian measures)

    Instead of trying to keep people away from the advances of digitalisation we must find ways how to enable the authors to make a living in a digital world.

    1. fishdog

      Re: Back into medieval times

      Indeed. The smart thing to do would be to close all the libraries, run a single ebook service, and use the money saved to make sure everyone has access to it.

      Pay the authors a single lump sum if they have to be paid, or tell them they can take their chances in the hard-copy marketplace.

      Soone or later we have to stop trying to make the future look like the past, just because we have a sentimental attachment to the past.

      1. This post has been deleted by its author

      2. Tom 38 Silver badge

        Re: Back into medieval times

        4 upvotes for a philistine who wants to close libraries?

        Do whatever you want with ebooks, get your mitts off our libraries. If anything, we need more and larger libraries, not cheap ways for the privileged to get ebooks.

        1. Muscleguy Silver badge

          Re: Back into medieval times

          The library here in Dundee lends E-Books and the dead tree versions and have not moved lots of books aside to make way for computers either. The computers are in the lobby. I use both. The E-Books were great when we went back to NZ before xmas, I took three from the library for no extra weight.

          Which reminds me, I have a dead tree library book I need to return.

        2. Beau

          Re: Back into medieval times

          Yes yes! Now don't you worries, in Belgium nearly every town has a nice big almost new library.

          The one thing they all have in common, is that they are all full of books, along with a few computers, but apart from the staff, virtually empty of people.

        3. alexcox

          Re: Back into medieval times

          The current "coalition" government of Conservatives and LibDems has closed upwards of a hundred public libraries in the last two years -- as an 'austerity' measure. Anyone who thinks libraries are redundant has perhaps not visited one.

      3. Voland's right hand Silver badge

        Re: Back into medieval times

        Close the libraries - not so sure.

        It will be a decade or more until ebooks or ebook services on a tablet will get anywhere near acceptable quality levels for children books as well as some types of reference literature (art, travel, etc). So we will need a local library as long as there are kids and as long as kids want to have a bed time story read to them (mine do).

        Lump sum - definitely not. This will continue to bring the argument about deterioriation which is bogus. Rent - pay. If the govt cannot process it hire Paypal, google or someone else who can. Micropayments are not that difficult.

      4. 8t9pqgh9pg8h8g90

        Re: Back into medieval times

        I don't know if I'd say close so much as repurpose. The local library here is a great place for family activities; turn them all into community centers.

  2. Anonymous Coward

    The panel also recommended that digital copies of books should "deteriorate"

    Are they taking the piss ?

    Tough shit, welcome to technological advancement. It's like car manufactures saying we'll set the engine to blow up on purpose after 40,000 miles as we now build better that last longer but we need to sell you a new car so we will make it deliberately fail after two years.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: The panel also recommended that digital copies of books should "deteriorate"

      > we'll set the engine to blow up on purpose after 40,000 miles

      They do. I mean it's not "on purpose", but we know how to build piston engines that run for a million miles relatively reliably (it's called a diesel train). Just they don't bother building them because it's not commercially viable, so they build one which makes commercial sense.

      > Are they taking the piss?

      Compression technology moves on, so you if you want the latest and greatest iDevice support with the best features I guess you need a new version. Given how often my library replaces paper versions I guess they really mean every 25 years or so ;)

      1. This post has been deleted by its author

      2. Nuke

        @PeteH - Re: The panel also recommended that digital copies of books should "deteriorate"

        >> we'll set the engine to blow up on purpose after 40,000 miles

        >They do. I mean it's not "on purpose", but we know how to build piston engines that run for a million miles relatively reliably (it's called a diesel train).

        No they don't "blow up". My car engine has done 260,000 miles with one decoke, one set of new bearings, one new exhaust manifold and two new water pumps. I look after it; in fact I do this stuff myself. Railway and small marine diesels (basically the same) have many parts replaced several times during their lives - valves, bearings, pumps, pistons, cylinder liners. Again, they are looked after; and in fact I have previously been both a ship's engineering officer and a railway engineer..

        What matters is that wearing parts are replacable. Car engine parts are much more easily replacable than car body parts because the stylists have less influence in that area.

      3. Don Jefe

        Re: The panel also recommended that digital copies of books should "deteriorate"

        Yes but the diesels in a train are only to run the generators that power the traction motors that turn the wheels. They aren't directly connected to the drive train so the engines aren't subject to the variable demands of an automobile which is what the real killer is. An internal combustion that can run at a stready rate can last an incredibly long time. Also the diesels for a locomotive cost more than every car an average person will own during the course of their life.

    2. This post has been deleted by its author

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    " copies of books should "deteriorate"..."

    OK, provided that the rate of deterioration is set to match what Libraries find in practice, not necessarily what fits the publishers' business models.

    And while we're talking about deterioration, the publishers should give an initial discount to reflect the piss-poor proof-reading that seems to have crept into digital formats.

    1. Yes Me Silver badge

      Re: " copies of books should "deteriorate"..."

      Why is it OK? It's plain stupid, but of course it serves the publishers' interests, not the authors', so that's what they would say, innit?

      A flat rate price with a fair % added to the author's royalty is simpler and will not give anyone an incentive to hack the bitrot.

      They'll be inventing hardback and paperback versions of ebooks next.

      1. frank ly

        Re: " copies of books should "deteriorate"..."

        I smell a buggy whip manufacturer. Change is bad (for us)!

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        @Yes Me - Re: " copies of books should "deteriorate"..."

        Actually, I'd rather Libraries stuck to the physical book form - they're gradually becoming soulless places with their increasing focus on providing internet facilities.

        But, that seems to be the way things are going, so we should at least ensure that they aren't screwed by the publishers - hence my comments.

      3. wheelybird

        Re: " copies of books should "deteriorate"..."

        "They'll be inventing hardback and paperback versions of ebooks next."

        They have. :( I went to buy an ebook once. It cost £20 because it was 'the hardback version'. Needless to say I didn't buy it.

    2. Dr. Mouse

      Re: " copies of books should "deteriorate"..."

      "OK, provided that the rate of deterioration is set to match what Libraries find in practice"

      I beg to differ.

      The only reason a library should pay for a new book when it deteriorates is because it costs the publisher to print a new copy. OK, it doesn't cost as much as the library pays, but it does cost.

      For eBooks, the "deterioration" should be built into the royalties. Instead of "pay the full price after x thousand loans", spread that cost into the per-loan royalty and it's sorted. The only thing which would be affected is the publishers figures.

    3. Simon Harris

      Re: " copies of books should "deteriorate"..."

      "OK, provided that the rate of deterioration is set to match what Libraries find in practice, not necessarily what fits the publishers' business models."

      From what I remember of what my ex (a librarian responsible for book selection) told me, publishers expect books to be replaced every 20-something loans, whereas in practice they're usually good for about twice that number.

      1. Tom 7 Silver badge

        Re: " copies of books should "deteriorate"..."

        20 something loans??? Are you kidding - I've got books here from my local library that have been borrowed into the 100's of timers. One here has 5 extra stickies over the original for stamping the return date and there's room for at least 50 stamps on each sheet - the sheets are normally removed but this lot haven't been for some reason. And the book is in good condition.

        Are you suggesting we reward publishers, not just for screwing the author and the consumer, but for producing a low quality product?

    4. Tom 7 Silver badge

      Re: " copies of books should "deteriorate"..."

      There are a lot of books that are over 1000 years old. That should set the benchmark.

    5. Muscleguy Silver badge

      Re: " copies of books should "deteriorate"..."

      Not just E-Books have crap proofreading. I borrowed a dead tree Feist from the library that was almost unreadable with huge continuity errors. 'The wrong version' being uploaded was blamed. 'They fired all the proofreaders' is more like it.

  4. Mark Simon

    What’s the point?

    Why should digital copies deteriorate? The royalty revenue will continue as long as the copy is available, and, if that is for ever, why should that be a problem?

    Or should digital music also develop scratches after playing a few times, or digital video start to stretch?

    What sort of moron comes up with these ideas? Do you have to fail an IQ test to run for government these days?

    1. wowfood

      Re: What’s the point?

      No no, digital versions of ebooks should deteriorate. BUT the cost should come down to reflect the savings the publisher now gets from not having to print, quality control, distribute, refund damage during distribution, insure distribution, staff costs for monitoring all of this stuff.

      So kibraries will pay for these ebooks every 40 years, but the price will drop to about 20% of the paperbacks value.

      1. Captain Save-a-ho

        Re: What’s the point?

        Hmm, I think we just found the next Gordon Brown. Congrats!

    2. dajames

      Re: What’s the point?

      @Mark Simon

      Or should digital music also develop scratches after playing a few times, or digital video start to stretch?

      I think you misunderstand what is meant by "deteriorate" here. What is being suggested is that -- just as a paper book can only be lent a certain number of times by a library before it falls apart -- a digital "book" should only be lendable by a library a certain number of times before its licence expires. I don't think anyone is seriously suggesting that the pages should be shown as dog-eared onscreen, or that the fonts should become fuzzier the more times the book is lent!

      The perceived "problem" that the publishers of digital books are trying to address is that once a library purchases a digital copy of a book for a one-off payment that copy will last forever, and no further fees will become due. There are two possible solutions: One is to not to charge a one-off fee but to charge a royalty payment each time the book is "borrowed", the other is to charge a one-off fee that covers a fixed number of borrowings (or a set period of time, or some combination of the two) after which the book is somehow made unavailable until it is re-licensed by the library. It is this second mechanism that is referred to as "deterioration".

      1. GreenOgre

        Re: What’s the point?

        or they could stop living in denial and accept that times have changed, make less money because they are providing less value (to both authors and readers) and if they don't like that, they can go get a job elsewhere. Wasn't it a Conservative MP who famously said "On your bike, Pal."?

      2. Roland6 Silver badge

        Re: What’s the point?

        "I don't think anyone is seriously suggesting that the pages should be shown as dog-eared onscreen, or that the fonts should become fuzzier the more times the book is lent!"

        Don't see why not, as I'm sure publishers would want ALL E-books to deteriorate and hence as a user you would needs some indication that your copy was deteriorating and hence be prompted to go out and buy and nice shiny new edition - which you can be sure will either be out-of-print or not compatible with your reader...

        I agree however the problem is that publishers and libraries need to change the nature of their agreement to a much lower initial stocking fee and a per loan royalty payment. the question is whether authors and publishers will accept this riskier proposition.

    3. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: What’s the point?

      > The royalty revenue will continue as long as the copy is available, and, if that is for ever, why should that be a problem?

      Because the library load royalty ( a few pennies) goes to the author.

      When a library buys a hardback, the 20quid goes to the publisher - and a few pennies gets passed on to the author.

      1. Nogbad1958

        Re: What’s the point?

        Well they could just pay the author, and the publisher also, say a fee to have the book originally to publisher, then a 1p renewal fee in Perpetuity to the publisher, on top of the authors fee. (I don't know what the author gets each time a book is borrowed, so this is merely an example.) in the cases above where people have stated twenty to forty loans, I am supposing that those are paperbacks, as I know from my own that they deteriorate faster than hardbacks. So another option would be to assume e-books deteriorate at the same rate as hardbacks, and repay the fee every two hundred loans or so.... Just a thought.

  5. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

    'The panel also recommended that digital copies of books should "deteriorate" so publishers can fake them getting worn out and force libraries to buy them again.'

    Exactly what we need ... not only the flakiness of the digital copy as opposed to the relative solidity of a book or even its xeroxed counterpart but ... digital deterioration? Fuck. That. Shit. What next? Deteriorating software? More and more NullPointerExceptions until you cash out again? Then the rights holder says "Sorreee, we don't sell that anymore / not in your country / thanks for calling". Then you powerlessly rage and dream of visiting Intellectual Property Advocates to punch them in the face.

    You will never again find used books at the recycling center that you then scan and distribute through sneakernet.jpg

  6. Moosey
    IT Angle


    isn't that just another way of saying "licensing"?

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    It really should be simple enough

    1. Only a limited number of people should be able to borrow an ebook from a Library at the same time.

    2. The ebook should expire from one's device.

    So, just like a proper, paper book library, but without the inconvenience of having to take the book back on time.

    1. JetSetJim Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      Re: It really should be simple enough

      Exactly - a "UK library" app (hopefully not one app per library!) that allows you to "check out" ebooks owned by the library you are a member of. Limited number of copies allowed by each library, with the option to request a temporary license for inter-library loans. You have the ebook in your app until the library app expires it.

      Personally, I think it's a good scheme. I'm sure libraries can also possibly add some partner functions - e.g. a "buy this with Amazon" (or other providers) link.

      1. meh1010

        Re: It really should be simple enough

        Indeed it is - our library uses Overdrive for eBook lending (limited time borrowing, limited number of books "checked out" at one time), only issues are that you can't use with a Kindle ('cos of proprietary DRM format) and limited choice (publishers' insecurity issues).

        1. James R Grinter

          Re: It really should be simple enough

          ours (UK, London Borough of Haringey) uses Overdrive too.

          That's why this idea of "running pilots" later this year is strange, because many have already been doing this for a few years now.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: It really should be simple enough

        "Limited number of copies". Did you just say that about a digital medium and with a straight face? Really?

        1. JonP

          Re: It really should be simple enough

          How exactly does a "limited number of copies" (digital) benefit anyone? The publisher/author would still get paid when a copy was borrowed, so no loss there - in fact having unlimited copies increases potential payments. The library could simply pay the equivalent of however many physical copies they would have purchased - say 3? - and then be allowed to loan it out as many times as they wish; maybe, worst case for a time limited period..

          Incorporating digital deterioration is pointless - i'm sure that over time format changes would cover this.

          1. JetSetJim Silver badge

            Re: It really should be simple enough

            Perhaps I should have said "limited number of licenses" - anyhow, the upshot of implementing that is if copies are unavailable then punters *may* be more likely to instead go out and buy the actual (e)book rather than having to wait for a free read via the library. I fully appreciate that a digital version could get "checked out" unlimited numbers of times, which would drive *some* revenue to the publisher. But it would get more revenue from purchases, so I would fully expect them to want to push folk towards this transaction type by restricting supply in the libraries.

            It's a trade off - I don't know the weightings of each revenue stream given particular values of limits to library check-outs, but I'm sure a publisher would be interested to know.

            Taking the "library-app" to the extreme, it makes available all literary works in a "pay-per-view" model (except the payment comes from the whole population in the form of taxes to fund the library system).

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: JetSetJim

              Did you just say "a limited number of licenses" in the digital age? Really? With a straight face?

              PS, 64bit float and 128bit encryption says hit and hope it can cope with the 6 billion + licenses you require to track for your pay per read system. Possible, so no idea why your still wishing to "limit" digital distribution.

              1. JetSetJim Silver badge

                Re: JetSetJim

                *I* am not wishing to limit the distribution, merely pointing out that the publishers *may* want to and this gives them an easy mechanism for it

        2. Roland6 Silver badge

          Re: It really should be simple enough "Limited number of copies".

          Yes, this I suspect is to do with the fact that they are putting the loans through their existing library systems, which will have been built on the assumption that a library would hold a known number of copies of an particular book. However, there is no real reason why for e-books this number shouldn't be 100 say rather than 5.

      3. Tom 7 Silver badge

        Re: It really should be simple enough

        My Dad wrote some books. The last few he formatted himself - the publisher merely screwed him over for the privileged of shrinking his already small market even smaller by charging nearly 30 times the money for distributing his e-copy and printing a few. If he'd taken it directly to the library - he could have given the e-book to them for free and then just received the royalties from the library but as his work is relatively obscure research stuff the chance of you finding it your local library are pretty slim. The same goes for most educational stuff but probably applies to most works.

        I dont know of any authors these days that dont produce an electronic copy of their works themselves. Why should publishers even be involved in the electronic side?

    2. Not That Andrew

      Re: It really should be simple enough

      I agree with your second point but not your first. Ideally the libraries should pay a (small) royalty per x amount of loans (x ideally being a large number). In that case (or any other, really) maximising the possible number of loans should be in the publishers interest.

  8. zaax

    and in the mean time piracy continues to flourish.

    Why don't publishers get it, the people who pirate their films / books wouldn't be buying them in th first place, so any profit they get from them (pirated copies) is only a plus.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      - the people who pirate their films / books wouldn't be buying them in th first place

      That's not always the case - some things are better in their pirated versions, I've certainly found this to be true of DVDs and computer games where lengthy anti-piracy adverts and hideous copy protection respectively are stripped out by diligent pirates.

      I know of people who would buy the original if it was similarly unencumbered but as this is not an option, prefer the pirate version. Industry cutting its own throat here.

      Of course, I also know of people who used to spend quite a lot of money on e.g. music who now just pirate it all because they are lazy and cheap - so it is not entirely down to big business not understanding its customers but as nothing they are doing seems to stop this piracy it is not clear whether the effort they go to is worth it.

      1. Marcelo Rodrigues

        I'm lazy - ain't You?

        The algorithm is simple:

        until ($purchase easier_than $pirating)




        When the publishers understand that, piracy will (almost) vanish. It will never be zero, but given the right conditions it will be turned down into background noise.

  9. joeW

    In other news...

    Legislation is planned to limit the lifespan of electric lightbulbs to be the same as a candle of similiar price.

    Can't have the wick-dipping industry being out of pocket now, can we?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: In other news...

      "Can't have the wick-dipping industry being out of pocket now, can we?"

  10. LinkOfHyrule

    Dear Sir

    We are writing to you to inform you that the digital bits you borrowed from us on the 22nd of Jan 2013 are now two months overdue. As a result, you have occurred a late fee of £1,000,000 (ONE MILLION DOLLAR POUNDS).

    We would kindly urge you to return the due bits to your nearest interwebz tubez or WiFi access point and transfer all fees owed to your local library via Western Union Money Transfer as soon as possible.

    Yours sincerely,

    Surrey County Council Libraries department

  11. Bluenose

    Waste is an issue

    If publishers want to be allowed to deteriorate a book to force a new purchase then I am fine with that subject to their picking up the following costs:

    Disposal of the electronic and paper books that are no longer usable

    Disposal of the memory that contains electronic books when the device no longer works or is ready to be thrown away (extend the WEEE regulations so they contribute part of the cost)

    A contribution to the clearing up of the toxic processes that are involved in producing the means by which electronic books are made readable

    Today publishers pay little if anything of the cost of clearing up the waste created by paper books so the merest hint that they could be hit with landfill charges on a number of books published basis may well encourage them to start thinking differently about the future instead of looking at ways to force readers, authors and libraries to remain stuck in the present.

  12. davtom

    It's a daft idea. I understand that deterioration of physical books can lead to an increase in revenue (if books are repurchased), but of course this does not apply to digital media.

    Why not increase the borrowing royalty slightly to compensate precisely for this "loss"? Then there is no need for this waste of time.

  13. Gordon Pryra

    "digital lending would encourage people to never buy books again"

    What they are actually scared of is the price fixing they enjoy will disappear.

    Currently it is common for a top named author to have their e-versions sell for the same as the hardback.

    I know you don't pay VAT on books and this is an additional charge to an e-book, but there is no convincing argument for the high prices they rip off loyal readers for.

    The Government should make available all e-book via the libraries system.

    They need to look into the pricing and overcharging of the e-books currently on sale

    Publishers need to look at whats happened to people like HMV, they need to change from a "gouge the customer and stick with the old way of publishing as if its a physical product model" to something more suited to the technology of today.

  14. Captain Underpants

    It's good to see that publishers have learned from recent history that introducing technological constrains on new media to enforce old licencing schemes always works and absolutely never backfires in a way that promotes growth of pirated content....

    Oh, wait.

    I like books. I spend a silly amount of money on the things. I also borrow books from my library. I want to give any publisher who thinks that expiring ebooks is a genuinely good idea a ding round the ear, because if they think that they're obviously thinking with the wrong organ and need a hard reset to their thinking organ.

    I've no problem with the idea of extending the public lending right to ebooks - if it makes sense for physical media, it makes sense for digital media. But holding digital media to artificial constraints that don't apply simply to facilitate an outdated licencing scheme is a stupid idea, and should be treated as such.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      @Captain Underpants

      I fully agree they're thinking with the wrong organ. A ding round the ear might not percolate far enough to initiate the required hard reset. A good kick up the arse is what's wanted.

  15. Alan Brown Silver badge

    The minister misses a point

    The "British Public" don't use libraries, mainly because funding cutbacks mean most libraries have hours which mean they can't use them unless they're un(der)employed or retired.

    And even then my (retired) father gripes about the limited hours.

  16. Dan 55 Silver badge

    See icon

    How can a library even lend an e-book in the first place? Why would you need to return a library e-book or does the library's copy disappear? And why would anyone buy an e-book if a free library copy is available?

    The most the library can do is artificially restrict supply (i.e. it's not always available when you want to take it out) and put a timebomb on the copy of the e-book that you 'take out' and perhaps these inconveniences will mean that a bought e-book is worth more money than a library copy. Library's in this sense are just another e-book shop giving away nobbled e-books for free. If this is so, why should e-book librarys exist, why not just have Amazon supplying advertising-supported e-books?

    Perhaps we're clinging on to ascribing monetary value for electronic versions of physical objects which in the cold light of day now makes no sense whatsoever. That said, the creator of the work needs to be compensated.

  17. J.G.Harston Silver badge

    Authors don't "offer" books to libraries. Libraries just go out and purchase whatever is available. If an ebook is available for purchase, and a library choses to purchase it, it will, no intervention by the author required at all. Somebody here seems to be completely confused about the direction that purchase transactions go.

  18. Anonymous Coward


    I've never seen someone put forward the broken window fallacy as policy before.

    1. ecofeco Silver badge

      Re: Interesting

      It's quite popular these days.

  19. Adam, Kent

    Seriously, why don't the libraries (and the govt.) just tell the publishers to go and stick their ideas where.........

    Meanwhile, have a chat to Google who (thanks to some UK and US libraries anyway) have nicely digitised large stocks of dead-tree books and I'm sure would happily carry on doing so if they were given an exemption in law which permitted them to and made them nasty lawsuit things go away!

    Library still buys "dead-tree" books to match the number of digital downloads they offer so no claims of unfair from the publisher and we'll even "deteriorate" the digital copy if they so wish.

    The British Library claims that the oldest book still in existance is the Diamond Sutra from 868 AD. So, to guarantee that we preserve books for the future this will have to be the benchmark. That's 1,145 years and I'm willing to bet it's got a lot more years in it yet so..... say after 1,500 years it can auto-delete itself?

    I trust the publishers will be happy with this arrangement? If not, then how about sorting out an acceptable alternative before government will do what government does best and write a nice bit of legislation........

    1. Al Jones

      That's the oldest _printed_ book - there plenty of older manuscripts that were written out by monks up and down these islands.

    2. Corinne

      You may have that earliest book wrong - pretty sure the Lindisfarne Gospels are from the early 700's, & the Book of Kells no later than the early 800's?

  20. Oxfordshire Bob

    Not all paper books deteriorate at the same rate...

    SO - let us say I am a collector, and I have bought a collector's item 1st Edition book, read it once (very carefully - there is no damage) and then vacuum pack the book and store it in a bank vault where temperature etc is regulated. 300yrs from now that book should still be pristine. Now apparently somebody decides that my digital ebook should deteriorate. Based on whose criteria? I have read my e-book once. It should last forever.

    Get with the 21st century, publishers, and realise that your outdated way of thinking just doesn't work anymore. You lose a bit of money? Tough. You have already made enough and are still making loads in any case. If you can't survive on the millions you have already made, it shows that you don't know how to invest (yes - rather give it to that evil thing called shareholders as dividends - not the original idea behind shares in any case) and have no idea how to manage your money properly. The new age is for people who adjust fast and accept that change is the only constant...

  21. Anonymous Coward

    Hmmmmm sounds like bullshit to me.

    I mean there is a point where digital hoarding is just a pain in the arse.....

    Just like real world hoarding....

    Oh I have 10,000 books in MY library.... I can't remember what the fuck most of them are about, or when I bought them or what bought them for.....

    Have not even read more than a few hundred of them........

    But I have 10,000 of them......

    Uhhhhhhhh no one wants them, no one wants to inheret them.... when I die.. toss the old PC on the recycling heap, and then they are lost forever.....

    Except for the drives that got dumped in a third world recycling dump, and a long time in the future, far, far away in another desert, some archeologist pulls up a 5000 year old hard drive.....

    Scribd sell access to 25 million books and similar, for $5 a month.....

    Then there is Google books, and a million and one other sites....

    The internet archive, stacks of resources....

    "The Pubic Library?" I remember those.... Used to have one in our street when I was a kid.....

  22. cortland

    No joy

    and empty bookshelves I must leave to my son;

    What brave new world this thing

    Has now begun!

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Use Lossy Compression

    I was told of a spoof article where the public was warned about lossy compression losing the data over a period of time. E.g. mp3 files sound worse and worse, and should be re-ripped.

    (Simon: Sorry, I couldn't find a reference...)

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Use Lossy Compression

      Perhaps your ears have started to have lossy compression. Just kidding. But ebooks or other devices that do not SELF-DESTRUCT I have never owned or heard about.

  24. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Quite right!

    We should prop up old business models by replicating their shortcomings with new technology. That's exactly why a DSP in my cd player adds clicks and distortion once I've listened to the same cd several times, to coax me into purchasing another. And requires regular replacement of it's e-stylus.

  25. JimmyPage

    Once again ...

    a suspicion that those in power *really* don't "get it". It would be funny, if it didn't result in ludicrous laws, and the appalling waste of money sunk into IT schemes that could have easily delivered with a managed FOSS solution.

    And to the commentard who suggested that new eBooks are the *same* price as the dead tree version ... I have seen many eBooks that are *more* expensive than the paper version.

    1. ecofeco Silver badge

      Re: Once again ...

      Suspect? What is left to be convinced about?

  26. fishman

    Used library books

    Libraries sell used books, usually to make room for new books. If the book publishers want the libraries to replace "worn out ebooks", then they should allow the libraries to sell their no longer needed ebooks.

  27. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Nice for the publishers, what about the authors?

    As an e-author, I do have issues with some of the details.

    First, this seems at the moment to be a nice little discussion between the government and the publishers. Lets ignore the people who actually write the books. This 'deterioration' thing is silly, it only benefits the publishers,

    Why not just do it simply?

    Create an e-library (maybe one, maybe many, it doesnt really matter).

    Book creators load books up in a similar way to the way we do it now on Amazon or Smashwords. The book then goes into the catalogue and search facilities. Easy.

    Dont pay me for the book. Pay me a fee each time its loaned out. Make this reasonable, cheap enough to encourage people to borrow (remember, it does cost to go down the library and get a book, unless its next door!), but enough to make me something. Maybe 10-20 pence a loan?

    Make the 'loaned' e-copy expire after a certain time, say 4 weeks. If we allow an infinite number of copies, there should be some way of stopping someone just re-borrowing it all the time, as well as limiting an account as to how many 'books' they can borrow at any time.

    The e-book would contain at the back info for how to purchase it (or a dead-tree version) if the reader likes it.

    Updating/revising is handled by the author in the same way as Amazon.

    The publishers still make money, they take their cut of the lending fee. They DO have expenses, but as they are basically selling an improved product, one would assume this leads to more 'lends' and hence more money, and more ebook and real book sales for them.

    Such a system will obvious;y need some tweaking but I think it covers all the basic requirements.

    1. Simon Ball

      Re: Nice for the publishers, what about the authors?

      What's wrong with repeated borrowing? As long as you charge a fee each time the book is "renewed", who cares how long someone "borrows" it for? It's no skin off your nose if the borrower ultimately ends up paying more in rental fees than he/she would have done to just buy the ebook in the first place. Similarly, what's wrong with borrowing hundreds of ebooks? As long as the borrower is paying a fee for each book, for each loan period, it's equally no problem of yours if he/she is borrowing more books than he/she could possibly read.

      1. Simon Harris

        Re: Nice for the publishers, what about the authors?

        "As long as the borrower is paying a fee for each book, for each loan period, it's equally no problem of yours if he/she is borrowing more books than he/she could possibly read."

        What fees would these be? Libraries normally lend books for free, although there may be charges for reservations, and of course fines for overdue books.

    2. Shooter

      Re: Nice for the publishers, what about the authors?

      According to HarperCollins, this is done "to protect the authors".

      Of course :0)

  28. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

    I'm looking forward to it

    When I borrow a well-used e-book, it's going to add interest if it comes with bent page corners and torn pages, underlinings, crude drawings of body parts in the margin, food and drink stains, and residues of various bodily secretions, benign and infectious. I think this is where e-books have fallen down so far. Dammit, I'm entitled to have digital dandruff and I want it.

    Really I think what they're referring to is the number of lends it takes to kill a library book, which can be as few as thirty - remember we're playing Reader Roulette as to who handles it. PLR merely pays a small amount for each lend AS WELL AS THE PRICE OF THE BOOK IN THE FIRST PLACE which is as much as the author deserves.

  29. Tanuki
    Thumb Up

    Literary Obsolescence.

    Surely, the way to handle this is to introduce a flag for e-readers that applies a watermark saying "SUPERSEDED" or something similar over the old editions when a new edition of the ebook is released?

    Then people can - if they wish - still use the old version but are made only too aware aware that they're using an obsolete release.

    You could even include pop-ups suggesting they buy the latest edition.

    1. YouStupidBoy

      Re: Literary Obsolescence.

      No more godawful advertising popups. The fact this function, along with it's creators and proponents, hasn't been erased from history is proof that I'll never get my hands on a time machine. Maybe a discreet notification at the "library" page at the most, but outside of the sciences and teaching textbooks, I can't really see a need for an updated version of any book.

      Agree with the comments regarding proofreading. Whatever proofreaders there are left seem to be under the impression that the product deserves no more than a cursory glance.

      As far as the original idea goes, it's frankly a load of bollocks. What's next - digital degradation of *bought* copies of e-books? After all, despite best efforts, even if you buy a dead tree book brand new and read it a bunch of times, it seems that it'll eventually fall apart. Literally, the last 3 books that I've bought have had chunks of pages come unglued from the spine. Digital is just *better* for the consumer and the planet for many reasons.

  30. MuddyBoots

    In a digital world, whats the difference between a loan and a purchase?

    Why differentiate a "loan" from a "purchase"?

    Any attempt to manipulate a market tends to cause problems and any attempt to fit an old model onto a new market tends to cause problems.

    Rather than discussing libabry loans of ebooks, I suggest we go back to first principals; what book sales are supposed to achieve:

    A fair income for a popular author to incentivise tha author to write more.

    A fair income for the publisher to do the work they do - editing, advertising, commissioning artwork etc.

    A fair commission for the website selling/loaning the book.

    Ability for a low income reader to access literature.

    It amazes me that online booksellers get away with selling an ebook at hardback prices when the hardback is the only book available, and then selling it at the paperback price when only a paperback is available.

    If the cost of manufacturing and shipping the book is taken out of the price of an ebook, then surely the ebook would be sufficiently cheap that libraries would become redundant for the majority of people.

    The cost of running the libraries could then be spent on providing the unemplyed / retired etc. with free books or discounts.

    1. Euchrid

      Re: In a digital world, whats the difference between a loan and a purchase?

      For a long while now, it’s been argued that the system for the library service paying authors royalties needs to be looked at – which I think fits into this.

      Under the current Public Lending Right (PLR) legislation, authors get paid 6p every time that their booked is loaned out - with the maximum amount paid out each year of £6,000.

      Some books are never going to be big sellers but they can get loaned out at libraries a fair bit – often the case with some quite specialist subjects, like local history. Some very big-selling authors (e.g. Jacqueline Wilson) have said this isn’t a fair system. In their opinion, the £6,000 per annum amount that they each get would be better spent if by being distributed to authors that don’t sell so much – the money the former camp get from the libraries might be nice, but it’s dwarfed by their income from other sources.

  31. Enverex


    "But the same review - carried out by a publisher - also recommended that ebooks "deteriorate" just like paper titles, forcing Blighty to buy new copies as they would with dead-tree-printed stock."

    That's easy enough to achieve, just store them all on OCZ SSDs...

  32. Anonymous South African Coward Silver badge


    Wot a daft idea. 'Ere, 'arf a brick at this idea.

    They can implement self-expiring ebooks, but there will be ways and means to keep those books from expiring.

    What a waste of money and time.

    We need a Sparta smiley.

  33. zb

    Second hand books

    I buy the old books from my library for 50p or so each to take abroad and read there. Presumably the publishers will have no objection to libraries selling me their deteriorated e-books and for me to pass them on to my ex-pat friends when I have read them. After all, publishers want e-books to be just like real books - or is it just when it suits them?

  34. RonWheeler

    I'd pay a small fee

    ...similar to the way they do with now DVDs and CDs, just to get ebooks. Perhaps that could somehow reimburse the publishers on a better per loan rate? Frankly if they closed the local library and had ALL the material available as ebooks instead, I wouldn't care. Better choice, no transport cost (if online), better format (useful for poor sighted). As long as it were in a platform neutral format. Save money and give a better service.

  35. ecofeco Silver badge

    Unclear on the concept

    Sounds like somebody doesn't understand how a library works.

  36. chris lively

    Isn't Amazon already replacing libraries:

    Essentially, they have a "lending" program. Although the individual titles are free (300,000 of them), they require you to be a member of Prime, which is actually pretty cheap for what you get.

    Couldn't the libraries work out the exact same deal with the publishers?

  37. Henry Wertz 1 Gold badge


    Yes, the EBooks do not deteriorate. However, they also cost ~$0 to distribute, while the cost of paper is quite high. Nevertheless, I see all these EBooks selling for virtually the same price as their paper counterparts. Hey book writers and distributors -- suck. it. up.

    As for all the rest -- there's this app the libraries here in the US use. Bad part -- it only runs on proprietary systems. Why they can't do like Amazon, and have a web version of the reader so if you don't have your Kindle handy you can read on anything, I have no idea. The good -- it allows for books to be checked out and returned, and (as well as rights restrictions ever work) prevents copying. I don't know if the book expires at the end of your checkout period, or if you can forget to return it and wrack up library fines. But, anyway... Although the computer version is useless (being only for Mac and Windows) they have versions for almost anything else -- android, iphone, blackberry, winphone, and several others.

    1. Steven Roper

      Re: Profiteering

      "...they also cost ~$0 to distribute, while the cost of paper is quite high..."

      No, they do not cost $0 to distribute. I really don't get how people get this idea that just because digital data has no physical existence, that it somehow doesn't cost physical money to distribute. Do you think that the ebook, music, video or whatever data just magically floats though the ether into your reader/player or something?

      Now before I go on, I want to state for the record that deteriorating ebooks, like all forms of DRM, is a really stupid idea and will merely encourage piracy in a big way. On that score I'm with the majority of readers here.

      That said, my company runs and maintains several e-commerce websites, including an ebook retailer, and we also have a publishing division where we set up, design covers for, proofread, typeset and lay out books (both paper and digital) for our authors. (To make a point, authors occasionally ask us about copy protection on ebooks and our stock response to them is that it's a waste of time and money. If people are going to pirate your book they will find a way, and making life difficult for legitimate customers will only compound the problem.)

      It costs real money to run and maintain websites and app stores, which are the primary method of digital content distribution. Bandwidth costs money - a metric fuckton of money if you get a lot of visitors trawling through your sites. Hosting costs money. There's domain registrations, SSL certificate renewals, payment gateway fees, transaction fees, merchant account fees and of course all the plethora of government levies, taxes and tariffs on same. Then there's the small matter of hiring tech support to maintain and update the sites and sort out any issues, and people to read and answer the piles of emails and phone enquiries coming in. On top of that you also have payroll costs, worker's comp insurance, various workplace OH&S compliance costs, software licences, hardware upgrades, office rental, utility bills, accounting fees, etc, etc, etc. Oh, and there's advertising and marketing costs to factor in to all that as well, so that people know about our books and come to the site to buy them. It all adds up.

      So what it amounts to is that one set of costs has been replaced by another. Instead of printing, trucking and warehousing costs for dead-tree books we have bandwidth, hosting, site maintenance and payment-gateway costs for ebooks instead. Yes, on a per-book basis the latter is certainly less than the former, and yes, our ebook prices vs paper book prices reflect that; but the cost of distributing digital content certainly isn't zero. Not even per book. Not even close.

    2. RonWheeler

      Re: Profiteering

      Paper costs very little. Typesetting, printing, distribution and warehousing plus overheads cost a mint.

  38. CJN1946


    Lots of libraries already lend ebooks using the Overdrive Media Console app, I can borrow up to 6 books for up to 21 days at a time. Great for travelling and reading at night, for me ebooks will not replace paper copies but are a useful addition.

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