More on Licensing Culture and Owning What You Pay For

Published: 2016-08-30 09:51 |

Category: Technology |

I was talking with our school librarian today about why we don’t offer ebooks for students to check out. It came up because I grabbed a real, hardcover library book six weeks ago and had _just_ finished it this week. It’s only 400ish pages, and taking that long to read a short/medium length book was a little embarrassing.

Compared to reading on my phone or my Kindle, it was an eternity. I like the portability of ebooks. I like being able to pull it up on my phone and read a little when I’m sitting, waiting for something. Especially this year, as I move all over the district day to day, carrying another book in my bag is precious space that’s often wasted due to time.

Ebooks sound great, but I got thinking about [Maha Bali’s post on “owning” a domain]( and [Audrey Watters’ fantastic take]( (rebuttal?) on the topic. [I even weighed in a little bit]( on how teachers can start to build that identity.

I don’t want to encourage a culture where ownership is a burden. Moving school libraries to epubs sounds great: access! they’re on their phones anyways! Kindle!…

…but in practice, it’s a school, paying a company to _licence_ titles. Each borrow by a student turns into dollars paid to an outside entity for the privilege of licensing the book. Libraries cannot give the books away or even recoup shrinking budgets by having used book sales. It’s a expenditure, through and through.

All of that, of course, is ignoring the DRM hurdles put on certain publications, which are only accessible through certain platforms. Ebooks aren’t “just like” books, only in bits. It’s a completely new market geared for one thing: making a profit.

At whose expense?

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