Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Cloud library

clouds by Extra Medium, on Flickr
Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.0 Generic License  by  Extra Medium 

Imagine a place where you can download books, music and films completely free as often as you like. When you're finished with them you just give them back.You never need to buy them yourself and if this place doesn't have what you want they can get it from their network of contacts.Sounds a bit dodgy doesn't it? Some kind of pirate web site? No it's called a library.

The point is that we have been borrowing books and other media for years without any debate about copyright. A new article by Paul Carr in Tech Crunch, Book piracy: a non-issue, doesn't see any reason for fearing the free sharing of e-books. Books have always be read by many more people than buy them, either by borrowing from libraries or friends or from second-hand shops. You can sell maybe 10,000 copies that are then read by 100,000 people. It's very doubtful if you would sell more books if all lending was forbidden and it's better to reach a wider audience than a very narrow paying one.

"To all intents and purposes, books borrowed from libraries mean authors receive no compensation. Meanwhile, every day, millions of people around the world loan books to their friends, or donate books to charities, or leave them on public transport or otherwise share them in ways that negate the need for the recipient to buy their own copy. None of this constitutes stealing from authors, and you won’t hear a peep of objection from the publishing industry or authors."

The problem with e-books is that they cannot be shared very easily and there are strict restrictions on how libraries lend them. Publishers fear they are heading the same way as the music industry but forget that millions of books are shared in accepted ways already. Carr argues that genuine readers will be quite happy to download e-books legally if the price is reasonable and the purchasing and downloading process is simple and hassle free but once you've bought the e-book it's quite natural to lend it to friends and family as we always have done.

Or maybe we pay a standard access fee every month and then read anything we want from the cloud with no need to download at all? The cloud library.

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