The Latest in Digital Content News

Libraries around the country continue to struggle to meet the needs of patrons through the expanded use of technology.  That struggle just got a bit harder.  In recent news, many publishing houses are now placing restrictions on the lending of e-books to library patrons. In the past, we’ve commented on public libraries that are now offering e-book downloads to patrons using their library account.  Unfortunately, at a recent library conference, it was announced that major trade publishers have agreed to offer their e-book content for lending – but with restrictions. These restrictions limit the means by which patrons may access online content, in many cases requiring a patron to be on-site in order to download e-book material.  Additionally, availability is severely limited and some publishers are now requiring that only one copy may be checked out at a time. We’ve seen this before.  This type of enforcement is similar to the type of restrictions in place for music and movie sharing.

Not all publishers, however, are on board. Several will continue to provide access to their e-books without these types of controls. According to Springer-Verlag (an international publisher in science and technology):

“Libraries buy direct from us and they own the content,” says the publisher’s director of channel marketing George Scotti. “Once users download content, they can give it out, share, whatever. They own it. Some of our competitors are afraid to do this, but we say, free the content.”

That’s good to hear.  As the article states, library systems make up only about 4% of book sales.  It’s, therefore, unlikely that the lending of e-content would have a significant impact on the publishing industry.

In  related digital news, it was recently announced that U.S. News and World Report will discontinue its monthly print publication to move entirely to a digital model. The last print issue will publish in December. This is a major milestone.  U.S. News & World Report dates back to 1948.  The shift to all digital content signals major changes in the publishing industry – primarily in the dominant way in which we access and engage content.  It’s likely that other publications may soon follow suit- abandoning print altogether, and opting for a more flexible  and efficient digital model.

Beginning in 2011, readers can find the magazine electronically, on their iPad or Android-based devices – perhaps even lent to you in e-form through your local library.

The Stacks: The New Library

Although almost certainly meant tongue-in-cheek, Linda Holmes argument that libraries and librarians may be the next big, pop culture fad, may just be onto something.  We’ve written before on the trends taking shape in libraries across the country.  Holmes’ argument that librarians ‘know stuff’ accords with the increasingly diverse skill set demanded of today’s librarians.  And Holmes’ observation that ‘libraries will give you stuff for free’ captures an essential characteristic of today’s library: today’s library is becoming the place to go to access free content – all content – in a variety of formats, even digital resources. 

Holmes’ prediction of a reality television program (she suggests it be called ’The Stacks’) which follows the trials and tribulations of a library notwithstanding, she’s very likely right: libraries are in the middle of a process of transformation, a process that will change the way we think of libraries, but will make them that much more essential to the populace.

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