Tag: library

Google's book deal rejected by the courts

Search engine outfit Google received a nasty surprise when a District Court judge rejected its settlement with publishers.

If Judge Denny Chin had approved the Google Books Settlement, the search outfit could have scanned and distributed millions of works.

Normally, settlements are rubber stamped by Judges but this agreement had opposition, including the US government.

Judge Chin rejected it after agreeing with opponents that it would give Google an unfair advantage. Chin said that while the digitisation of books and the creation of a universal digital library would benefit many, the Amended Settlement Agreement went too far.

He was worried that it would be possible to set up a future business arrangement that would grant Google significant rights to exploit entire books, without permission of the copyright owners.

What was bad was that the ASA agreement would give Google a significant advantage over competitors, rewarding it for engaging in wholesale copying of copyrighted works without permission, while releasing claims well beyond those presented in the case.

He concluded that the ASA was unfair, adequate, and reasonable. Many of the concerns raised in the objections would be ameliorated if the ASA were converted from an ‘opt-out’ settlement to an ‘opt-in’ settlement.”

Google has not replied yet. If it wants to get the matter sorted out it probably would follow Chin’s opt-in suggestion as the quickest and easiest way to resolve the matter.

Harper Collins rouses gang of angry librarians

Librarians are being whipped into a state of frenzy over the news that Harper Collins intends to limit the amount of times that an e-book can be lent.

While the usual limit of librarian ire peaks at a disgruntled ‘shhh’ when TechEye gets caught sheepishly grunting by the “romance” stand, it seems that the publisher has pushed them too far this time – with the announcement by distributor OverDrive that strict limits could be placed on products.

“I care about digital content in libraries,” said Sarah Houghton-Jan, the Assistant Director for the San Rafael Public Library,“And I am about to lose my cool in a big way.”  

“No more patience, no more waiting for advocacy groups to do their work, and certainly no more trusting vendors to negotiate good deals for us with the publishers.”

“I am angry, I am informed, and I am ready to fight,” she added.

A letter circulated by OverDrive said: “Under this publisher’s requirement, for every new eBook licensed, the library (and the OverDrive platform) will make the eBook available to one customer at a time until the total number of permitted checkouts is reached.”

It was revealed that the publisher in question was in fact HarperCollins, and the number of times the e-books, which are typically downloaded from a library’s website, can be viewed stands at 26.

It is thought that the figure of 26 was arrived at as it’s the average amount of uses printed text would have before it would be binned or sold on, but we’d bet bookworms would beg to differ.

“I cannot over-emphasize that we are in trouble… the lack of legislative leadership and advocacy in the last decade has created a situation where libraries have lost the rights to lending and preserving content that we have had for centuries,” Houghton-Jan said.  

“We have lost the right to buy a piece of content, lend it to as many people as we want consecutively, and then donate or sell that item when it has outlived its usefulness (if, indeed, that ever happens at all).”

There are now calls for a boycott of the firm until it repeals its plans to limit uses of e-books, with a website set up by librarians Brett Bonfield and Gabriel Farrell.

“The boycott will end as soon as HarperCollins agrees not to limit the number of times a library can loan each e-book,” the site states.

HarperCollins released the following statement on the subject:

“HarperCollins is committed to the library channel. We believe this change balances the value libraries get from our titles with the need to protect our authors and ensure a presence in public libraries and the communities they serve for years to come.”

The news comes as parts of the publishing industry struggles to come to terms with the distribution of literature in an electronic form, with Random House now the last of the ‘big six’ publishers to take up the controversial agency model for the sale of its e-books.

Libraries more popular than Netflix for DVD rentals in US

Online DVD rental websites like Netflix may be extremely popular, spelling doom for video rental stores, but it turns out that local libraries are still top dog for loaning out DVDs according to a recent survey by the Online Computer Library Centre (OCLC).

The study found that while people rent two million DVDs from Netflix every day, over 2.1 million borrow DVDs from US libraries on a daily basis. It turns out libraries are far from dead after all. In fact, the next best thing to Netflix in the US, Redbox, only rents out 1.4 million DVDs a day, giving public libraries a significant edge.

One reason for the substantial volume of DVD loans from libraries is that the video catalogue has more than doubled over the past ten years. In 1999 there were 73.5 DVDs and VHS tapes per thousand people, while in 2008 that figure has jumped to 166.7 per thousand. 

Another reason may be the tightening of belts as people lost jobs or received pay cuts during the recession. Many Americans may have chosen to get a DVD for free from their library rather than pay Netflix cash for it. 

However, film buffs are more likely to find modern movies and TV shows on Netflix, which has a larger collection of material to offer, numbering in the thousands. 

Meanwhile British DVD rental service Lovefilm has signed an agreement with US-based Widevine. The deal will see Widevine take over Lovefilm’s digital rights management and video optimisation in efforts to deliver more content to a larger number of devices. This will give users increased access to Lovefilm’s rental collection and may help to increase its 1.4 million subscriber base.

Last we checked UK libraries offer DVD rentals. But in recent times, after major spending cuts, we’re not 100 percent sure if libraries still exist.

British Library to digitise 40 million newspaper pages

The British Library announced today that it will be digitising up to 40 million pages of historic newspapers.

The project will take 10 years and spans over three centuries of material, including 52,000 local, regional, national and international titles. It comes as a joint partnership between the British Library and online publisher Brightsolid.

The plan is to digitise at least four million pages within the first two years, with substantially more following as the library streamlines the process and negotiates copyright with those who hold it.

“[This is] the most significant programme of newspaper digitisation this country has ever seen,” said Dame Lynne Brindley, Chief Executive of the British Library. “Historic newspapers are an invaluable resource for historians, researchers, genealogists, students and many others, bringing past events and people to life with great immediacy and in rich detail. Mass digitisation unlocks the riches of our newspaper collections by making them available online to users across the UK and around the world.”

The British Library already holds 750 million pages of newspapers, which is the largest collection in the world, but these are currently only available in print or microfilm, which creates a problem for researches but also for those conserving the pieces, some of which are extremely fragile.

Over 30,000 researchers use the Newspaper Library in Colindale each year, which shows how much demand there is. It is not clear what kind of impact the digitisation will have, however, as it may mean substantially less people will visit Colindale annually.

Chris van der Kuyl, CEO of Brightsolid, said: “Digitisation will mean that those people who haven’t previously been able to access the physical resource will now be able to access it from anywhere at any time.”

One issue that was raised, however, is cost. The price of the project is set at up to £1 ($1.40) per page. That would mean the project could cost upwards of £40 million ($56 million) over the ten year period, and more if particularly rare or valuable pieces need extra work before being put online.

There’s no denying that this is a substantial sum of money and it may be a sticking point for some who have seen their local libraries close down or receive reduced funding. However, considering the historical value of many of these newspapers, including some that feature the Crimean and Boer wars, the digitisation project is vital for preservation. It also opens up the collections to a wider global audience, which will benefit academic institutions and general scholarship.

“This will be the largest mass digitization of historic newspapers the UK has ever seen,” said Ben Sanderson, a spokesperson for the British Library.