I had a lovely chat with the excellent Linda Braun (I just typoed that as “Linda Brain” which works, too) yesterday and talking with Linda about these issues helped me more clearly articulate some things that have been nagging at me in all of the ebook hullabaloo. (As a side note, Linda and I are generally aligned on many things and I’m posting this not because we disagreed, but because we had a great chat and I want to acknowledge that and generally mention that she’s fantastic and libraries are lucky to have her).
First of all, I know a lot of people are uncomfortable with the idea of a boycott. I understand. The word feels intense and rash and it may not be the right word to be using. Again, I don’t think libraries are going to cause some giant financial problem for HarperCollins, but I do think we have a responsibility to spend our tiny budgets wisely. Also, this isn’t about now. Ebooks are gravy right now, but this is our future and we have a major stake in how this plays out.
Several have suggested to me that it is far too late now. We should have been on this years ago, lobbying for digital first sale rights and true ownership of digital materials. We can be mad at ten years ago us or we can look for solutions now. So, we’re waking up, as Karen put it, mid-boil. And that means, perhaps, some libraries won’t survive.
I haven’t been surprised by HarperCollins and I haven’t felt angry about the #hcod issue. But this makes me mad. If a library fails, it should be because it is not serving its community, not because it can’t afford a publisher’s terms. Patrons should determine if a library is successful, not our vendors. Libraries that can roll with a future dictated by others may not feel obligated to stand up for smaller libraries, preferring instead to think that not everyone was ready for the digital future. Whose digital future is it, then?
Personally, I don’t think buying or not buying HarperCollins books is the central issue – if you’re not comfortable with a purchasing boycott, don’t do that part. But do participate. This is a flash point for our future. What’s important here is that we are waking up and raising our voices. Libraries aren’t centrally run – we don’t all have to agree on the details. But we all think libraries are important and worthy of inclusion while everyone Figures This Out.
If that makes me a whiny librarian, fine. I became a librarian because I believe in what libraries stand for. I’m not quite ready to give up on that. And just so you don’t think I do nothing but whine, I’ll post my suggestions for actions over the next several days.