Saturday, May 30, 2009

ILL-ing eBooks

In a staff meeting, just the other day, we were discussing the changing focus of the library - evaluating the benefits of eBooks. For once we were all in agreement that our students want more eBooks and better access to the ones we have. However, one thing that we did not consider is the importance of ILL and how this move to electronic resources will affect our ability to lend to other libraries.

It was not until I read Steven Harris' blog post called "Interlibrary eLoan," in which he discusses the possible benefits and the many road blocks we face in approaching ILLing in a library with more and more eBooks, that I gave this pitfall any consideration.

How are we going to continue to have the ability to help other libraries when we cannot loan out our eBooks? The DRM and other copyright considerations are mind-boggling, but Harris points out a few ideas - incorporating eBook reading devices into the equation and getting the licencers of the eBook databases (NetLibrary, etc) to change their licencing plans - would work, but their implementation is far beyond us and the immediate needs of our library.

The promising answer, though it too is not an option... yet, is to provide what Harris calls a "DRM-protected PDF" that "[e]xpires after a given time period."

I like considering the scanned PDFs of articles that we send out: they are understood to be imperfect, temporary, one-time copies of particular resources that we own which are to be used for educational and academic reasons only. If we could get that concept and apply it to the ILLs - we'd be ready to go!

There are a few implementing problems - well, more than a few. The eBook databases we use make creating a PDF of the file nie near impossible, not to mention the part about making the files temporary.

But, my biggest concern is that we do not own the eBook in any sense of the word. We lease our materials from the database. When we stop paying for their services, we stop being able to access the information. It is not for us to make a copy, no matter how temporary, because we are not seen as the owners of the material in the first place. Until we get the mp3s or buy the actual eBook without the assistance of the database, our hands are tied.

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