Janea started reading fantasy as an impressionable pre-teen, and hit addiction status soon thereafter (cheaper than cigarettes, and so much better for one's health). She soon became known as the go-to person for book recommendations among her friends. After college, she inexplicably found herself working at a local public library. She was the only one surprised by this turn of events. Currently, when not reading, Janea works on her own fiction, is the Editor-in-Chief of The Speculative Post, operates a freelance writing business, is active in the Society for Creative Anachronism, and performs as part of a Renaissance choir.
Greatshadow is one heck of a fun book, and is easily one of the best reads I've had so far this year. I loved it so much, in fact, that I've convinced my fellows at The Ranting Dragon that we should read it for June's book club. Keep your eye's open tomorrow (May 10, 2012) for a giveaway of several copies. You can read my full review here.
So, I had an excellent time at Penguicon, and was really excited to see my panel on Library and Librarians in the Information Age so well attended. We had a lot of audience participation, and so didn't get to talk about everything we had on our list of issues. But, that's just more things for me to blog about, right?
First I'll recap what actually was covered before I move further afield. Libraries are repositories of information, and librarians are the caretakers, gatekeepers, and facilitators of these resources. It is there job to develop the collection, make sure the collection stays relevant to their service area, and to provide access to the collection to their patrons.
Libraries house a wide variety of materials. Nearly all libraries collect ink-and-paper books. A public district or community library will generally collect books for all ages in fiction and non-fiction. It is also now standard for libraries to stock CDs, as well as audio books in formats from cassette tape to CD to MP3. More and more libraries are stocking DVDs and BluRays, replacing video rental stores in their communities. Each of these materials comes with their own host of problems. First, they all take up space, and every library has limited space. My library (CADL) is actively weeding our video tape collection, because a video takes up the same space as three or four DVDs or BluRays. Book bindings do not last forever. Discs scratch, and can only be resurfaced a certain number of times. BluRays cannot be resurfaced at all. Any item that incurs water/liquid damage has the potential to grow mold. The upside to all of these materials is that the library owns them outright and can circulate them as they choose.
As technology changes, so are libraries. This brings us to the topic of biggest interest to the panel's audience: e-books and the library. For the moment, aside from small exceptions, there is one company all libraries work with for their digital collections: Overdrive. This is true for Canada as well as the United States. A library will contract with Overdrive, who will then house their digital collection on their servers, facilitate the buying of these materials from distributors and publishers, and provide the programming which allows library patrons to check out materials via their library card. Essentially, it is a complete privatization of a portion of library services. For the most part, libraries cannot opt out of this system, as there is nothing to replace it with. It is not cost effective for a library to try and duplicate these services in house. The cost of just paying someone to build the software alone is price prohibitive. But Overdrive does come with it's downfalls. Not all publishers sell their books to Overdrive, thereby cutting libraries off from their digital editions. This includes most of the Big Seix publishers. Those who are still selling to Overdrive are winnowing their bestseller list, so that e-book editions of major releases are not available to Overdrive and participating libraries until well after that book has released to retailers. It should also be noted that libraries are still free to buy print copies of these books at the same time retailers do, just no the digital copies. Overdrive, not the library, ultimately controls access to materials and those materials' DRM.
DRM stands for Digital Rights Management, and is essentially a list of rules coded into digital media which restricts its use. Every publisher and distributor has different DRMs, but they often include not being able to freely copy the file. While you can own a paper-and-ink book outright, you often do not own an e-book outright. It comes with terms and conditions. For libraries, DRM always means a limit to how many circulations they own the book for. Once a certain number of people have checked that book out, the library no longer can loan it and must repurchase a licensing agreement. Those limits are also generally less than what an average print book can handle before it falls apart. Also terrifying from a censorship point of view: e-books are insanely susceptible to change. A publisher/distributor can go into the master file and change it, and those changes are reflected in all copies of this file (because with DRM, all copies remain linked together), often immediately and without your knowledge or permission as the 'owner' of that copy. While this is mainly limited to text corrections (typos, spelling, etc), it is very easy for this to turn into a dystopian nightmare. What happens when The Diary of Ann Frank that we know today turns into The Diary of Ann Frank that exists in North Korea? A reader may know that this is not the same book it once was, but will be unable to find any unchanged digital copy, at least legally. The only record of those changes would be in the printed book, provided they are still around.
In conclusion of the first part of this series, I'd point you over to Charles Stross's website and blog. Stross is an SFF author who often blogs about current technology and their potential ramifications. He's done a number of excellent articles on e-books, DRM, their benefits and their downfalls.
I can't believe that April has flown by so fast, and that Penguicon is already here. For those of you who don't know, Penguicon is a general geek convention run on an open source model that happens every year in the Detroit, MI area. Just about anyone who wants to can present a panel on just about everything. Program tracks include science, technology, literature, gaming, web comics, food, and so much more.
The guest of honor this year is none other than John Scalzi, author and blogger extraordinaire. Jim Hines and Saladin Ahmed will also be on several panels throughout the weekend.
Also of note (at least for me) is that I will be co-presenting a panel on "Libraries and Librarians in the Information Age" at 2 pm on Saturday in the Franklin Room. What challenges do we have? What role are we still serving? What are the needs of the populations we serve? If you're making it to Penguicon this year, I highly encourage you to attend! My co-presenter and I have a lot of ideas to throw at you. I may post an entry or two on the panel and what we discussed later this week if I find some sanity. (Note: Penguicon is not conducive to me finding my sanity, but rather loosing more of it.)
For more information, check out Penguicon's website. Registration can be done at the door, and the new much bigger hotel may still have rooms available.