by Peter Osnos, excerpted from The Atlantic Monthly

Jessica's note to the reader: Since going live on March 7th of this year, HarperCollins titles have comprised nearly a quarter of all eBooks checked out by HCPL patrons on OverDrive.

At every stage of the extraordinary surge in the use of e-books over the past few years, issues have emerged that send all concerned into a swivet. Yet, for all the threats of boycotts, litigation, and drastic overhaul of time-honored publishing practices, so far negotiations have eventually led to reasonable solutions, and the transformation of the reading experience for millions of people moves on.

To recap briefly: there was a confrontation with Google about protection of copyright in its plans for digitizing a vast virtual catalog. A federal judge's rejection of a proposed settlement with publishers and authors as too broad is a setback, but discussions will certainly continue. After a tug-of-war over who should set the list prices for e-books, retailers have conceded that right to publishers. Author royalties are being adjusted to accommodate new models of distribution, and digital rights management (the fancy name for piracy control) no longer looms as more than a technical matter, though theft continues to be a problem.

The latest flap involves e-books in public libraries, where they are becoming increasingly popular in the systems across the nation that now offer them. According to the American Library Association, 66 percent of public libraries already make e-books available to borrowers.

My Connecticut library is served by OverDrive, the major distributor of e-books. Today, I could sign up for The Social Animal, by columnist David Brooks, whose book is currently on the New York Times bestseller list. As soon as the current borrower is finished, I'll be notified and the book will be made available for my download. Yes, there is a waiting list. But, for the price of a little patience, the book will be mine for two weeks to read on a digital device of my choosing (except Amazon's Kindle, which is closed to outside material). According to Steve Potash, CEO of OverDrive, there are now about 1,000 publishers making e-books available through his distribution network, and 25,000 books a month are being added. Since the start of 2011, the increase in usage has been twice the rate it was a year ago, he said.  READ FULL ARTICLE >>

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