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    Location: Aberystwyth, Wales, United Kingdom

    I am the owner and managing director of Information Automation Limited (IAL), a company that specialises in research, consultancy and training for the information profession. We are particularly interested in all forms of electronic information resources (e-journals, e-books, etc) and I teach a course in electronic publishing at the Department of Information Studies in Aberystwyth. Drilling down still further(!), my interests centre on the quality and evaluation of electronic information, and in the thinking that underpins activities in library and information science.
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    Thursday, March 16, 2006

    Google and e-books: sales or loans?

    On March 13th, ZDNet reported that Google is moving into the sales of e-books. It looks as if this is not based on the Google Book Search initiative in which millions of books from major libraries are being digitised, but is a separate initiative with books acquired through willing publishers (Google may be wondering at times if that is not a contradiction in terms!).
    ZDNet spoke of book SALES, but it also noted that purchasers would not be allowed "to save a copy of the book to their computer or to otherwise copy pages from the book." This would seem to suggest that you must read a book at a single sitting! Also, that Google are talking about the purchase of the right to borrow a book. Most librarians would probably agree that this is rather a strange approach - and one that the conventional library model beats hands-down. No library that I know charges users for each book they borrow and then insists that they read it at a single sitting ... or pay to borrow it again.
    I applaud Google's drive to digitise the world's culture, but worry about their attempts to make it available. Publishers and aggregators alike are struggling to come up with an acceptable model through which to licence e-books to individuals and libraries - now Google has come up with yet another variation: pay-to-borrow.

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