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电子借阅与公共图书馆:收起书架
Electronic Lending And Public Libraries: Folding Shelves
2019/7/30 13:44:59 来源: 世知网

Plastered on the wall of San Francisco’s main public library are 50,000 index cards, formerly entries in the library’s catalogue. The tomes they refer to may be becoming decorative, too. Not only can library patrons now search the collection online, they may also check out electronic books without visiting the library. For librarians, “e-lending” is a natural offer in the digital age. Publishers and booksellers fear it could unbind their business.

旧金山最大的公共图书馆的墙壁上贴满以前记载着图书馆书目条录的5万张索引卡片。这些索引卡所指引的众多巨著可能也越来越成为一种装饰。如今图书馆的顾客不仅可以在网上搜索图书, 而且还可以不必去图书馆就能查看电子图书。对图书管理员来说,“电子借阅”是数字时代自然而然提供的服务。出版商和书商却担心,这会打破他们的经营模式。

Worries about the effect of libraries on the book trade are not new. But digital devices, which allow books to reach readers with ease and speed, intensify them. As Brian Napack, president of Macmillan, a big publisher, put it in 2011, the fear is that someone who gets a library card will “never have to buy a book again”.

关于图书馆对图书业影响的担忧并不新鲜。但数字设备使图书更为轻易快捷地走向读者的情形却加剧了这种担忧。正如大出版商麦克米伦总裁布赖恩·纳帕克2011年所言,让人担忧的是拥有借书证的人将“不必再购买书籍”。

A printed book can be borrowed only during opening hours and at the library, so many readers save themselves the hassle and buy their own copy. But e-lending is frictionless: any user with the right privileges can download a digital file instantly (at the end of the borrowing period it self-destructs). This raises big issues: must libraries buy many copies of an e-book, or just one? And what about security? A hacker who cracks the library’s system could pirate everything it holds.

纸质图书只有在开馆时间才能从图书馆借阅,因此很多读者为避免麻烦,就干脆自己买一本。但是电子借阅却无此麻烦:任何拥有权限的读者都可以即刻下载数字文件(在借阅期限结束时,文件会自动清除)。这就会引发严重问题:图书馆必须购买一本电子书的很多副本,还是只买一个副本?而且安全性如何?能够破解图书馆系统的黑客可能会盗版图书馆拥有的所有资料。

In publishers’ eyes librarians are “sitting close to Satan”, declared Phil Bradley, president of the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals. He was addressing indignant librarians who recently gathered in London to swap tales of e-lending woe. Some publishers have refused to sell their e-books to public libraries, made them prohibitively costly or put severe restrictions on their use. Although 71% of British public libraries lend out e-books, 85% of e-book titles are not available in public libraries, according to Mr Bradley. In America the average public library makes available only 4,350 e-books (Amazon, an online retail giant, stocks more than 1.7m).

Under copyright law, anyone who buys a printed book can lend or rent it, but the same does not apply to digital works. Libraries do not own these outright. Instead they must negotiate licensing deals for each book they want to lend. They put the e-collections on servers run by computer firms such as OverDrive and 3M, which typically charge around $20,000 annually, plus a fee for each book.

No country has a settled policy on e-lending. Britain has ordered a review; the results are expected soon. Other governments are waiting for publishers to set their terms. In America, where around three-quarters of public libraries lend e-books, each of the “big six” publishers has a different policy. Simon & Schuster refuses to make e-books available to public libraries at all. HarperCollins’s e-books expire after they have been lent 26 times. At the 80 libraries where Penguin is offering a pilot e-lending programme, licences for its e-books expire after a year. Other publishers want to apply the limitations of printed books to digital ones. For example, some want public libraries to replace e-books periodically, just as they have to do with real books that get dirty and torn.

Several other experiments are in the works. Canada is planning a national e-lending platform, so libraries would not have to have their e-book collections hosted by third parties. Small Canadian publishers actually favour e-lending because the library market there accounts for as much as 40% of their business, says Paul Whitney, formerly of Vancouver Public Library. In America libraries make up only around 5% of sales.

New book, new story

Some libraries have tried paying publishers each time an e-book is lent out. In Denmark libraries used to pay around 17 Danish kroner ($3) per digital loan, but even with a price as high as that the country’s largest publisher pulled out. It feared that e-lending was cannibalising print sales. Besides, in some countries it is illegal to charge people for library use. Some want the industry to offer subscriptions for bundles of books, much as universities buy their academic journals. However, publishers worry that this may degrade customers’ and libraries’ perceptions about the value of books.

E-lending may reduce publishers’ control of their books, but it also takes power away from libraries. Relying on outsiders’ servers to host e-collections can mean legal hassles (it can be hard or impossible to switch providers) and worries about privacy. Alan Inouye of the American Library Association notes that libraries jealously guard data about users’ borrowing habits. But e-lending leaves new, digital traces that publishers could exploit.

An even bigger worry for both libraries and publishers is competition. In 2011 Amazon launched an e-lending programme in America. It has since expanded it to Britain, France and Germany. Customers who sign up for Amazon’s “prime” bundle of services, which offers free delivery and streamed movies for an annual fee, can also borrow a book each month on their Kindles, Amazon’s e-reading device. So far no works from big publishers are available. Librarians are irked by this, but not yet anxious. Laura Lent, the chief of collections at the San Francisco Public Library, notes that lending from her shelves, unlike Amazon’s, is free of charge.

Librarians and the book industry have different interests. But without getting future generations into the book-reading habit, both will perish, says Stuart Hamilton of the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions. Library lending plays a big if unquantifiable role in nurturing a love of reading.

Some even wonder if e-lending is in the libraries’ interests, since it encourages people to stay at home, rather than use them as a public space (one reason why they enjoy taxpayers’ backing). One critic privately calls e-lending the “Librarian Unemployment Act of 2013”. But Pew, a research firm, reckons 62% of American libraries are the only source of free internet access and computers in their communities. Many patrons also come in to ask for help with learning to use their e-readers. The libraries’ story has plenty more pages yet.

(陈铎 译自The EconomistMar.23, 2013)                  来源:《英语文摘》2013年6期

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