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I want to break up with eBooks. Don’t get me wrong, eBooks is dead sexy and great arm candy at parties, as well as a magnet for attention and memorable experiences. But man…eBooks makes for a crap boyfriend. This relationship is as dysfunctional as it gets. And I’m too old and jaded to put up with dysfunction. I need a smoldering hot boyfriend who is a wildcat in the bedroom but kisses gently, is unfailingly honest and kind, and sends me cute messages during the day. And that ain’t eBooks.

eBooks is to libraries what that awful boyfriend (or girlfriend) was to you. Think about it. And when I say “eBooks” I mean the whole messed up situation–the copyright nightmares, the publishers, the fragmented formats, the ridiculous terms of service, the device incompatibility, the third-party aggregation companies libraries do business with–all of it. eBooks is the guy who takes advantage of your good nature and generosity only to exploit every last weakness you have for his own personal gain. The guy your family loved the first time they met him, who swept you off your feet, but who everyone came to regard as that unwanted interloper who would never leave. Well, my friends, it’s time to boot eBooks’ ass to the curb. There are better boyfriends to be had.

eBooks ignores you
eBooks totally ignores everything you say. We in libraries have not been included at the table for negotiations on digital copyright, terms of service, licensing conditions, technology integration, none of it. And yes, that stinks. And yes, we’ve complained about it enough. We haven’t been heard largely because we’ve been too polite and too quiet for too long. It’s our fault. We removed ourselves from the equation by not being more proactive as a profession through the professional organizations and lobbyists we expect to speak for us. But even now that some of us are getting louder and angrier, we’re still being ignored by the entire eBooks industry, with very few exceptions (hi Gluejar, you guys rock). So my opinion is that we should walk away and take our fuck-me heels with us. That’s what our moms would tell us to do.

eBooks drew you in with wine and roses, but now makes you fetch him beer and Cheetos
Remember how tantalizing eBooks seemed several years ago? How sexy, how intoxicating? Everything seemed perfect because we were caught up in the glossy image of our desires…not the reality standing in front of us. eBooks…in…the…library! Holy ceiling cat!!!11one! We were like kids on our first trip to the candy store.

Now, eBooks’ idea of a date is ordering a cheese pizza from the cardboard pizza joint down the street. Maybe he’ll turn on some bromance comedy on Netflix, but more than likely he’ll play Skyrim by himself for hours, ask for a beer, and tell you to get lost. For your birthday eBooks might actually put toppings on the pizza (think Penguin’s misguided experiment at NYPL with embargoed popular titles) and buy a bottle of $5 wine. And he expects you to be grateful…after all, hey…toppings! For libraries, our crappy pizza is our crappy eBooks selection. We can’t buy from most of the major publishers, and even for those we can buy from we have extreme restrictions or highly inflated costs. And our attention negligent boyfriend’s actions, in eBooks’ case, are the lack of development of usable download processes, fair-use-friendly terms of use, and privacy options in keeping with libraries’ professional values and ethics. In short–dude…the dates are terrible and yet we keep going on them, hoping that maybe we’ll go somewhere nice eventually. Please, darling. We know better.

eBooks slept with your sister
Remember how eBooks said he could only do so much for you, that he just didn’t have the emotional capacity to truly love but that for you, he was going to try? Yeah, and then he went and slept with your sister. Likewise, eBooks slept with consumers and gave them what eBooks never gave us as libraries–full selection, right-quick downloads, and sharing rights. We got no love at all, but our prettier sister, the consumer, got a better deal. Still not everything, as she also has to put up with restrictive DRM, licensing and not owning, and privacy violations…but in the end she stole our man and our man went willingly. Of course, he still texts us now and again to make sure we’re still interested–hinting that he might come back to us with the same relationship agreement our sister got. Yeah, right.

eBooks says you’ll move in together, but you never do
You’ve wanted to wake up next to someone awesome for a long time–and eBooks keeps promising it will happen. But his playboy nature always wins out–he still wants his own place. Likewise, publishers continually feed libraries the line that they’re “experimenting with different models” and “hope to continue to work positively with libraries in the digital space.” Uh huh.  Libraries and eBooks aren’t shacking up anytime soon, not for real…not as long as publishers continue to falsely view us as a threat instead of a partner.

I feel that we in libraries are actually doing a disservice by offering what’s “barely good enough.” We give people the false impression that they can get their eBooks through their libraries. How many libraries are upfront with information about how we can’t/don’t offer books from the most popular publishers? How many libraries are upfront with the limited formats people can get on their devices of choice? Instead, most libraries tout their subscription to a single eBook service like it’s the second coming. We say “we have eBooks!” and “they work on most devices!” without listing the caveats, perhaps hoping that people won’t notice until they’re already chest deep in the browsing or download process and only then see what the limitations are. Why in hell are we covering for a bad situation? Who gains from us putting the happy face on the dismal eBook situation in libraries? It’s certainly not libraries–we haven’t gained shit. It’s certainly not our users–in fact, they’re the biggest losers. It’s the publishers who gain–who choose to license to libraries under any terms whatsoever (they get our money and we accept crappy prices and use limitations). And it’s the middleman companies who gain–who whore themselves out for the highest profit, lying to both sides by telling the publishers that libraries are screwing them and the libraries that the publishers are the ones doing the screwing. Walk away, my friend. Walk away.

I’m out.
So that’s it folks. eBooks and I are done. eBooks in libraries are a non-starter, their path has been set for the foreseeable future, and their future is determined by people who are not us. Not by the people who love books, who believe in their power to change lives, but by those who produce them for profit. No, not by the authors (as we all know, they see far too little profit for their labors), but by the publishers…the, until recently, necessary middlemen in the process between creators and consumers. Now that they’re not necessary to the process anymore, largely due to their inflexibility and inability to change in the face of rapidly shifting market conditions, they have attempted to salvage their failing business model with high prices, limited licensing policies, and technology so locked down that it remains impenetrable to many people.

If I hear one more publisher talk about “increasing friction,” I am going to punch that publisher in the face with a pair of book-shaped brass knuckles and discuss the option of dramatically increasing friction cheese-grater-style somewhere else on their physique. Don’t push me Penguin.

Publishers have painted themselves into a corner, a corner that will eventually eat them alive. But until that happens, until the market shakes out, there is little libraries can do that is in keeping with our core ethics and values.

For a decade now I have been speaking, writing, and advocating on a local, national, and international level for positive eBooks integration and implementation in libraries. I’ve spoken to technologists, educators, publishers, librarians, authors, lawyers, and legislators. I’ve been frustrated by how long it took everyone to start paying attention, but at long last in the past year or two people are finally listening. Everyone on “the right side,” insofar as I see it, agrees that the DMCA needs to be radically revised, that copyright exemptions need to be extended for libraries into the digital domain, but no one has the power or political clout to override the lobbyists’ dollar signs in the capitol. So, what are we left with as librarians in our role to advocate for our communities’ needs? Nada, zilch, zero, zip.

At our recent regional library consortium meeting, I said I wouldn’t give more money to OverDrive, beyond the bare minimum that the consortium’s contract required of us, and only until we can legally terminate our contract–at which point I personally want out of OverDrive.  The title selection is awful and getting only more so month by month, their policies are restrictive, and their business practices are unethical–including trading away core librarian values (user data privacy, no commercial endorsements).  I’m not going to give any money to 3M or Baker & Taylor either unless things change on their end, just for the record.

Yes–our residents want eBooks. But does that mean that we trade away our core values and ethics to provide anything, under any terms? Does it mean that we spend our residents’ limited tax dollars on sub-par products with sub-par usage terms and no ownership or longevity guarantees? Or is the fact that people want eBooks from their libraries and we can’t get them going to turn out to be enough reason to stop the madness and engage in a massive national boycott of the societal conflagration that we are faced with for the future of digital information?

So why keep up the ruse that eBooks are in libraries and all is awesome? Why continue the whitewashing? I’m personally done with the whitewashing. I’ll continue to support positive steps toward eBook independence like Open Library, Gluejar, the Hathi Trust, DPLA, Project Gutenberg, and projects like those undertaken at the Douglas County Public Library and Califa. However, I’m finished promoting an inferior eBook product to our patrons. I’m finished throwing good money after bad money. And I’m finished trying to pointlessly advocate for change when change has to come from places waaaaaaay above my influence level or pay grade.

eBooks, you shitty boyfriend you…you are dead to me.  I will tolerate your continued existence, but will pay you no mind.  You don’t deserve a single byte of my brain’s bandwidth.

So what now? I plan on turning my attentions to the next frontiers of music and video content–places where we just may be able to effect some positive change before things go to hell in a handbasket yet again. Multimedia library licensing situations are even more early-stage than those which we face with eBooks. And so perhaps there is still hope. Do I plan to single-handedly take on the RIAA or the MPAA? No, that would be simpering idiocy. What I do plan to do is to seek out and reward publishers, aggregators, and creators who are willing to distribute their content under terms favorable to both them and to library communities, including insisting on DRM-free content. Yes, this most likely means a lack of popular content–but most of us have zero for popular digital content for music or movies today, at least legally. At least this way we’re offering something to our users, likely content they wouldn’t stumble across on iTunes or Netflix, and we’re rewarding business models that work for us…not against us. Models that work for our users, not against them. And that, my friends, is what we are supposed to do as librarians.

So, to close–fuck eBooks. I’m off to get myself the boyfriend I deserve.

“I’m breaking up with eBooks (and you can too)”

  1. Justin Hoenke Says:

    Welcome to the club. Its really nice here.

  2. Louise Alcorn Says:

    Sarah, as always, good food for thought. Sadly, to continue your metaphor, here at my library/consortium we have to “dance with them what brought ya”, at least for now. And I’m sufficiently Pollyanna-esque (ish?) to hope we can figure out a middle ground. That said, I was nearly in tears at the end of a conversation yesterday with a nice couple who just wanted to get a few books (only one of which OverDrive had) onto their new Nooks. After 45 minutes of tech instruction to get ADE on their old laptops, then explaining to them why they couldn’t have Bossypants in e-book, but they could get it as an e-audiobook (wtf Overdrive), they still seemed receptive (bless them), so I explained to them in more detail why they couldn’t have what they wanted, at least not from us. I actually said “well, you can buy it from Barnes and Noble”. And then I wept inside, and made my karmic apologies to Ranganathan. Keep up the good fight.

  3. Eric Hellman Says:

    Remember that nerdy Gutenberg guy who sat in the back of the class reading Moby Dick and was nice but so not boyfriend material? You should have been nicer to him.

  4. Megan Wianecki Says:
    Others have noticed how bad a boyfriend ebooks is as well. I personally am looking forward to Hoopla from MidWest Tape. Music and movie platform designed to be library friendly (gasp). I’m too am hoping that music/movies will prove to be a better boyfriend than ebooks, but we’ll have to see.

  5. Jody Meza Says:


  6. Sarah Says:

    @Eric Hellman – I’m pretty sure that nerdy Gutenberg guy is the guy I usually ended up dating ;)

  7. elliott Says:

    I’m a consumer and I’m back to old books – the device/DRM/monopoly means they can cut author royalties AND charge me more. D’oh. Luckily, lots of great goodwill stores sell copies of old classics.

  8. Andy Mabbett Says:

    I’m single. And I *never* leave the seat up.

  9. Michael Perry Says:

    Not working in a public library, most of my experience in this has come as a patron. I remember a few months back thinking I needed something to read so let’s browse Overdrive to see what they have. I spent well over an hour going though the terrible options available until I finally stopped. I realized that I’d just spent a ridiculous amount of time doing absolutely nothing but finding something I would tolerate to read. Had I been in the library, or at a book store real or virtual, I’d have been done in 10 minutes flat. So instead of doing something useful with my time, I’d wasted it in all the ways you’d outlined so well above. I’ve never logged back into the site since. But my reader is packed full of goodies from HathTrust, Open Library, and Gutenberg. And you know what, I’m better off for it.

  10. Angela Says:

    Is there an article that I can read that explains this problem in layman’s terms? I was confused by all the metaphors. Also, I’ve noticed for a while now how my library has such a poor selection of ebook titles…good to know.

  11. Sarah Says:

    @Andy Mabbett – Never leaving the seat up is one of the little things that makes a girl’s heart sing. Well done, sir.

  12. Burk Says:

    Great post.. let’s keep up the demand for real books. I have no ereader, but I go to my library weekly.

    The problem for publishers is that they already gave up a huge franchise to libraries way back when. Now in the digital world, they face the prospect A) of losing everything if they let the freely copy-able cat out of the bag, or B) of regaining control over everthing with onerous licensing and usage terms, tied to now-ephemeral content. I recently “bought” the steve jobs lost interview on itunes, and was fascistically instructed to watch it within a 24 hour window before it was deleted (the content was streamed anyhow, actually). My rage was inexpressible. What kind of totalitarian world do we live in now?

    The answer is to bring public policy into the picture, rather than to let the publishers do whatever they can get away with. We need a national legislative policy on electronic media preservation, renting, and borrowing policies, which render fair returns to creators and fair use to consumers, and most of all, standardized preservation and recapture of copywrite when media are out of print/ out of the marketplace. Publishers are, on their own terms, perpetual enemies of libraries.

    A useful model is the academic publishing world, where creators have started a revolution for open access media (PLOS and so forth). But creators alone tend to be too disorganized to stand up to the centralized publishing biz.

    Another model is to separate out the functions of publishing, as the print-on-demand industry is starting to do. If libraries were to curate and promote POD books effectively, they could start to break the fossil-publishing model of top-down control.

  13. J.C. Cohen Says:

    Great points.

    I think a lot of the problems you mention all stem from your first bolded point: publishers ignore libraries. So the question becomes, how do we change that first point? I don’t have any answers either.

    To make matters worse, as a consumer, I love ebooks. I am unable to travel without books. Lots of books. I’m so scared of being caught without a book that I would routinely have an entire backpack full of books as my carry-on. Now I have a kindle. 1 device that only takes up a small space in my carryon, and gives me access to the few hundred books in my library (mostly, honestly, freebies) and the ability to buy 1000s more if for some reason that should prove insufficient. In that regard, its a dream device.

    But in a professional capacity, as you point out, its been nightmarish. This tearing action between personal and professional may be the publishers’ goal, in fact; making librarians unable to fight because they are unable to give up what they have as a consumer is a good way to never have to deal with libraries.

  14. NervousNewby Says:

    My family (the board) doesn’t care that I want to leave him; his charms are so overwhelming that when I sit crying at the dinner table on Sunday, they tell me we’ve got to “work it out” because everyone wants us to be together. He does look awfully cute from a distance, eBooks, but after cohabitating for a few years, the drama is a killer. How can I and other abused librarians like me just “slip out the back” without disappointing our families and our friends?

  15. Sarah Says:

    @NervousNewby – Fortunately, my Board is very supportive of our activities and advocacy re: eBooks and other digital content. In fact, our Board were the ones who insisted we get the pop-up message in OverDrive warning people when they’re downloading an Amazon Kindle book that the library’s privacy terms no longer apply and that Amazon rules all. They suggested it before I even uttered a word. I love them THIIIIIIIIIS much. :)

  16. Sarah Says:

    @Angela – For a good overview article that isn’t hidden behind a paywall (bah!), try “The eBook Cargo Cult” by Brett Bonfield on the In the Library with the Lead Pipe blog:

  17. Ebooks in the Career College Library « careercollegelibrary Says:

    [...] did you read the blog post from the Librarian In Black??  Honestly, I liked it.  I know as a patron I’m very frustrated with the ebook borrowing [...]

  18. I’m breaking up with eBooks (and you can too) | Librarian in Black Blog – Sarah Houghton | Entertainment & copyright | Says:

    [...] I want to break up with eBooks.Don’t get me wrong, eBooks is dead sexy and great arm candy at parties, as well as a magnet for attention and memorable…  [...]

  19. Robin Says:

    Great post, thanks. Too often it seems that people jump on ‘the latest thing’ bandwagon without considering the long and short-term drawbacks of ‘le dernier chose’. Thanks for your examination of the issues involved in loaning ebooks at libraries.

  20. Cherilyn Says:

    @Angela This might help

  21. Today’s Library : Atchison Kansas Public Library Says:

    [...] director of the San Rafael (CA) Public Library and author of the blog, Librarian in Black. In this post, Houghton vents her frustration with eBooks, a complaint not directed toward the technology itself [...]

  22. Emily Says:

    I’m a new MLIS I find myself constantly complaining about the lack of friendship between publishers and Libraries. Hello. We work with consumers on a daily basis AND we have our interested in the “book business.” SO much could be done to benefit both publishers and libraries if only they would take a minute to really understand the benefits. As far as e-books are concerned, it completely boggles my mind that ANYONE in the industry has the insane imagination necessary to think that what happened to the music industry will happen to books because you know…..a song is not the same thing as a 300 page book.

  23. Reagen Says:

    Thank you for summing up so eloquently what I’ve been feeling for a while. I got a Kindle for my birthday a year or so ago and have hardly used the thing because, 1) I still prefer reading an actual physical book, and 2) the area I live in literally just got OverDrive, and like you mentioned the selection is not even remotely what I want to read. The original idea of ebooks was pure but somehow got corrupted along the way.

  24. A Esfera dos Livros disponibiliza e-books na | Hímpeto Says:

    [...] I'm violation adult with eBooks (and we can too) | Librarian in Black … [...]

  25. I’m breaking up with eBooks (and you can too) | Librarian in Black Blog – Sarah Houghton | The Ischool library learningland | Says:

    [...] I want to break up with eBooks.Don’t get me wrong, eBooks is dead sexy and great arm candy at parties, as well as a magnet for attention and memorable…  [...]

  26. Doncaster case lost … but does Suffolk win? Says:

    [...] I’m breaking up with eBooks (and you should too) – Librarian in Black (USA).  Publishers and libraries are not getting on and may be incompatible.  Therefore, libraries need either to be willing to break their core principles (by charging) or call the whole thing off until publishers come to their senses. [...]

  27. I’m breaking up with eBooks (and you can too) | Librarian in Black Blog – Sarah Houghton | LibraryHints2012 | Says:

    [...] I want to break up with eBooks.Don’t get me wrong, eBooks is dead sexy and great arm candy at parties, as well as a magnet for attention and memorable…  [...]

  28. James Thull Says:

    But I love Cheetos and beer….I mean they are a great combo right? This was a very cool article! Thanks!

  29. RP Says:

    I’m an MLIS and I have never understood what people think is so great about ebooks. Too bad I can’t say that publicly without being labeled as a Luddite. I’m 27, I’m on every major social media website and I am currently working from home evaluating search engines! As a frequent library user I’ve only browsed ebooks a few times. I never worked in a public library, but in every other type I worked in, never ONCE did a patron ask why we didn’t carry more ebooks. Ebook readers are only useful for the handful for people who read huge amounts of books. It’s a complete waste of money for someone who only reads a book or two a year. They made sexy gifts when they first came out but that will quickly go away and sales will plateau. I don’t think public libraries (or any other for that matter) would be doing a disservice to their patrons if they stopped offering them completely. One or two people might complain, but they’ll get over it when you explain the funds you saved went towards a better purpose. Like expanded operating hours. I know there are a lot of librarians who think rebranding the library as technology/information centers is the way of the future but I think that’s ignoring what users actually want from their library. By all means, embrace technology when it’s useful, but we don’t need to jump on every bandwagon to stay relevant, especially when we know it’s not cost effective.

  30. AK Benjamin Says:

    Igot fed up with ebooks when I bought Josh Gates new book for my phone’s Kindle app. Then I got a Nook because my daughter got one, and we could share an account. But no Denstnation Truth for me now! I stupidly bought a book with DRM, and as you know B&N and Amazon are competitors. So I either fork out another 10 bucks for a book I already bought, or torrent an unrestricted epub copy on the web. I torrented it. It now runs on any device I own, and I do not feel guilty. Not one damn bit! ;)

  31. I’m breaking up with eBooks (and you can too) | Librarian in Black Blog – Sarah Houghton | ebooks | Says:

    [...] I want to break up with eBooks.Don’t get me wrong, eBooks is dead sexy and great arm candy at parties, as well as a magnet for attention and memorable…  [...]

  32. Edwin Says:

    We’re a bit behind in the Netherlands but there’s no reason at all it will be any different around here. Thanks for your words. Sad, but inspiring just the same.

  33. Jamie LaRue Says:

    Brilliant. Tour de force. Writing like this makes ME want to be your boyfriend.

  34. Sarah Says:

    Oh Jamie! As I’ve said many times over, you are a library hero to me. Between you, Roy Tennant, Gina Millsap, and Karen Schneider I feel like my library idols are well-chosen.

  35. Rural Librarian Says:

    My library has lots of patrons with eReaders. I have explained to them, the board, the foundation and anyone who wants to listen why I haven’t spent the money to get involved with ebook lending through Overdrive….poor selection, stupid restrictions, poor download facilities and if you get sick of Overdrive or any other provider and drop them you lose the books you paid for. BS. When patrons ask I tell them they can get a free library card at the library in the county seat because they bought into Overdrive and wish them luck. And to some I just give the web addresses where they can download pirated ebooks. Publishers won’t cooperate with libraries so why should we be concerned about their profits??? Ethical? No. Practical? YES.

  36. Ryan Says:

    Boy. This wasn’t one of those “hold his hand in the coffee shop and say, ‘it’s not you, it’s me’” type of break ups! It definitely was a blunt, honest “Hey. You. you’re holding me back and I deserve much more. Fuck off and die” type of break ups. I’d say it’s harsh except that it’s too true. Nicely put (as always)! Hope that special someone sweeps you off your feet soon :)

  37. Paul Signorelli Says:

    Well, Ms. Sarah, you’ve once again obviously and effectively tapped an exposed nerve that was ripe for tapping. Kudos on the fine mixture of humor and anger to help others understand the good, bad, and ugly of what they are receiving and what they are missing in terms of service from libraries. And, as you and I have said to each other in the past, a key issue here is your reference to “no ownership or longevity guarantees” in terms of the relationship between libraries, collecting, and serving library users with the tax dollars we contribute. If we don’t get a handle on what it means to collect and disseminate information resources in the digital age, we’re going to see a very different kind of library in the not-too-distant future–one that provides disappointingly less rather than more content at a time when content and information are meant to be more accessible to greater numbers of people than ever before.

  38. bowerbird Says:

    i can probably find about a million authors
    who will let libraries have their e-books for
    – tossing a starting offer — 2 cents per loan.

    no d.r.m., no silly 26-uses-and-its-worn-out,
    simultaneous check-out to multiple patrons,
    online, please kindly delete it when finished,
    and whatever else you think is reasonable…

    so… if you’re game, i will go round them up…

    seriously, it’d be so easy anyone could do it.

    because every author that i know has had a
    secret crush on a librarian since… forever!…

    and the library itself? more fun than recess!


  39. Hardcover Says:

    Hi Sarah,

    I’m sorry to hear about your recent break up with eBooks. It seemed to be going so well.

    All I can say is: I’m ready to take you back. I’m sitting here in the stacks where you left me. Come check me out and I can take you places you’ve never been before.


    A real book

  40. Stephen Michael Kellat Says:

    Dang it, this sounds like something I would have written. All my ereader has on it are DRM-free items from Baen Books, Walt Crawford’s special 6×9 editions of Cites and Insights, and The Debian Administrator’s Handbook. My physical title count at home dwarfs my ereader’s count…even after the number of times I’ve been forced to gut it over the past few years.

    The brave new world of electronics in publishing isn’t devices that simulate books but that the friction gradient for getting something published is so much lower than it once was. It isn’t Star Trek but rather Babylon 5. Sadly the Star Trek conception of the how the future looks has more mindshare…

  41. I’m breaking up with eBooks (and you can too) | Librarian in Black Blog – Sarah Houghton | offene ebooks & freie Lernmaterialien (epub, ibooks, ibooksauthor) | Says:

    [...] I want to break up with eBooks.Don’t get me wrong, eBooks is dead sexy and great arm candy at parties, as well as a magnet for attention and memorable…  [...]

  42. Delphi Psmith Says:

    GREAT post :D

  43. I’m breaking up with eBooks (and you can too) | Libraries and Readers | Says:

    [...] I want to break up with eBooks. Don’t get me wrong, eBooks is dead sexy and great arm candy at parties, as well as a magnet for attention and memorable experiences. But man…eBooks makes for a crap boyfriend.  [...]

  44. courtney Says:

    Emily: Books are much smaller than music files and available via the same sites. Once ripped with OCR (optical character recognition) software you’ve got the same shareability as a digital music file. I cannot believe librarians and booksellers don’t think this will be a major issue very soon. How are those cds circulating? I have a MSIS and work in public libraries as well as the digital music industry and can’t believe it when people deny this collapse is coming. My friends who read genre fiction have already loaded their Kindles with hundreds of titles from torrent sites (the others with ereaders are not library users either, like me they mostly buy buy ebooks).

    There is hope for a direct to consumer model, like the music industry, I do not cry for the editors (online writing communities and grammar checking software can help) or the publishers (gatekeepers who are notorious for passing on one classic or another). The publicists will probably have work for a while. Even the librarians, well, maybe we were djs and now we’re search specialists.

    Good luck everyone!

  45. Ian Says:

    As a librarian myself, there are a few things I worry about the profession. Not only are the issues discussed in the article problems, but I think our reactions to them are too. First off, we are generally poor advocates. There is a lot of discussion about these issues within the librarian community, but only a stray article or two pops up for the general public. Naval gazing may help us validate our feelings, but they won’t tackle the source. Secondly, we frequently think of what we can do in all-or-nothing terms. Why can’t we offer an unideal but wanted service and at the same time make an education campaign to our users about the problems, lack of options, and what they can do to help us change them? Just discontinuing services will end up alienating our users just as much if not more than praising a severely lacking service.

  46. citizen jane Says:

    Cathartic post. In my area, the response to publishers restrictions on ebooks has been disappointing. They were up in arms when Harper Collins put the 26-loan cap on ebooks for libraries, signed petitions, refused to purchase ebooks from them. But later when other publishers put even tighter, more complicated restrictions on ebooks for libraries, they decided that, hmm, Harper Collins isn’t so bad after all and started buying ebooks from them again! To me that’s akin to choosing a boyfriend who verbally abuses you over one who slaps you around. Apparently, we’re the kind of chick that needs to be with someone…anyone.

  47. Lucien Tenebrae Says:

    Maybe it’s good to realize that the whole public library thing is over?

  48. Ryan Says:

    @lucien over this one issue? The public library i work at is seeing record numbers in visitations, job help programs attendance,, circulations, and computer use. I’ve heard the same about other library systems. Are you suggesting that this some kind of supernova before it goes away? I strongly disagree.

  49. Ryan Says:

    I almost agree with you except for two points:

    1. eBooks make great long term travel partners. Beats the hell out of trying to find a good book to read when you are in small-town Laos.

    2. eBooks are excellent at long-distance relationships. If you, like me, live in a location where the closest English bookstore or library is over three hours away, the eBook really knows how to comfort you in your hour of need.

  50. I’m breaking up with eBooks (and you can too) | Librarian in Black Blog – Sarah Houghton | Ressources numériques en bibliothèque, aspects juridiques | Says:

    [...] I want to break up with eBooks.Don’t get me wrong, eBooks is dead sexy and great arm candy at parties, as well as a magnet for attention and memorable…  [...]

  51. Shannon Barniskis Says:

    Perfectly stated. I linked to this without comment, because I couldn’t have put it better.

  52. Sing it sister | at the same time Says:

    [...] can’t hope to say this as well as Sarah Houghton. So read her blog: Share this:TwitterFacebookLike this:LikeBe the first to like this. This entry was posted in [...]

  53. Michael Roche Says:

    Love it! Please believe me when I say, that all men are not like not your eBooks boyfriend. Really

  54. martin Says:

    Too many excuses. Nothing more simple and technologically perfect as the printed book. Going to Laos? Put a good novel in your backpack. Unless you’re either staying for several weeks or you’re a lazy sloth, you don’t need an e-reader full of titles.

  55. J.C. Cohen Says:

    @ Martin – I disagree, and agree with Ryan. While I think LiB has a lot of good points (as I said earlier), for those of us who finish a paperback a couple of hours or so, an ebook reader is by far a better device simply to GET to Laos, let alone the time spent there. Not needing a carry-on full of books means more room to carry spare clothing and medicines in case my luggage gets lost!

    Since the metaphor only stretches so far, I’ll drop the relationship metaphor, but the long term answer isn’t to give up on ebooks (though it may be a viable short term strategy) but to get publishers to realize that continuing their relationship with libraries remains a good idea, whether in the traditional or ebook format.

    Because if you don’t think many publishers and sales venues would jump at a chance to get libraries to operate with physical books like we do with their ebook policies, I would bet you are wrong.

  56. Jane Says:

    Very well said, Sarah, as always.
    I dunno if I think of ebooks as a bad boyfriend so much as I feel we are all sluts for consumerism, particularly our devices and the brands we prefer. Most everyone I know is some sort of slut: an iPad slut, a Droid slut, an Amazon slut, hell, even open source sluts. And I think we’re so happy to be part of the slutty conversation at all that we’ll whore ourselves out… oh yeah, you got an iPad? you got a Kindle Fire? well guess what?!?!? you can download library ebooks for free! all it takes is 285 horrifically not easy steps!
    I’m not saying I’m above the fray. I’m an old school slut, I still have my first generation Kindle that I use mostly for playing shitty games, and I’ll buy my slutty Amazon books when I don’t want to wait for holds at the library. And I’m an iPhone slut who barely uses her laptop anymore.
    But yeah, there was a time back in the day when we talked about things like digital literacy and equal access. It wasn’t that long ago. Now there’s no middle class, just a rush to get the latest and coolest, and to all be the smartest sluts in the room.

  57. Sarah Says:

    @Jane – You are 100% right. There’s a whole post there in the “we are sluts” arena. You should totally write it ;)

  58. Sarah Says:

    I want to clarify two points that seem to be cropping up (here, on FB, on Twitter) as either misunderstandings or people trying to be funny:

    1) As a professional librarian, I am breaking up with eBooks. I actually prefer eBooks for my book reading. As a consumer, I will continue to read eBooks, but I will be very careful about where they come from and where I’m throwing my dollars, which is what we should all be doing imho.

    2) This was not some thinly veiled “man-hating post” or “Gawd, I need a good boyfriend now” post. I’m quite content at present, thank you. So to those fine young gentlemen who are sending me shy offers of how they’re not bad guys and they’d be happy to take me out, thanks but I’m all good. This really is a post about eBooks–not about my sex life.

  59. Tell us how you really feel Sarah! « librarian tea Says:

    [...] I’m breaking up with eBooks (and you can too) | Librarian in Black Blog – Sarah Houghton. Share this:ShareFacebookEmailLike this:LikeBe the first to like this. [...]

  60. I’m breaking up with eBooks (and you can too) | Librarian in Black Blog – Sarah Houghton | eBooks in Libraries | Says:

    [...] I want to break up with eBooks.Don’t get me wrong, eBooks is dead sexy and great arm candy at parties, as well as a magnet for attention and memorable…  [...]

  61. Ben Says:

    Wish I had the luxury of choosing not to deal with ebooks. But, at least in the academic / research library space where I work they are here to stay. No one wants to come to the library to get something they could download to their pad or phone. That includes faculty members.

    That said, I adore this statement of yours:

    “The answer is to bring public policy into the picture, rather than to let the publishers do whatever they can get away with. We need a national legislative policy on electronic media preservation, renting, and borrowing policies, which render fair returns to creators and fair use to consumers, and most of all, standardized preservation and recapture of copywrite when media are out of print/ out of the marketplace. ”

    Why this doesn’t happen.. .well, qui bono from the current state of affairs?

  62. wayneb Says:

    All DRM free. At least for consumers.

  63. Patricia Genat Says:

    Great words and thanks for the challenge – however in Australia we’ve found a few ‘nice’ publishers to date in the ebook world. Thank You Allen&Unwin for jumping in and committing early and for the long haul.

  64. Snark Observer Says:

    I have no answers, just comments, but I can’t resist…

    This is why:

    You can complain all you want, but J.C. (above commentor) is right… our goal should be to focus on making this work rather than whining that the industry doesn’t share our values. I’m paraphrasing, I know… but seriously:


    Let’s act like professionals instead of victims, and make this work… complaining because things aren’t going the way we want them to isn’t doing us any favors.

    Think about it! Does anyone else not see how rants like this just make our profession sound a little too much like the folks standing in line for fried chicken and waffle fries yesterday? Is that what we want to be?

    We’re smart enough and resourceful enough NOT to play the victim card here, and I would hope we’re also objective enough to realize when the ‘bad boyfriend’ we can all join hands in ‘hating’ isn’t the problem. I mean, we’re not talking about an abusive monster that came across all nice at first and then found the bottle… this is an industry (not a service, not a lover, an INDUSTRY) that hasn’t had to change much since before women could vote! Why are you trying to make ‘him’ into something ‘he’ has never been?

    I’m just gonna say it! Somebody needs to! Maybe ‘he’ is not the problem!

    Just think about it…

    Now for some TUMS…

    LiB, thanks for making this conversation your thing… It needs to be someone’s ‘thing’…

    Also, I’ll bet it’s a rare thing for you to be compared to Santorum… you’re welcome!

  65. Sarah Says:

    @Snark Observer – Much of libraries’ behavior, or lack of advocacy, is the problem. I agree. However, some of us have been trying to positively advocate for change in this area for sooooo long, trying to work with publishers in a positive way, trying to make it work. And those of us who are literally looking at a decade of blood, sweat, and tears in this arena deserve (imho) a little bit of understanding for being burned out and walking away. There are still plenty of people willing to keep working on the problem, and bully for them. But the crux of my issue is that I do not want to offer a substandard product to my users at inflated costs and then sell it to them as the awesomest thing ever. That’s disingenuous and bad librarianship. Incidentally, comparing me to Rick Santorum is a first and I threw up in my mouth a little at that. If that was your intent, kudos–well done.

  66. Barbara Says:

    Amen, Sister! This is one of your most brilliant, amusing, and spot-on writings. As well as kissing e-books goodbye, I wish academic librarians could Just Say No to the aristocratic poseurs in scholarly publishing who extort unconscionable amounts of money for journal subscriptions.

  67. Charlie Says:

    You are ignoring the fact that for readers of classical books, E-books are a fantastic bargain. You can pay for a physical book or go to and get the digital version for free. I have downloaded hundreds of free books from various sites, many of which I would probably not be able to find in print. When I want a book that’s under copyright I usually purchase the cheapest option and many times that is a physical book. For me, going to the library is not very practical, because of its location and limited hours of operation.

  68. Snark Observer Says:

    Ha! That may, on some level, have been my intent… but back to topic!

    I agree with the crux of your issue, but not its focus. ‘Quality of product’ is not an issue that should concern us until we have secured access to quality products in the first place, and we’re not there yet if the ‘quality products’ you’re concerned with here are… what? eBook bestsellers? eBook award winners? the latest celebrity biography in eBook form?

    What does our lack of access to ‘quality products’ like that have to do with whatever librarian values the publishing industry doesn’t seem to respect? Are we ‘respecting’ the values of that industry in return? They’re being compared here to a ‘bad boyfriend’ fircrissakes!

    Here’s a solution, now that I have time: why not focus on the access we DO have, as a few here have suggested (including you), and move on? In our handling of the subject of eContent in general – if we’re not going to invest in the design of access services that let us provide them on our terms – let’s spend our energy instead on guiding our communities in the use of this technology. For no matter what titles libraries can and can’t offer for free, or how librarians feel about the industries being built around it, IT’S A GOOD TECHNOLOGY!!!

    There is no value in focusing on what this technology (or the industries attempting to use it to make money) CAN’T or WON’T do for libraries and our users, and nothing we do in that regard will change the fact that our users will STILL be confronted with it…

    so instead of “blood, sweat, and tears” all for naught, while entire industries are built around us that have no place for the way we do things (no surprise there, honestly)…

    instead of ranting again about the imperfections of profit-driven services like Overdrive that wouldn’t even exist if the engineering of access services were once again a part of what WE do…

    instead of wasting time on things we’ll never jointly mobilize ourselves enough to change until it’s too late anyway…

    how ’bout we get to yes on things we might actually be able to motivate ourselves to accomplish, like providing literacy programs and access to all this knowledge we have to offer about this technology to our users? Heck! it might even have the positive impact on the industry all this ‘positive advocacy’ has failed to inspire!

    Think about this: Best Buy – one of the few places left to send curious consumers in need of more ‘hands-on’ answers to their questions about products they’ll need to personally have access to if their ever going to experience eContent – is in danger of going the way of Circuit City… without the Best Buy showroom to introduce consumers to the technology that makes the eBook industry possible, where can people go to find a ‘Geek Squad’ willing to help them get started?

    Hey! I have an idea, and wouldn’t it just piss off those greedy publishing companies if they had to play nice with the only sustainable showrooms available?

    I’ll admit, I’m new to your blog… maybe you’ve covered all this before, I don’t know… but working with this one post it’s hard to resist my default response to someone expecting me to ‘see their side’ of an issue they talk about like a bitter teenage girl who just figured out boys don’t really care that you’re ‘witty’ when they’re hungry:

    snark… and TUMS… and maybe after I get that out of my system I can try to offer something worthwhile to the conversation

    again, thanks for your efforts.

    ~end counter-rant~

  69. Lyn Says:

    Good on you Sarah. You’ve said what I’ve been feeling. I’m a high school librarian and my gut feeling about ebooks is ‘we’re not going there yet” It may be different here in NZ than elsewhere, but the ebook platform wants about 10% of our book budget just to get started, before we even buy a book! And every time a student borrows a title we have to pay around 15c. Now, that seems like double-dipping to me, and I know I can buy a heck of a lot of books for that amount of money.
    And @Ryan – the people who are using libraries more and more these days imho are probably not in the position to take off for Laos or wherever for a few weeks ;) With the job losses etc over the past few years public libraries have become even more imprtant for communities.

  70. Zoe Says:

    I am not a matchmaker but I think you need a new boyfriend. I would like to suggest you consider Jamie LaRue, Director of Douglas County Libraries. He’s figured out the ebook dilemma. Sarah, meet Jamie

  71. Chrystie Hill Says:

    1. You are clever
    2. I am jealous that Jamie wants to be your boyfriend
    3. I’m more inclined to consider an open relationship with ebooks, because, at the end of the day, we each do have what the other wants; there is a fair trade, or maybe even a prenumptual agreement, to be found in there somewhere

    Either way, Well done, Sarah. Thanks for this piece and the discussion you generated.

  72. Karl Drinkwater Says:

    There’s a lot I sympathise with here, as an author, fellow librarian, and book-buyer. Maybe libraries should just continue to promote free sources of DRM-free e-books such as Project Gutenberg, which includes the classics anyway, and just stick to print for more recent stuff. I am against DRM (as evidenced by all the posts with that tag on my blog!) DRM, EULAs, restrictive agreements, dodgy authentication – modern day evils we can do without.

  73. ebooks are from mars, libraries are from…. | Gonzobrarian Says:

    [...] and the future of libraries they should be kindly directed to shut their hole and read this from Librarian in Black: eBooks totally ignores everything you say. We in libraries have not been included at the table for [...]

  74. E-book Compromises and Choices | Tech Breakfast Says:

    [...] lastly, the Librarian in Black is breaking up with e-books. This entry was posted in ebooks, future of libraries. Bookmark the permalink. ← And now [...]

  75. J. R. Says:

    You can break up with Ebooks. But you may end up having to join a hilltop lesbian commune. That could mean no kids for you. Which isn’t necessarily so bad. Except your kind might die out (or survive in such diminished numbers that their cultural force wanes considerably).

    Bummer that the publishing industry is quite a patriarchy. You’ may have to scream really loud to the inattentive public to notice what Ebook is doing to you.

    Sucks, these kind of royal matchmaking scenarios. Definitely not the place for a feisty brainy lass like you.

  76. iBookstore está chegando à América Latina | Hímpeto Says:

    [...] I'm violation adult with eBooks (and we can too) | Librarian in Black … [...]

  77. » No More eBook Logbook Says:

    [...] Sarah Houghton is breaking up with eBooks. As a public librarian, she has worked hard to make ebooks not only available in her library but she has also worked to make them work the way they should within the ideal of a library. Given the current landscape, filled with restrictions of all kinds and real lack of clarity, Houghton has decided that she just doesn’t think she can advocate for ebooks in public libraries: [...]

  78. Thinker Bill Hackett Says:

    A lifelong booklover. A buyer, renter (years ago), supporter, advocate, lender, recommender and keeper of my own modest library of books. Geez, I love books!

    I can sympathize with today’s library people, but I sure can’t enjoy reading the “attitude” of the writer and the vulgarity! Why would anyone want to use the four letter defecations? They are especially ill-chosen in any librarian’s public correspondence.

    Among social classes, quite Low Class. Lower-Lower.

  79. Jennifer Says:

    I am joining this late, but I frankly love ebooks, both as a librarian at at academic library and as a an Overdrive addict (through my public library). The students at my university (urban, mostly working adults) love ebooks, and when I talk about Overdrive in my info lit course, many of them become fans of the service through public libraries too. Overdrive is terrible for browsing, but great books are in there if you search for them (and if your library selects good ones). And it gives more privacy in some ways – no one can see and judge what book you are checking out. In the academic world, students love how ebooks save them money, are accessible at a distance, etc. For once we have a service that ignites excitement in patrons and draws them to us, and yet librarians cannot stop complaining…

    I agree that there are still unpleasant and unresolved issues clouding ebooks, but I’d still rather have the ease of access, portability, and convenience ebooks provide my patrons. Aren’t those library values too? Why would I withhold from my patrons what they want and love? When librarians try to throw the baby out with the bathwater, it reminds me of the libraries that tried to hold out against Infotrac back in the day because of fearing ownership over the content vs. print journals. Yet look at what a marvelous world of access and searchability that opened up. The times change, as do rules and procedures related to ownership and access to information. If DRM is the price I need to pay for access to ebooks, then frankly I’m willing to pay it (just as DRM gives me access to movies via Netflix). eBooks are here to stay, so we need to try to make the terms as good as possible, but mostly just be grateful to be a part of this cultural change.

  80. sairuh Says:

    You definitely hit the issue right on the head, knees, spine… :) I’m not involved with this group, but are you familiar with the Publications Standards Project ( It sounds like they’re trying to grapple with the current eBook/ePub/etc. travesty.

  81. Vendas de eBooks ultrapassam vendas de livros tradicionais na … | Hímpeto Says:

    [...] I'm violation adult with eBooks (and we can too) | Librarian in Black … [...]

  82. Jean Says:

    Great insights. Your every word has been my experience too.

  83. Jenny Says:

    Not all eBooks are obnoxious frat boys. Consider what is doing with their intentionally DRM-free eBooks. All of them. Following on the heels of Angry Robot. Hey, if science fiction publishers have to lead the way, so be it.

  84. I’m breaking up with eBooks (and you can too) | betabib Says:

    [...] I’m breaking up with eBooks (and you can too) Be Sociable, Share! Tweet [...]

  85. Lynda Williams Says:

    I would be game to work with my publisher on making my books available in your experimental solution. Email me at
    (A fellow librarian and techno-innovator getting jaded in the new world order, as well as an SF author)

  86. The Future of the Book in the Digital Age « Georgetown University Press Blog Says:

    [...] director Sarah Houghton offers another librarian’s perspective, humorously presented on her Librarian in Black blog: “eBooks is to libraries what that awful boyfriend (or girlfriend) was to you. Think about it. [...]

  87. BooksRock Says:

    “no one has the power or political clout to override the lobbyists’ dollar signs in the capitol”. Until you solve this issue, all the haranguing in the world won’t get the job done. And frankly, I don’t think the snarky profanity, while perhaps appealing to the wannabe rebel crowd, does much to advance the case. It feeds the author more than it feeds the issue; in fact, it hurts the issue. A more efficient use of time would be to find a good lobbyist. I am in the library world, and all I hear is the wailing and moaning and gnashing of teeth, but I don’t see much action. I tell my patrons about the reality on the ground and hope that word of mouth will spark some protests, but I know that it will take more than that. Where’s the ALA Lobby in all of this?

    Eventually, though, the middle ground where publishers make money and people get information at a reasonable cost will arrive.

    And this is all tied into the murky deep of copyright law, which definitely needs big revision, but it’s not going to be a quick or easy swim, as Congress has not yet in all its years shown any ability to enact clear laws in that arena.

    I pretty much agree with Snark Observer’s observations. Quit the whining and get to work on the problem. If you have enough time to write such a long manifesto, you have enough time to write your Congressperson and mobilize forces to lobby. Frankly, I am getting tired of going to conferences and hearing all of the consultants rant, and puff up their chests. They are only feeding their egos.

  88. Sarah Says:

    @BooksRock: You don’t like my profanity? That’s your prerogative. No one’s forcing you to read what I write.

    Also, I am not a consultant; I am a working library director.

    And I have written to my congresspeople multiple times about different aspects of the problems with digital content and libraries, copyright, digital rights management, etc. I have also written to approximately 50 publishers. Oh yes, and tech companies. And others. Does it do any good? I don’t know. But you’re right–it’s the responsible thing to do, and I do do it. To assume that I have not done so is presumptuous.

    So where is the ALA lobby? ALA is limited in what it can do because of its status as a 501c3 nonprofit. See this fact sheet (an annoying PDF) for more info on that: That is information you should know as a working librarian–we all need to know what ALA *can’t* do, as much as we know what it can.

  89. Libraries and eBook Publishers: Friend Zone Level 300 « Agnostic, Maybe Says:

    [...] excellent bookend to a brilliant blog post I read before I went on vacation, Sarah Houghton’s “I’m breaking up with eBooks (and you can too)” (Take a look at the link itself, folks!) Sarah’s post about eBooks paints them as a crappy [...]

  90. » Dysfunctional and Codependent Collection = Connection Says:

    [...] is a dysfunctional and codependent relationship going on in libraryland. (No! Not ebooks!) I’m looking at you, print books! We’ve shacked up with print books for so long, [...]

  91. Things You’ll Find Interesting August 14, 2012 | Chuq Von Rospach, Photographer and Author Says:

    [...] I’m breaking up with eBooks (and you can too) | Librarian in Black Blog – Sarah Houghton [...]

  92. Around the Web: Breaking up with ebooks, Blogging in the classroom and more – Confessions of a Science Librarian Says:

    [...] I’m breaking up with eBooks (and you can too) [...]

  93. Jim A Says:

    Don’t listen to the salesmen, a license is not the same as ownership.
    Don’t listen to big media, a license is not the same as ownerhsip.
    Don’t listen to the hipsters, a slicense is not the same as ownerhsip.
    When you buy a book, the copyright law governs the rights that you have, and those that you don’t. And that set of rights is highly conducive to the basic library model of buying a copy and lending it out serialy to many different people. When you license an ebook, your rights are spelled out in the contract between you and the publisher. So the rights are 1.) not standardized across different publishers and platforms, and 2.) usually MUCH more faborable for the poeple writhing the contract (the publisher) What patrons want is the convenience of a digital platform and the economy that the libraries were able to offer because of the first sale copyrigh doctrine. And that is unlikely to happen. When patrons say “Why can’ they just…..,” my answer is often “The problem isn’t a technical one, They could do that but the publisher don’t want to do that, so it’s not going to happen.”

  94. Educational IT - Patricia Paugh - The Role of E-Readers in Education Says:

    [...] filled with long waiting lists. Growing frustration over digital content led librarian blogger Sarah Houghton to declare, "I am breaking up with eBooks and you can too." The Digital Public Library of America [...]

  95. ACRLog » The end of the book as we know it, and I feel (mostly) fine. Says:

    [...] we better off with ebooks or without them? Librarian in Black thinks we should break up with ebooks, because they are a bad boyfriend: “Libraries and eBooks aren’t shacking up anytime soon, not [...]

  96. Around the Web: Breaking up with ebooks, Blogging in the classroom and more [Confessions of a Science Librarian] | science2fun Says:

    [...] I’m breaking up with eBooks (and you can too) [...]

  97. Infowantstobefree Says:

    This is why I gave up on libraries and have gone the route of finding drm free uploads. Google search any title add in filetype:ePub or filetype:PDF. And you can find nearly any popular book.

  98. I’m breaking up with eBooks (and you can too) | The Passive Voice Says:

    [...] time to boot eBooks’ ass to the curb. There are better boyfriends to be had.Link to the rest at Librarian In Black and thanks to Louisa for the tip.Click to Tweet/Email/Share This Post wpa2a.script_load(); Ebook [...]

  99. Kirk Says:

    The quiet little tack I take has been to say that publishers, especially e-publishers, should be paying the libraries to display their materials.

    I can no longer keep track of the number of times a patron has mentioned finding a great read or wonderful author in the library, then purchasing the whole series or body of work. We have a host of tools meant to help our patrons find the next book they might want, some of which publishers and bookstores can’t use effectively.

    It doesn’t help, of course. We’re too large a slice of their revenue stream to forego (but as originally noted, not large enough to keep them at our side).

    But still I try.

  100. J.A. Konrath Says:

    Google me if you don’t know who I am, then email me. Some peers and I have a proposal that could woo you back over to ebooks. In short:

    1. Ebooks are $3.99
    2. No DRM.
    3. You buy one ebook and can make as many copies as you need for your patrons and all of your branches.
    4. You own it forever.
    5. You can use it an any format you like, mobi, epub, pdf, lit, etc. And if new formats arise, you’re free to convert it to the new format.

    In short, you buy one copy, and never have to buy it again. Is that sexy enough for you? :)

  101. A very mixed bag this month … | How To Write Shop Says:

    [...] * I’m a big supporter of libraries, but I wonder about this article… [...]

  102. Wendy Hicks Says:

    Um, maybe we need to slide the metaphor slightly. After all, we chose to adopt e-books/e-audio books, and like a parent,
    might hang on during the inevitable growing pains. E-book borrowing is, after all, in its infancy, and in spite of all of all the headaches, it’s good we librarians are in on the ground floor, duking it out.
    Yep, right now, they are spitting up all over us…but I live in hope.

  103. Barb H Says:

    I am retired from the library. Now I am a patron/user. I read ebooks, borrow, buy and get for free. If not available I try print–but often the print is too small these days and even fewer books available in large print via the library. Sometimes audiobooks. I like the ebooks because they are all potential large print. I figure I will use a variety of formats. I like ebooks and I hope as time goes on that things get worked out between the library world, the authors and the publishers. I think it is important not to give up.

  104. “Adiós, chato”: Librarian in Black y los ebooks « Bibliotecas 2029 Says:

    [...] post original de Librarian in Black Tu voto:Comparte:TwitterFacebookMásTumblrPinterestImprimirCorreo electrónicoMe gusta:Me gustaBe [...]

  105. Elizabeth McCoy Says:

    And then there’s — I’ll admit, Smashwords can be quite the seedy bar. They’ll let nearly anyone through the door. But I’ve found out of print books by authors I read as a kid and teen, tucked away in a tidy booth there, and they just recently started some library programs — no DRM, unlimited uses of each “copy.” Still hoping for “one copy, one reader at a time,” but libraries are on the honor system for that, not the fight-with-DRM system. (And their new dashboard controls let authors offer special library prices — some authors may charge more for forever-use, while others, like me, dropped prices for libraries.)

  106. Priscilla King Says:

    Elizabeth Barrette shared this link. My comment to her was that, as a library patron, I have NO use for e-books. I’m most likely to turn to light reading, which is most likely to be a library book, when electric power is out (which can happen almost daily in the mountains). And, as a taxpayer, I haaate seeing my money wasted on electronic gimmicks that will be useless in ten years; I don’t buy the gadgets demanded to “read”/watch/hear this junk, I see it as toxic waste waiting to fill up the landfill. So, plaudits to you, may your tribe increase, and another supportive link should appear on my Blogspot soon. I’m not actually attached to paper in the event that some sort of algae-derived plastic becomes more practical, but I do want books to be available to everybody, independent of gimmicks and gadgets, requiring only light.

  107. LOL Second Lifebrarians. Chill. | PC Sweeney's Blog Says:

    [...] that part of being innovative is knowing what things need to just be dropped like a bad habit. (drop eBooks, get [...]

  108. Ray Gulick Says:

    So, your real problem is this: libraries (the physical, bricks and mortar kind that employ helpful librarians) are an outmoded anachronism (actually, is there any other kind of anachronism?).

    A more entertaining cry in favor of “buggy whips,” however, I’ve not heard. Bravo!

  109. Carla "Ink" Eaton Says:

    Yay! Back to tangible print books! :)

  110. Ms. Yingling Says:

    E books for personal use that people buy are great. I haven’t had much luck in checking them out of the public library, and am not about to mess with them on the middle school library level!

  111. The e in e-book stands for elusive « …As You Like It… Says:

    [...] are getting “screwed” by publishers, take a look at this extended metaphor from the Librarian In Black. If you are put off by some of her language, well, you probably should not be e-reading Fifty [...]

  112. Do you ever get frustrated with ebooks? | The Virtual Lexicon Says:

    [...] to read more?  Here’s the whole [...]

  113. Catherine Voutier Says:

    Interesting article from the publishers point of view. They want libraries to come up with a few economic models they could negotiate with. I also got the impression that ALA is a toothless snake …


  114. Brisbane through books » New Librarians' Symposium - NLS6 Says:

    [...] has something to say about them. Why do eBooks matter to libraries?  Should librarians in fact be breaking up with eBooks? While talk of eBooks is surely going to be happening over coffees at NLS6, perhaps we will be [...]

  115. Digital Content Is SO Broken - The Digital Shift Says:

    [...] Leave a Comment I don’t need to be a rocket scientist to know that the e-book market is A World of Hurt for libraries. I don’t even know where to begin in listing the litany of damage that the [...]

  116. Brian Thomas Says:

    I just listened to your panel discussion during The Digital Shift conference. Sarah, you are fantastic! I’m inspired by your stand against DRM encoded ebooks. I wish more librarians would be vocal about how inconsistent digital rights management is with the core values of libraries. Don’t listen to the nay-sayers — you are right on target!

  117. Bibliotheken en E-books: ‘it simply doesn’t work..’ « WebbiebNL Says:

    [...] die nu al baalt van E-books is Sarah Houghton, @TheLib. Eerder schreef ze de blog “I’m breaking up with eBooks (and you can too)“. Sarah is directeur van de San Rafael Public Library in San Francisco (USA). WebbiebNL [...]

  118. Getting A Grip on eBook Writing for Business | My Urgent Information Says:

    [...] anything, take action on this and do not sit around reading every single day and getting nowhere.You can develop a nice stable of information products based on eBooks you create, but you have to kn… you are doing. Some people write smaller eBooks and use them for lead generation, and that is just [...]

  119. A link roundup « A Modern Hypatia Says:

    [...] in Black takes on the problems of ebooks and libraries. (She’s done it before, but this version is [...]

  120. Greetings Library Scientist | Says:

    [...] very purpose for which libraries were founded. Copy protection in most ebooks makes them difficult (impossible or illegal) to lend in public libraries, and even as libraries struggle with that, the natural shape of [...]

  121. Carlo Says:

    Send that guy to the curb. With the other dogpoop.

    Don’t even bag and toss him.

    Great post, Sarah.

    The ONLY advantage I could think of came up the other day when I picked up another weighty tome [I'm 62], thinking “oh, this is going to be heavy.” However I have discovered that another book makes a great bookstand, so I don’t really have to hold it up.

    And besides, I love books too much.

    Please don’t tell my wife I have a boyfriend, OK?

  122. Cate Levinson Says:

    You are my hero! and if I one more person tells me that checking out ereaders is the wave of the future I’m going to scream!

  123. The E-Book Dilemna » Public Libraries Online Says:

    [...] step, but does it go far enough?  Sarah Houghton writes poignantly and metaphorically on her blog about the betrayal of e-books.  Would it be too extreme to boycott print works from publishers who [...]

  124. Papermine Says:

    Yes, you do need a boyfriend you deserve, no more Cheetos or cold pizza. With all the advancements in the publishing realm, meaning the stride to become digital, I think authors and readers deserve more. I am not focused on “increasing friction,” but more so creating an easy and fluid experience for authors AND readers. That is what we strive for with the launch of our private beta. Large publishing houses have more on their mind, which creates a disconnect and magically changes the wine to beer… becoming that boyfriend who doesn’t want to introduce you to his parents all of a sudden. Ha, that should be our tagline ‘we will keep serving wine and truffled pasta and always open the door.’

  125. Melissa Mannon Says:

    Hi Sarah,

    I’m wondering if you have a perspective on “Here be Fiction”? I’d love to hear it . I just learned about the site and will be exploring it for my high school library

  126. James Robert Smith Says:

    It only took me a few weeks to realize that ebooks are the worst thing to happen to English literature. The whole micro-publishing, self-publishing world is a wreck of garbage. I can only hope the fad dissolves before it destroys the traditional publishing model.

  127. ebooks, then and now | lis.dom Says:

    […] Sarah Houghton is breaking up with ebooks. Some of us never wanted to date ebooks in the first place. But breaking up with them now isn’t as easy dumping a bad boyfriend. For most of us, it’s going to be more like a long, drawn out divorce, the kind with property disputes and bankruptcy filings and custody battles. […]

  128. Arrant Scandal in the Digital Stacks! « Legal Sourcery Says:

    […] I’m Breaking Up with Ebooks (And You Can Too) – Librarian in Black […]

  129. Arrant Scandal in the Digital Stacks | LibraryCanuck Says:

    […] – In the Library with the Lead Pipe  Ebooks for Libraries: Still a Ripoff – Annoyed Librarian I’m Breaking Up with Ebooks (And You Can Too) – Librarian in Black You’ll Need a PhD To Make Sense Of The Pricing Schemes Publishers Impose On Libraries – Forbes […]

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