Cory Doctorow (of whom ReadersFirst is a fan) recently posed a question in a post in Locus aimed at envisioning ways for eBooks to get greater readership:
"What if libraries cloned Overdrive in free, open source code, which every library in the world could use, and which libraries could pay independent contractors to patch and improve?"
"Rather than paying an annual fee for Overdrive that pays for the software and dividends to Overdrive’s investors, the libraries would adopt the model that has made Drupal and WordPress so successful: paying independent contractors for service and upkeep, and collectively sharing the benefits of the incremental improvements made through these transactions."
"The openness of the platform is key, because that’s what lets the libraries assert that they are able to collect aggregated statistics on usage and circulation that are sufficiently zoomed-out as to not compromise patrons’ privacy, but are still full of the key insights publishers need to compete with Amazon, their best and biggest frenemy, publisher, and retailer rolled into one."
"The quid pro quo for this arrangement is that the publishers would have to stop shafting libraries on e-books."
We at RF love the idea, so much so that we have been working on it, as discussed in our last news post. A number of partners (of whom we are one), including DPLA, New York Public Library, and many others, with grant funding from the Institute of Museum and Library Services and Minitex, is developing an open source app that works across library eBook platforms called SimplyE. As part of the the project, the Library E-Content Access Project(LEAP) will be developing a library eBook marketplace, working directly with the publishers. All of this is non-profit, designed by librarians for the use of libraries. If you are in librarianship, please follow developments. The app is currently in development. Read an initial review here. We will need participation to make the marketplace project scalable. If we can, then libraries will have the very thing Doctorow has called for. It's been a long time coming but may finally be realized.
Thanks, Mr. Doctorow. Your thought-experiment is our action item. Keep being a great voice for libraries and access!