Wednesday, January 25, 2017

I got the ebook blues

Publishers.  Publishers!  C'mere.  Let's chat.  Sit right here in my office and let's look at this entirely reasonable request from a faculty member, who wants to know if two art history titles published in this decade by two different entities are available as ebooks.

They are not.

In the ongoing drama of what is where and what is accessible, not licensing academic titles as ebooks is detrimental to both of us.  Libraries can't afford to buy multiple copies of books, yet some course sections run to 50 or 70 students on my campus.  If you don't offer an e-book that we can license and make accessible to students enrolled on the campus, guess what?

Guess what indeed.  I continue to be shocked and amazed at the expectation of what people think "is on the Internet."  Much of the world's useful content is paywalled, but a great deal more is simply only available in one format.

I feel as if publishers are slow to embrace the e format for books much in the way radio stations responded to music videos in the 1980s.  But ultimately, what did those delicious little videos do?  Why they made us consumers even crazier for music!  Music we could download onto little devices and carry around with us so we could have music all the time!

Yes, I love print books.  You love print books.  Some of us love books too much.  But when it comes to the nuts and bolts of getting the content that authors have labored over, editors have overseen, and you, dear publisher, have chosen to offer, it doesn't make a lot of sense to squeeze access into one channel.

Dear lord, what might happen if readers had access to a greater array of intellectual content?  Pretty sure they will read more.  Just going to make that speculation.

I feel silly telling a faculty member "no" when I'm asked if an e-book version is available so her students have easier access to the content she has chosen.  Especially when the book was produced in this decade so I'm pretty sure it was produced, gasp, on a word processor and computer software was used to layout the book.

What can we do? The Art History Publishing Initiative is a very good start but we are going to need more than four presses to fully support this field.

I'm sure I'll have more to say about this over the course of the semester.  It is an "interesting" time in the sense that new technologies are emerging but old technologies remain necessary, yet there is an expectation, at least here in Silicon Valley, that the new technologies are much more robust than performance demonstrates.

No comments: