The Anti-Ownership Ebook Economy How Publishers and Platforms Have Reshaped the Way We Read in the Digital Age (New White Paper From Engelberg Center on Innovation Law & Policy/NYU Law)
From the Engelberg Center’s News Release:
The Engelberg Center on Innovation Law and Policy at NYU Law has released a groundbreaking new white paper, “The Anti-Ownership Ebook Economy: How Publishers and Platforms Have Reshaped the Way We Read in the Digital Age.”
The paper examines the economic, legal, and social dynamics of ebook licensing and ownership, finding evidence to support the idea that publishers have formed partnerships with ebook licensing platforms that make the ability to own digital books near impossible.
“Understanding why ebooks are so rarely sold requires insight into the priorities, motivations, and constraints of a wide range of ebook stakeholders,” said Michael Weinberg, Executive Director of the Engelberg Center. “This paper brings those dynamics to light, serving as a reference for future investigations into this critical topic.”
The white paper has been in development for over a year and was co-written by Weinberg, NYU School of Law Professor Jason Schultz, CUNY Law Professor and Engelberg Center Fellow Sarah Lamdan, and Engelberg Center Fellow Claire Woodcock.
“I think a lot of the opposition around how we access ebooks paints different parties as villains,” said Sarah Lamdan. “But are these perceptions based on reality? Or are the divisions between publishers and libraries less black and white – are there just good-faith disagreements about how selling and borrowing books online should work?”
Claire Woodcock, an independent journalist and recent graduate of CU Boulder’s Master of Arts in Media & Public Engagement program, joined the project last fall as a Engelberg Center Digital Fellow to help uncover answers to some of the remaining questions Weinberg, Schultz, and Lamdan had about publisher and platform workflows, belief systems about licensing models, and to what degree consumer data is used to sustain the marketplace.
“There’s still so much we don’t know about the impact that digital library lending of books has on that market,” said Claire Woodcock. “That being said, I believe the insights we’ve gleaned from this speaking with stakeholders throughout the industry give us a much more comprehensive understanding of how the publisher-platform relationship came to be and what that’s meant for institutional consumers like libraries.”
“The Anti-Ownership Ebook Economy: How Publishers and Platforms Have Reshaped How We Read in the Digital Age” comes as the courts are navigating copyright law in the post-digital age.
“Courts are struggling to understand the legal issues surrounding ebooks, especially how fair use might apply to owning or lending them,” said Jason Schultz. “This white paper helps clarify where we are and where the law needs to go to preserve digital ownership, especially for libraries who depend on owning their books so patrons can borrow them free-of-charge.”
About Gary Price
Gary Price (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. He earned his MLIS degree from Wayne State University in Detroit. Price has won several awards including the SLA Innovations in Technology Award and Alumnus of the Year from the Wayne St. University Library and Information Science Program. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at Ask.com.