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Free Government Information (FGI) is a place for initiating dialogue and building consensus among the various players (libraries, government agencies, non-profit organizations, researchers, journalists, etc.) who have a stake in the preservation of and perpetual free access to government information. FGI promotes free government information through collaboration, education, advocacy and research.

Clifford Lynch on the promises and failures of e-books

Clifford Lynch’s new article in American Libraries examines how e-books have failed to deliver on much of their promise. He says that, worse than just failing to provide us cheaper, better, greener reading experience, e-books have become “a weapon capable of considerable social damage” and “a Faustian technology that seduces with convenience.” He says e-books are “extracting a corrosive toll on our social institutions and norms” and notes that the failures of e-books are not primarily technological.

Here at FGI we agree strongly with many of his conclusions about digital preservation. For example, he says that “it is neither reasonable nor wise to place all our hopes for preservation of the cultural record on any single library” and we have long advocated digital collections of digital depository information in FDLP libraries because we believe it is unwise to rely on GPO alone to preserve this information for us. He also notes that “The survival and the stability of ebooks are also tethered to the survival, continued interest, and good behavior of the providers.” We worry that for FDLP libraries to rely on the “good behavior” of Congress in providing continuing, long-term preservation and free access is a huge mistake. The only way that FDLP libraries will be able to guarantee free access to government information is if FDLP libraries select, acquire, preserve, and control that information that they wish to guarantee.

By examining the promises and failures of e-books, Lynch provides us an analogy to the promises and failures of library practices and policies with regard the preservation of digital government information. He notes that digital preservation must be a concern of all libraries: “Responsible libraries of all types must consider the preservation issues thoughtfully, even if they ultimately conclude (as many public libraries may well) that preservation isn’t the library’s mission.

More Foreign Relations volumes available as e-books

The essential series Foreign Relations of the United States (FRUS), published by the Office of the Historian at the U.S. Department of State, presents the official documentary historical record of major U.S. foreign policy decisions and significant diplomatic activity. The Office of the Historian has apparently finished its pilot project with producing FRUS in e-book formats (ePub and Mobi). It now is offering 108 publications during its current phase releasing e-books.

Hat tip to infoDOCKET!

E-books and Privacy: EFF Report

Does your Kindle track what books you search for? Does your Nook monitor what you’re reading after you purchase an e-book? The Electronic Frontier Foundation has been digging into the license agreements and technical capabilities of e-book readers to find the answers to these and similar questions since 2009. Their newest report is now available:

  • Who’s Tracking Your Reading Habits? An E-Book Buyer’s Guide to Privacy, 2012 Edition

    As we’ve done since 2009, again we’ve taken some of the most popular e-book platforms and combed through their privacy policies for answers to common privacy questions that users deserve to know. In many cases, these answers were frustratingly vague and long-winded. In nearly all cases, reading e-books means giving up more privacy than browsing through a physical bookstore or library, or reading a paper book in your own home. Here, we’ve examined the policies of Google Books, Amazon Kindle, Barnes & Noble Nook, Kobo, Sony, Overdrive, Indiebound, Internet Archive, and Adobe Content Server

Privacy of the e-book?

This year will probably be remembered (among other things!) as the year of the e-book-reader device hype. We’ve seen new Kindles, the B&N Nook, the FBReader, applications for book reading on iPhones and other handheld devices, and more. And, of course, there is the elephant-in-the-room of the Google book scanning project. (I find it so odd that so much of the popular press refers to the Google “Library” when it is clearly a Google book store.)

It will be a while before we know if the digital age will turn into the end of sharable books (see: Welcome to the library. Say goodbye to the books), but we certainly should be tracking the development of the advantages and disadvantages of e-books and e-book readers.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation is helping us track how these developments affect privacy:

EFF has created a first draft of our Buyer’s Guide to E-Book Privacy. We’ve examined the privacy policies for the major e-readers on the market to determine what information they reserve the right to collect and share.

The danger of Kindle

Emily Walshe, a librarian and professor at Long Island University in New York, writes about the Kindle e-book reader.

In our rush to adopt new technologies, we have too readily surrendered ownership in favor of its twisted sister, access….

You’re not buying a book; you’re buying access to a book. No, it’s not like borrowing a book from a library, because there is no public investment. It’s like taking an interest-only mortgage out on intellectual property.