电子书—纸质书借阅时代的终结者? Do E-books 1)Spell the End of Lending Libraries?
Host: Entertainment is going digital. Music 2)succumbed first and fastest. Movies are now 3)rippable and downloadable to watch anytime, anywhere. And, after much 4)resistance, the 5)stubborn paper book is finally beginning to give itself over to the digital revolution. Last year 5% of the books bought in the US and UK were digital ones, a combination of audio books and e-books. Now that's obviously small, but it is growing. Now libraries are beginning to offer so-called e-lending, something which started in the US and has made its way across the Atlantic. Now around a quarter of British libraries offer digital book 6)loans.
Fiona Marriott (Luton Library): We've noticed that, with e-books, we're getting a new kind of customer in: people who felt that they were too busy to use the library before, or, for example, people who 7)commuted into London every day who were too busy to come in in the evening or too tired, and I have at least two blind customers who are downloading their own audio books now. And they say that's given them freedom, so that they can actually make their own choice without having to come to the library with a guide.
Host: Overdrive is the digital book 8)distributor used by 13,000 libraries worldwide. You can log on to your library through a web browser or using the 9)Smartphone 10)App, and then browse an on-line collection of books. When you see something you like, just click to download it. E-lending means your library is open 11)24/7. No money is spent on staff to issue books or return them to shelves, there are no damaged or lost copies, and there are no late returns.
But surely there's a bit of a logic problem with libraries loaning e-books. After all, if you want an e-book, you don't physically have to go anywhere to get it. And you're also not limited by how much stock there is. There's always an 12)infinite number of copies of any text that you want to download. And that sounds much more convenient than having to pop down to your local library only to find that the one copy of the book they have is already out.
The first point doesn't help the argument of those hoping to keep libraries open in this time of government spending cuts. If libraries did all their lending over the web, well, you wouldn't need a physical library at all. And the second point about limitless copies for loan could mean that no one would ever need to actually buy a book at all. And that's, understandably, worrying the book publishers.
Richard Mollet (Publisher's Association UK): This relationship between publishing and libraries is historic, over a hundred years old, and we want it to continue into the e-book future. But we have to ensure that we 13)replicate, as closely as we can, the success of the physical lending model, which is that there's one book, there's one user, there's one time, and in that way you ensure that the lending model doesn't start to impact upon the retail model.
Host: Overdrive attempts to 14)allay those concerns. A local library chooses how many digital copies to purchase and that limits the number of users who can borrow the e-book at one time. When the loan period is up, the book will 15)expire automatically and return itself to the e-library for other 16)patrons to enjoy.
Some libraries use this system: “public library on line”. Here, all reading is done through a web browser; no book is downloaded. You don't need to worry about the availability of a title either. All books can be accessed by many users at one time. The downside is, if your internet connection disappears, so does your book. Also, reading books on a web browser isn't easy on the eyes, and most e-readers don't come with a browser. This is essentially an attempt to tempt the reader into buying the physical book.
But the Publishing Association goes one step further still, suggesting that library customers should have to physically visit the library to download an e-book.
Richard: There need be no difference between doing that in the physical world, where you walk out with a physical book under your arm, or in the digital world where you walk out with an e-reader under your arm, which has a book you just downloaded. So, to my mind, if we can at least get that right, get that duplication right, that's the first step.
Host: But even then, not all are convinced. At the start of the year, one of the biggest publishers in the world, McMillan Publishing US, declared it had no interest in being on libraries' 17)virtual shelves.
Some libraries are sticking to physical books but with a digital twist. Members of the New York Public Library can reserve a book through its website or, alternatively, click through to buy it from an on-line retailer, and the library gets a cut. Of course this doesn't help the smaller libraries to remain open in times of huge budget cuts. And if more libraries do end up closing, this could be the way we borrow physical books in the future.