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Digital books

Peter Brantley gives us a heads-up about a forthcoming podcast to which he, Jay Datema, and Jessamyn West are contributing.

As we talked amongst ourselves about digital books and the problems of unequal access, it seemed to me that librarians and publishers should be talking about the same kind of initiative for digital books that many STM journal publishers have embraced for access to articles in the Third World....Book publishers might worry about loss of sales, pirate sites, and so forth. I think there are several rejoinders to this, the first being that journal publishers have evidently managed to figure this out satisfactorily. Perhaps Elsevier can provide some assistance to text publishers, if they have qualms. There is also the potential argument that there is more to lose - a whole book, vs. an article. Here again, I think there are fallacies: I think many people are interested in only parts of books, not whole ones, and access could be provided granularly.
This is especially applicable in the textbook field, where costs are spiraling out of control much as the journals sector experienced a few years ago. Given that most scholarly journal are now available online (in some cases exclusively so), the fragmentation and electronic distribution of textbook content appears to have some precedent - and textbook publishers could learn a great deal from journals publishers and distributors.

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