Tuesday, 4 September 2012

In the digital era, we own nothing

This is a good story in The Guardian re: long term ownership of digital media. For academic libraries, the ownership of what we buy is of great importance, and magnified from what this story illustrates.  While the University of Alberta Libraries try to "own" and "purchase" what we buy (vs. rent/subscribe to something where we lose all content should our subscription end, or should a publisher choose to remove content from a package), sometimes that is not possible, and there are still lingering questions about what a purchase actually means. Publishers are very wary of allowing local hosting of digital content, or for that content to be held by the library, so this puts us in a position of managing content in a very different way than what we do with print materials. We want to build collections that last a very long time, for use by future generations, not just for short-term use. Digital materials are here to stay and that's for the better, considering the advantages in terms of access and use of those materials; but there are still a lot of problems to work out regarding how these materials can be purchased, owned and shared.  The story also makes me think about our donations, and while print book donations show no signs of slowing down, the potential donations of electronic books or music is something that we need to start thinking of as well. Will our libraries be poorer for the loss of materials that people like Bruce Willis might want to give us but cannot due to restrictions around use of that material, simply because it is digital? So many questions and lots of work to do...

The Bruce Willis dilemma? In the digital era, we own nothing

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