Sunday, January 19, 2014

When Is A Library Not A Library?

That's not a joke, and there is no punch line.

The definition* (at the end of this post) might need to be changed, in view of current use, and the popularity of ebooks. Perhaps as Congress reviews copyright, they should also review the meaning of a library, because the term is used differently on Scribd, on EBay, on Nakido, on various pirate sites, on eBookFling, and now on Entitle.

It seems that anyone who owns access to the internet is entitled to "have" a "library" of ebooks, which they are "entitled" to "own" and "lend". Ah. "ownership" is another term/concept that will have to be re-defined for the digital age, because there are a lot of powerful interests on the internet who would like an author to sell non-exclusive copyright to an ebook for as little as $ 0.99 but certainly for no more than $ 9.99.

"Lending" is another term that has been re-defined by the internet, because not all libraries require a patron or subscriber to return that which was loaned.

Take Entitle, for instance.
Quoting: "We know you love to read. But for avid readers, buying books gets expensive. Entitle, a new eBook subscription service, gives you access to 100,000+ top eBooks – up to 65% off. With Entitle, you will enjoy:

•    Any two books, including best sellers and new releases, for only $14.99

•    Huge price savings over traditional eBook stores

•    A fantastic selection of over 100,000 books
•    Ownership of your books (Entitle is not a rental service)"

How's that? One pays $14.99 a month, and for that good and valuable consideration, one acquires "ownership" of two ebooks.

How is that not a sale? What is the legal meaning of "ownership" when acquired in this fashion?  What is the effect on the author's copyright?

Moreover, if it is possible to acquire ownership of two best sellers for $14.99 (when each best seller is --or could potentially be-- advertised on Amazon for close to $20 each), how does that affect the Big Five book settlements with the DOJ, and also Amazon contracts that oblige publishers to allow Amazon to sell that book at the lowest possible price offered anywhere.... even on the publishers' own websites?

Here's a video of a Bloomberg report on Entitle for those who are curious.
http://bloom.bg/JFZbb5#ooid=NvaTZiajr4IT6bmqzu3Aktrofn6EwaQg

Entitle very probably purchased eBookFling. (If my inference is mistaken, it is because Entitle recently emailed me using an eBookFling email account.)  I've been watching eBookFling because I found their abuse of authors' generosity offensive, personally.

Many authors give away ebooks on Amazon to increase their visibility and ranking. Some offer permafree novels, which are always on special (free) offer. Some offer an ebook free for a day, or up to five days before the book goes back on sale at the regular price. Their premise is that readers who download the freebie will read it, perhaps review it, hopefully enjoy it so much that they purchase other works by the same author.

Sites such as Lendlink, Lendle, eBookFling and others exploited this premise, and set up commercial business models based on "traffic" for their own benefit, and also brokering "lending" between strangers who wanted to avoid paying for books.

EBookFling used to send out emails titled something like: "Steal today's Kindle book...."
Their exhortations included "Even if it's not your cup of tea, you can add it to your eBookFling library and fling it to all those fools who missed out on today's opportunity."

In my opinion, free ebooks were being used explicitly for bartering transactions. The original downloader did not have to read the ebook, they downloaded it for the valuable, tradeable benefit of being able to "lend" it in exchange for something that they really did want to read, and did not want to pay for.

Quoting: "With 14-day lending now available on tens of thousands of Nook and Kindle books, eBookFling makes it possible for readers across America to borrow and share their ebooks. Lend an ebook, earn a credit, and borrow any other for free! It's 100% safe with the book returned in 14 days guaranteed. Here's how it works:"

Amazon forums hosted a discussion of eBookFling.
http://www.amazon.com/forum/romance/ref=cm_cd_pg_pg1?_encoding=UTF8&cdForum=FxM42D5QN2YZ1D&cdPage=1&cdSort=oldest&cdThread=TxMZQHM22C9OU1

Quoting:
"Question-
Is it true that you can only loan out a kindle ebook ONCE? So if I lent out, say Devil in Winter, to someone for 2 weeks after it was returned to my account I could never lend it out again?"

"No, you may loan out more than once. You just can't loan it to someone else while it's on loaned."


I kept that revelation, because I thought that Amazon only allowed any ebook to be lent once..... and later

"
ebookfling.com is a great site for loaning books - Kindle and Nook. You list your tradeable books, "fling" when requested (from individuals as well as the company) and the rules are pretty much the same as Amazon. It's lots easier than typing your lists. And yes, you can loan more than once (but not at the same time it's loaned out.) I have no part in this website - just happened upon it. It works for me. Unfortunately I've loaned more than I've received, but I am building up credits..... "


The discussion has been removed, possibly because someone posted this kind offer along with a list of desirable, in copyright Romance novels: " I don't have a Kindle but I can e-mail these books to anyone who's interested. Just post your email address and what books you want. Most of them are formatted in ePub so I downloaded Stanza for free on my iPad to make them readable."

EBookFling were Amazon affiliates, and for a time, Amazon paid affiliates simply for directing persons who wished to download a free book to their site. ("eBookFling.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com.)

This stopped. Presumably, that's why EBookFling was sold. It will be interesting to see whether Entitle lives up to its ambition to be "the netflix of ebooks", and whether authors receive full and fair accounting and full royalties for the transactions on the Entitle site that result in "ownership" of ebooks.

It seems to me, though, that every time an ebook is sold or licensed or loaned at a discount, the discount is subsidized by the author without the author's knowledge or consent.

*noun
noun: library; plural noun: libraries
  1. 1.
    a building or room containing collections of books, periodicals, and sometimes films and recorded music for people to read, borrow, or refer to.
    "a school library"
    • a collection of books and periodicals held in a library.
      "the Institute houses an outstanding library of 35,000 volumes on the fine arts"
    • a collection of films, recorded music, genetic material, etc., organized systematically and kept for research or borrowing.
      "a record library"
    • a series of books, recordings, etc., issued by the same company and similar in appearance.
    • a room in a private house where books are kept.
    • Computing
      a collection of programs and software packages made generally available, often loaded and stored on disk for immediate use.
      noun: software library; plural noun: software libraries

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