Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Digital Books and Your Rights: A Checklist for Readers


After several years of false starts, the universe of digital books seems at last poised to expand dramatically. Readers should view this expansion with both excitement and wariness. Excitement because digital books could revolutionize reading, making more books more findable and more accessible to more people in more ways than ever before. Wariness because the various entities that will help make this digital book revolution possible may not always respect the rights and expectations that readers, authors, booksellers and librarians have built up, and defended, over generations of experience with physical books.

As new digital book tools and services roll out, we need to be able to evaluate not only the cool features they offer, but also whether they extend (or hamper) our rights and expectations.

The over-arching question: are digital books as good or better than physical books at protecting you and your rights as a reader?


Our goal is not to tell authors, publishers, vendors, libraries, or anyone else what strategies they must adopt, or tell book purchasers what options they must choose. We hope that a robust marketplace emerges, with various business models and technologies. Instead, this checklist represents the key questions that readers should ask of each new digital book product or service to evaluate whether it adequately protects their interests. That sort of rigorous inquiry will help us decide which digital book future we want — and how to vote with our feet until we get it.

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