There is a lot of talk about e-books in the library world as he seek to find our place with this delivery medium, and build relationships of trust, respect and mutual advantage with publishers and aggregators. I am not going to talk in great detail in this blog post about e-books as that is well covered elsewhere and I think well known. I can add little to the conversation at this time, apart from my desire to contribute to a solution being found in Australasia and globally. What I want to talk about today is another aspect of the move to digital which is covered far less, but is just as important for the future of libraries. I was in a meeting the other day when a colleague drew to my attention the increasing number of magazines or periodicals that we subscribe to which are moving to digital only and have no library model in place. This means they are geared up for individual subscriptions which are username and password authenticated, not for mass access via IP Address or the like.
So what does this mean? It means increasingly, resources that people have been used to accessing via their local library will disappear off the shelves and become unavailable to them. Popular technology driven content is probably most immediately at risk. The Netguides, Digital Photography magazines, Computer mags etc. I would also imagine design style magazines, which lend themselves to the online format and rich content will also head down this route.
So what does all mean for libraries and in more particular for their users? Well if a model for library based provision is not found, then people will become increasingly unable to access this content without paying direct, increasing the issue we already have in place or the widening gap between the haves and have nots. Libraries have always bridged the gap in this area and it will be a huge shame for society if this is increasingly eroded. There is no reason that in a digital delivery world libraries could not provide this access, if there was willingness on both sides of the equation. Indeed, I would argue, if publishers had their thinking caps on, they would realise that libraries provide a more reliable annual income guarantee than the consumer market which is more immediately affected by the fluctuations in the global economy.