Do you own your library?

After having packed most of my books into boxes, physically transported them to their new home and placed them haphazardly in the bookshelves to await the slower and more pleasurable task of re-arranging my books I feel a strong sense of ownership, property and belonging. My books are part of who I am. Their physical appearance and their content are telltale clues to the identity of their owner.

I have previously written against the e-book but there is a specific issue which is important to point out. Cory Doctorow has written a short note entitled In the age of ebooks, you don’t own your library. The note points out the tendency of e-books to limit the rights previously held by the book reader. Today when buying files for the e-book reader the transaction is often termed as a license and may (this needs to be tested in the courts) limit the ways in which we can buy, sell, borrow and copy our books. In the worst case scenario licenses such as these will spell the end of borrowing books from friends and become another nail in the coffin of the second hand bookstore. Cory writes:

It’s funny that in the name of protecting “intellectual property,” big media companies are willing to do such violence to the idea of real property — arguing that since everything we own, from our t-shirts to our cars to our ebooks, embody someone’s copyright, patent and trademark, that we’re basically just tenant farmers, living on the land of our gracious masters who’ve seen fit to give us a lease on our homes.

The physical property we own will be dependent upon our behavior towards the content we require to fill it. Television requires the shows and we must pay the cable company, computers require software and we must license it, e-books will require us to subscribe to the rules of those who own the content.

Unless we stick to the old fashioned paper versions of course…

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