Kudos to the school district in this eSchool News article for providing their students with an online collection of books. The article describes very well the advantages for the students that this online library provides. Great stuff — very 21st century and appropriate for the digital natives enrolled in the district’s schools.
The financial model, however, is very 20th century as the article relates. How this works is very clear in the text from the article quoted below. The net effect of the sort of deal the NetLibrary makes is to be able to charge multiple (many multiple!!) schools and districts for the same digital material (250 books in this case). For every student across the world to use just one version of the collection would have no cost after the first collection is put online. In my most recent post, HyperPhysics is used by 3 million visitors annually worldwide at no cost to the users — nor to the taxpayers!
The following describes how the 20th century model works when repositioned onine, quoting eSchools News. We can understand the downside to publishers interested in profits and the need to reward authors. The downside for learning is that only students in districts that do this sort of thing can read the books, and even those fortunate ones can only do so one at a time — just like my experience at the Austin High School library back in the 1950s:
NetLibrary is one of several companies that work out deals with traditional book publishers to convert their titles to electronic format and then lease these titles on the web. Traditionally, companies that want to put material online have met with resistance from publishing houses, which fear the internet will support copyright infringement and encourage piracy of copyrighted works.
The eBook library operates almost exactly like a traditional library in terms of copyright protection regulations, Van Hamersveld told the Houston Chronicle.
“It is a single-user [service], just like if you were to go to the library and check out a book,” she said. “One person checks out that book, and until that book is checked back in no one else can access it. That makes the issues of copyright and profit margins … a little easier to swallow for the publishers.”