Right now Libraryblogland is all a-twitter (sorry) over the hurdles that have been piling up lately to prevent public libraries from making a wide range of ebooks available to patrons. Library professionals seem most frustrated by lack of options – for now, Overdrive is the single go-to vendor, and Overdrive in turn must deal largely with six international conglomerate publishing houses whose licensing decisions affect a huge number of individual titles currently in print.

Digital publishing is a new business, so the monopolies that dominate the world of library lending and, indeed, ebook sales are no big surprise. But are other, more established digital media any different?


First, a video:

This post is about feeling bad about yourself. It’s also about The Chronicles of Narnia, but I’ll get to that part later.

For a nation that is stereotyped far and wide as being selfish and irresponsible on a global scale, Americans have quite a knack for personal self-loathing. If you listed all of the things that we feel guilty about, you’d have the self-help section in an average suburban Barnes & Noble. (When I worked for a used bookstore, we never had enough shelf space for self-help. It was always overflowing into the sociology section, diet books and relationship manuals jostling for space with “Nickel and Dimed” and “Gang Leader for a Day.”)


As a young, idealistic library student, certain immutable facts about the contemporary library have a way of haunting me. Take, for instance, the oft-quoted statistic that 50% of library reference questions are not answered correctly or completely. (The study, by Childers & Crowley, is thankfully from the 70s and rather misleading in my opinion, but it’s still a pretty harrowing percentage when pronounced the first time in a library science classroom.)

Similarly, whenever I have a spare moment for library navel-gazing, I always end in despair at the realization that, no matter hard we try, there are books being wrong in the library.