On Apr 10, 2011, at 10:05 AM, Karen Coyle wrote:

>>> I'd love to see libraries creating online conversations around  
>>> ebooks in much the same way.  Take a title from project Gutenberg:  
>>> The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.  Why not host that book  
>>> directly on my library website so that it can be found at an  
>>> intuitive URL, www.sjpl.org/the-adventures-of-huckleberry-finn and  
>>> then create a forum for it? 
> I appreciate the spirit of this, but despair at the idea that  
> libraries organize their services around public domain works, thus  
> becoming early 20th century institutions. The gap between 1923 and  
> 2011 is huge, and it makes no sense to users that a library provide  
> services based on publication date, much less that enhanced services  
> stop at 1923.

Personally, I think the idea of collecting public domain works, enhancing them 
in any number of ways, and then providing services against them is a very good 

With the advent of ubiquitous globally networked computers, the idea of a book 
being bound (all puns intended) to a physical place in a particular format is 
antiquated. This is obvious. "Books are for use." 

There are many issues embodied in the idea of "unbinding" a book. User 
interface design. Computing horsepower. Functionality. File formats. There are 
also intellectual property issues. For all cases of books, all of these issues 
need to be addressed. But, for books in the public domain, the issues of 
intellectual property are more easily resolved. Consequently, the idea of 
creating a forum for the book is more easily done for public domain works. 
Copyrighted works -- licensed content -- comes with additional impediments. 

Just because public domain works are old are not reasons to not exploit them. 
Just because licensed materials are difficult to use does not mean the process 
should not be explored. 

Learn how to provide the cool services against public domain works first. They 
are easier. Get practice. Then tackle the content of the post 1923 content. For 
example, I advocate the active collection and indexing of open access journal 
articles for individual libraries. Get this process under our belts. 
Collection. Storage. Description. Indexing. Access. Once that process is done, 
tackle the licensed content. The processes should have more things in common 
than differences. 

No one said libraries should center their collections solely around public 
domain works.

Eric Lease Morgan
University of Notre Dame

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