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Commentary – Ebooks in 2013

Ebooks in 2013 – Promises broken, promises kept, and Faustian bargains, By Clifford A. Lynch

“Printed books have served us rather well—as a society, as readers, and as authors—for centuries. When the possibilities of ebooks first emerged, we hoped that they would build on this strong foundation, improving the experience of the printed book, making books more available, accessible, and affordable. There was great enthusiasm and optimism about what they could contribute. Today ebooks are no longer a novelty but rather a well-established and substantial part of the publishing and reading landscape. Sadly, ebooks have not only failed to deliver on much of their promise, they have become a vast lost opportunity. They are becoming  a weapon capable of considerable social damage; a Faustian technology that seduces with convenience, particularly for those who consume a great many books, but offers little else while extracting a corrosive toll on our social institutions and norms. The failure here is not primarily one of technology but of the way that rights holders have chosen to apply the technology, and perhaps even of the legal and public policy frameworks that have allowed this to take place.”

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