Every Book Is Its Own Hardware

After reading about an ebook-only library, the only branch in the county system that serves San Antonio, Texas, I wrote a long essay that reflects a couple of decades of thinking about books, libraries, and going digital. Right now, the copyright and licensing regime for ebooks is very poor for libraries, and thus for their patrons, even though the utility and ease are extremely. People are reading more than ever and more unique books are being published than at any time in human history by probably a factor of three or four, if not a full order of magnitude.

And yet—publishing clinging to physical models in a digital world is holding back readers as buyers and readers as library patrons. Established publishers have every reason to fear the creative destruction underway. But they have to embrace it. They have no alternative. And the current model doesn't work well at all for libraries.

When you have a library full of printed books, every book is a self-contained apparatus: every printed book contains the hardware and data necessary to allow human wetware and our operating system to interact with it. One needs no intermediary for the contents of the book. Each book stands alone.

Read the whole thing.