The SLA Facebook page for the Blue Winter Article Club describes January as a cold and dreary month, and true to form, this past month’s event featured rain and a notable subway delay that either trapped a few attendees underground or forced them to walk from their downtown offices to the Dora Keogh pub. So it was a relief to enter the Dora and see the faces of fellow SLA members ready to discuss the merits of two pre-selected articles. It was a casual debate—no timers, or taking turns—however it was an energetic night with many participants.
The articles that inspired the discussion were taken from Slate.com and the New York Times. The first, “Don’t Support Your Local Bookseller: Buying books on Amazon is better for authors, better for the economy, and better for you” dominated the discussion, and celebrates Amazon.com’s dedication to providing affordable books. The author argues that this provides more opportunity for reading to occur, and that it’s an improvement on local bookstores whose stock is often limited or available at higher costs. This generated a wide variety of responses, and was the most controversial topic of the night.
The second article, “Publishers vs. Libraries: An E-Book Tug-of-War”, from the New York Times, outlined the struggle between libraries and publishers over the lending of e-books, with publishers fearing that easy lending will lead to a drastic loss in profits. Due to the ease of use, trips to the library aren’t required, and publishers fear that there is less of an incentive for e-book readers to choose to purchase items over downloading them from the library. Several large publishing companies have combated this by refusing to lend their material or by limiting library-lending licenses to a certain number of copies, while smaller publishers generally give libraries the rights to lend their items. As this is a relatively recent concern, libraries and publishers continue to search for equally acceptable solutions.
Those in attendance were quick to personalize the discussion. One attendee shared her search to find an e-book provider that stocked the books her clients requested. Another pointed out the similarities between the community building services offered by local bookstores and those offered by libraries such as author readings and book clubs. While a number of attendees chimed in to talk about the wide variety of books to purchase online versus their local bookstore, many mentioned that as voracious young readers they would have loved an Amazon.com-like service to make books more readily available. Not surprisingly, many of those in attendance were in favor of giving readers greater opportunity to access books, whether through lower prices or in a library setting.
The first Blue Winter Article Club was a successful social evening for SLA members. Any opportunity to connect with other librarians is a welcome one, especially during the winter months, an
d as the night drifted to a close and the attendees set out back into the rain there was a palpable sense of community on the journey home.
— Erica Smith
Index & References Officer, Hansard Reporting & Interpretations Services, Legislative Assembly of Ontario