If it didn’t already exist, would the tenor of today’s debate over intellectual property and digital rights management prevent the creation of a library system? Probably, according to Stephen Dubner of Freakonomics. “Perhaps they’d come up with a licensing agreement: the book costs $20 to own, with an additional $2 per year for every year beyond Year 1 it’s in circulation. I’m sure there would be a lot of other potential arrangements. And I am just as sure that, like a lot of systems that evolve over time, the library system is one that, if it were being built from scratch today, would have a very different set of dynamics and economics.”


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  1. banned says:

    I’m sure if bill gates proposed a library today, on top of the books always falling apart, and the lack of security from stealing them, he would charge an emormous amount like Blockbuster, or perhaps charge membership fees, which would offset the whining from publishers. Everybody would still be happy, except of course, the consumer. Thankfully business hasn’t destroyed all our traditions.

  2. Chicago7 says:

    It probably would be different, but maybe not. Don’t forget that booksellers make a LOT of money selling to libraries. If every library in the US buys one copy of a book, that book is a best seller (over 100,000 libraries in the US total). Also, IIRC, at least for some kinds of books, libraries pay more than you would at Border’s.

  3. TVarmy says:

    @Chicago7: Another good point is reference books. Not many people can afford or find much use out of an entire set of encyclopedias. Thus, the library and taxpayer money splits the cost to the point that readers can afford the tiny snippets they need, and the bookseller actually then sells more encyclopedias.

  4. swalve says:

    Libraries are easy for books. And they used to be easy for audio and video media. Only one person can use a copy of a work at a time. But now with super easy digitally perfect copying, the copyright holders can’t be assured that every person demanding the product will actually pay for it.