It’s easy to see the eBook User’s Bill of Rights as a sign of the growing rift between libraries and content producers. Easy if you’re me, anyway. It connects very conveniently with Richard Stallman’s open letter to the Boston Public Library decrying what he summarizes as their complicity with DRM and abdication of their responsibilities as public institutions.
All those things are easy, what’s hard is recognizing that the depth of change the publishing industry is facing. A growing number of people are doubting the value of publishing houses, among them self-publishing and ebook advocate J. A. Konrath. Yes, Konrath’s position sounds eerily similar to the lofty rhetoric in favor of blogs from around 2004, but can any of us name a newly published writer who isn’t also a good blogger? Molly Wizenberg and Julie Powell are but two of many who graduated from blogs to pulp just before the age of the ebook.
The power of the hyperlink that introduced those authors to their audience in the past decade has led to a world that’s more likely to trust the top result on Google than whatever they learn in the mainstream media. Now that the iPad and iPhone have made eBook-capable web-connected devices commonplace (some say Kindles will soon be free), isn’t it inevitable that Konrath and others will find a way to make a living by publishing their work electronically?
Given that, who are the signatories we really need on an eBook User’s Bill of Rights?