…Of readers, publishers, authors, and libraries all more or less came to a compromise in inherited publishing market. But the digital age is upsetting that compromise, that’s for sure.
As digital collections grow, Mr. Sargent said he feared a world in which “pretty soon you’re not paying for anything.” In part because of such concerns, Macmillan does not allow its e-books to be offered in public libraries. The company publishes authors like Janet Evanovich, Augusten Burroughs and Jeffrey Eugenides.
I’d note that (at least in the US) the first sale doctrine would make it impossible for publishers to prohibit libraries from buying and lending physical books — we legally have that right. But electronic books, covered by licensing agreements and not covered by the first sale doctrine? Apparently they can tell us we aren’t allowed to buy them and lend them.
(Could they tell an individual that once purchased (or ‘licensed’), she couldn’t let anyone else read it on her e-reader, they had to buy their own copy? Maybe.)
Although according to wikipedia, this is actually something of a legal gray area, not entirely decided. Maybe the first sale doctrine does apply to software in general, and e-books in particular. I bet e-books would make a better test case (for those who want to see that it does apply) than software, since they are so analagous to the print books the first sale doctrine was actually intended for. It would be nice if some library was willing to push it, buy an e-book and lend it out, insisting that the first sale doctrine gave them that right, even if a publisher insisted they weren’t’ allowed to do so.
That it’s libraries involved makes things even more confusing, because there are, according to wikipedia, special exemptions for libraries in certain provisions which specifically exempt computer software from loan or rental under the first sale doctrine.