Thursday Threads: Research Works Act, Amazon Kindle Give and Take, OCLC’s Website for Small Libraries

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I've been away from DLTJ Thursday Threads for a while, but that doesn't mean the fun hasn't stopped. This week there are stories about the beginning and the end of the Research Works Act (again, one might add), Amazon's continuing shifts in the ebook marketplace, and an announcement of beta access to OCLC's Website for Small Libraries service.

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Research Works Act is Dead

The introduction of HR 3699 [the Research Works Act] has spurred a robust, expansive debate on the topics of scientific and scholarly publishing, intellectual property protection, and public access to federally funded research. Since its introduction, we have heard from numerous stakeholders and interested parties on both sides of this important issue.

As the costs of publishing continue to be driven down by new technology, we will continue to see a growth in open access publishers. This new and innovative model appears to be the wave of the future. The transition must be collaborative, and must respect copyright law and the principles of open access. The American people deserve to have access to research for which they have paid. This conversation needs to continue and we have come to the conclusion that the Research Works Act has exhausted the useful role it can play in the debate. As such, we want Americans concerned about access to research and other participants in this debate to know we will not be taking legislative action on HR 3699, the Research Works Act. We do intend to remain involved in efforts to examine and study the protection of intellectual property rights and open access to publicly funded research.

The Research Works Act (RWA) had the stated intention "to ensure the continued publication and integrity of peer-reviewed research works by the private sector" but many saw it an attempt to reverse the mandatory NIH 12-month to open publication mandate and prevent similar mandates in other government agencies. (Go ahead, follow the link; the legislation is remarkably short!) The efforts against RWA got into gear when it was revealed that Elsevier was a top contributor to Representative Maloney, a co-sponsor to the legislation. That sparked a boycott of Elsevier by researchers that signed a statement that they would stop submitting papers, refereeing, and performing editorial work for the publisher; it was signed by 7,666 people so far.

This week Elsevier dropped support for the Research Works Act, followed shortly by the message from the legislation's sponsors that they would suspend work on the act. A more in-depth message was posted to the LIBLICENSE-L list by a Elsevier vice president. This is, however, not the first time such legislation has been proposed and defeated; similar bills were proposed in two previous congressional sessions.

Amazon Gives (Access to Ebooks) and Amazon Takes Away

The Kindle Owners’ Lending Library continues to grow rapidly, now offering more than 100,000 books that Amazon Prime members with Kindles can borrow for free—including over 100 New York Times Best Sellers like The Hunger Games trilogy—as frequently as a book a month, with no due dates. removed more than 4,000 e-books from its site this week after it tried and failed to get them more cheaply, a muscle-flexing move that is likely to have significant repercussions for the digital book market.

Within the span of a week we see these two stories about ebooks on Kindles. In the first, Amazon announced that the size of the Kindle lending library has reached 100,000 books, including "a third of the Top 20 Kindle Best Sellers in February." Amazon also noted that "over 1 million KDP Select books [had been] borrowed since program began in December." The Kindle Owners' Lending Library is not without controversy from publishers and authors, though, as Amazon extends its reach into the role of the traditional publisher.

In the second, Amazon pulled access to ebooks from the Independent Publishers Group (IPG) when the two parties could not reach an agreement on terms. IPG explains its reasoning but we have not seen a similar response from Amazon. This story has similarities to the Amazon/Macmillan rift two years ago. Amazon blinked in that plotline and restored Macmillan books to the Kindle store. It remains to be seen if something similar happens in this case.

OCLC Website for Small Libraries Project Goes Beta

The Website for Small Libraries project, which began as an OCLC Innovation Lab experiment in 2011, is now available as a beta service for any library wishing to set up its own website.

By participating in the project, libraries will be able to quickly and easily set up a website that provides basic functionality for making small collection information available on the Web, setting up users, checking materials in and out, placing holds, and providing library contact, location, service and event information.

OCLC's project to offer Website for Small Libraries reached the beta stage earlier this month after a year in development. The early stages of development were covered previously in DLTJ, and it is good to see this project survive the early stages to make it to this point.


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