Final Post- To Travel Back in Time

This weeks blog question intrigued me! If I could go back to any time when would I go? If I could tell the people one really important thing about the future of books and reading, what would I tell them? There are so many interesting places in time and would I wish to speak to the population or a particular author? Would I tell Jane Austin what an inspiration she would become? Would I tell Shakespeare how far his influence would reach and that he should demand more money? I am joking, but in terms of when I would go I think I would travel back to the 1890s.

In 1894 Octave Uzanne published “The End of Books” in Scribner’s Magazine. In this article the end of books is discussed as the result of the new technology and innovations. Uzanne believed that the book as a codex with “collections of paper, printed, sewed and bound in a cover announcing the title of the work”, would be radically altered. He believed that print could easily become replaced by phonography. On the basis that reading is tiring and man is lazy, he hypothesized people it will opt for telegraphy which requires no physical effort or strain to listen to. If I went back I would tell them that no matter the technological inventions and innovation whether the telegraph, radio or computers (though those weren’t invented yet) books will always have a place in time. Those technological innovations are still important but so are books and thus they should still be respected and hold regard.

I would also tell them to protect their books! While the late 1800s and early 1900s is quite young to the Rare Book and Manuscript world, however as time goes on these books will become older and possibly rarer and what makes a book rare or valuable is not always age. If there is a level of provenance or a limited print run or a disaster then a book may become rare or unique or valuable. If they protect their books more will likely survive and those which do survive will be in a better condition. Also ask them to keep a log of their libraries as it is an important component or evidence of reader history.

In a less altruistic manner I would also find my distant relatives and ask them to gather first additions of some of my favourite books. These include Dracula, The Importance of Being Ernest, The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes and the series, Around the World in 80 Days and The Call of the Wild – to name a few. I would ask these family members to get the authors to sign them and then keep them very safe! Away from food, fire, and mild and in a dry and safe place. They can be passed through the generations and left to me.


Uzanne, Octave. “The End of Books.” Scribner’s Magazine 26 (July-December 1894): 221-31.

Fleeting Files

Books don’t present a lot of ownership issues to me. This may be because I own a lot of them. These days, I only buy books that have some design or production elements that interests me on top of the content (apartment living has changed my personal collection development policy). In terms of eBooks, they only come from the library.

Music, however…

Music ownership and I have a troubled history. I first encountered issues with digital ownership when my hard disk failed and my computer was wiped clean during my undergrad. I had lost all of my iTunes music and there was no way to recover it. Most of the music was bought on iTunes, but there were also albums that I had transferred to my computer from friends’ CDs. I emailed Apple frantically and they explained that even though I paid for the music, it was only licensed for one download. This seemed completely unreasonable to me. They took pity on me and gave me a second copy of my downloads (although if the prices had changed, I didn’t get those particular albums). It does seem that their policies have changed:

As an accommodation to you, subsequent to acquiring Eligible Content, you may download certain of such previously-acquired Eligible Content onto any Associated Device. Some Eligible Content that you previously acquired may not be available for subsequent download at any given time, and Apple shall have no liability to you in such event. As you may not be able to subsequently download certain previously-acquired Eligible Content, once you download an item of Eligible Content, it is your responsibility not to lose, destroy, or damage it, and you may want to back it up.

Association of Associated Devices is subject to the following terms:

(i) You may auto-download Eligible Content or download previously-acquired Eligible Content from an Account on up to 10 Associated Devices, provided no more than 5 are iTunes-authorized computers.

(ii) An Associated Device can be associated with only one Account at any given time.

(iii) You may switch an Associated Device to a different Account only once every 90 days.

(iv) You may download previously-acquired free content onto an unlimited number of devices while it is free on the App and Book Services, but on no more than 5 iTunes-authorized computers.

The above terms (i) to (iv) do not apply to App Store Products.

Some pieces of Eligible Content may be large or may initiate the ongoing delivery of content based on usage and resource constraints, and significant data charges may result from delivery of such Eligible Content over a data connection.

Source: iTunes Terms and Conditions

The anxiety of digital ownership is fascinating. You can have 5 enabled devices, you can burn songs onto playlists 7 times, you can change your account only every 3 months… The limits of digital ownership don’t comply with our overarching ideas of ownership (I acquired this thing, I can now use this thing).

I don’t buy digital content anymore. This isn’t necessarily because of the iTunes fiasco. I just now live on two ends of the spectrum when it comes to music. On one end, I have Spotify, which allows me to listen to most everything (and, increasingly, this includes Yugoslavian New Wave music). On the other end is:

(That is, by the way, its first breathe!)

I’ve been collecting records for years and finally invested in a record player. This still wasn’t about a desire to own music or have some control over how I share it (I didn’t get a record player with a USB). The records, for me, are about the sound quality and the social aspect of gathering around to listen to music. My conceptions of ownership really depend on how I consume and use the texts.

A Seedy Saturday & intellectual property

I intended my example for this week’s blog question to be a textual artifact in digital form (truly, I did!) but my mind kept returning to artifacts neither print nor digital in form: seeds. This has something to do with Adrian Johns’ statement on policing intellectual property: “Efforts to uphold intellectual property against piracy take place in all areas of today’s economy, but they are most prominent in three: media, pharmaceuticals, and agriculture” (499). This statement resonated with me, in part, because I am part of a group starting a seed library in Cobourg. Last weekend I was promoting the project at our local annual seed exchange and was questioned by a visitor about seed copyrights and whether or not what we were proposing to do was legal. I didn’t have an answer because it was something I had only considered in abstract terms. You hear about the large-scale-agri-business farmer in the states being sued by Monsanto for saving seeds, but I had never really considered the possibility that any one at that seed exchange would be violating copyright laws. We were not (as far as I know) as heirloom, untreated, open-pollinated seeds are what people are interested in, but what would happen if someone donated copyrighted soybean seed containing copyrighted pesticide to the library? It is improbable, but it is possible. This exchange really made me question my assumptions about what I own when it comes to my food and food production. I am determined to educate myself further on the subject.

If anyone is interested in the topic of intellectual property rights and seeds from the perspective of advocates for seed sovereignty, there is a free webinar on the subject happening on March 30. The panelists include Ann Slater of the National Farmers Union, Julie Dawson of the University of Wisconsin Madison and Jack Kloppenburg of the Open Source Seed Initiative. It is currently full, but the materials will be posted to the site the following week. It can be found here:

Johns, A. (2009). Piracy: the Intellectual Property Wars from Gutenberg to Gates. Chicago: U of Chicago P.

Week 10: Musings on Ownership (& Minimalism!)

An example which comes to mind for this week’s discussion question took place a few years ago in my Book History seminar with Scott Schofield. We were studying digital texts, and I wanted to compare a couple print editions of Kerouac’s On the Road (namely the first edition and the 50th anniversary “Original Scroll” edition) to the digital “Amplified Edition” ( This e-edition was only available for iPads, and since I didn’t have one at the time, I borrowed one from the Inforum. I purchased it on the device from the App Store, and used it as needed for my paper. The issue came about when I had to return the iPad and realized that I would likely be saying goodbye to my purchase. There may have been some way (or maybe there still is?) to access it through iTunes, since I believe it was connected with my Apple ID, but I never figured it out. I sometimes wonder if the app is still on that Inforum iPad, and if anyone ever opens it up and gets some use out of it (I hope so!).

This fleeting period of ownership got me thinking about how much we ever really own things. A recent foray into minimalism has shifted the way I think about how humans relate to material objects, and whether or not this relationship is always entirely healthy. Do we own things, or do they own us? In many cases we use things to define our identities, which I would argue can be dangerous: what happens when our identities or interests change? An example which was discussed in class some weeks ago is the phenomenon of humans being the only species to collect books we don’t read (ha ha). This is very true though– we place books on our shelves to create a certain identity for ourselves, but how authentic is that identity if we have never (and may never) read them? For this reason, and a million others, I love libraries. We can read a book without feeling tied to it for life.

Tool libraries and “libraries of things” are a great way to extend this model to material items other than books. Similarly, I know of some minimalists who use Craigslist as a storage locker (check out these guys: That is, they sell an item which they rarely use (say, a table saw), and if they find themselves needing one again, they just buy another from Craigslist, and sell it right back for the same price when they are done. I think this notion of borrowing things rather than owning them is useful when contemplating how we should be interacting with objects.

On a more bookish note (or e-bookish note), it makes me think of how we borrow e-books from libraries. So many non-library folks simply don’t understand why there are limits on how many people can borrow an e-book at once, and why they can only borrow it for as long as a regular library book. They think that since it is a digital version, there should be an endless supply of copies and loan periods. While we know there is a simple answer related to copyright laws, I think their impatience with the system exposes some of the unhealthy habits we are developing in the digital world, namely that we want things now and we want them without limits. I wonder where we will find ourselves if we continue to indulge these “more more more” ideologies of consumption.

digital content, ownership, and the dying art of photo albums

text message book

I struggled a bit with how to answer this week’s question, as I have very little experience with ‘ownership’ in the digital sense – most of what I acquire and interact with (whether video games, audio material, video files, bookish things) are still very physical, tangible things. I haven’t had (although have heard of) the funny (and troubling) experience of having an e-book disappear from an e-reader, or not having access to something posted on a work website after the fact. I guess one example would be the issue of who ‘owns’ digital content posted to social media platforms like Instagram and Facebook, and all of the accompanying privacy issues. Still, I would like to focus on a different sort of ownership dilemma in this digital age. I visited family this Easter weekend, and while doing so, browsed a large number of family photo albums. I was reminded of the joys of days when pictures were taken, developed, and then (if someone was dedicated enough), curated and preserved in albums. This became a topic of discussion with my relatives – including all that we seem to have lost in the age of digital photography, where most of the time, pictures amass on smart phones, or rest disorganized in computer folders, never to be seen again. Even the act of ‘browsing’ digital photos on the computer (which I have been known to do during bouts of nostalgia) does not evoke the same feelings as the joy of perusing lovingly created physical photo albums. So, what does this mean for our ‘ownership’ of these aspects of our lives?

I also overheard this weekend that retailers will no longer be selling Fujifilm for instant cameras (; Even with the slim (and expensive) mainstream film offerings, the disappearance of any place to print digital photos (apart from Walmarts or Superstores – and even then at a huge cost) has meant that for the most part, digital collections remain indefinitely digital. With a wedding coming up in four months, this is something that my partner and I have discussed – it is hugely important for us to have physical, bound copies of our wedding photos (to be held, shared, leafed through, and looked back upon).

One of the other albums that I browsed through is a collection of letters between my grandparents. Looking at this beautifully preserved piece of family history, I was reminded of a couple articles I came across earlier this year about couples and families having their text message and email threads printed and bound into physical books for preservation ( (for more examples of this check out platforms such as Memeoirs, Blurb, and txt-book). Looking at the album, it really struck me what has been lost (again) with the decline of paper letters – there were certain protocol I noticed (like peculiarities about addressing, adding the time and date) and generally the pace of letter correspondence. I remember laughing when I thought about an entire text message thread being printed and returned to in the same way. In the context of a relationship, this could include everything from the most intimate moments, to the most mundane (“Don’t forget to pick up cat litter.” – no, seriously). While you might argue that the same could be said of letters, I think we are in fact dealing with a different beast here. Perhaps there is an equal benefit to having these more ephemeral interactions preserved, so that one day our grandchildren can look back on them and observe (and laugh).

So, where I am going with this? I guess all of this made me consider what ‘ownership’ looks like in the long run in this digital age. While we may still ‘own’ (although even this is debatable) the content of our phones and computers, what happens to all of the stuff of our lives that rests in them? Even with the advent of a return to printed goods (those books are just one example, think items personalized with Instagram photos –, or a return to a Polaroid-like effect with smartphones – these still seem to be a niche market, and relatively small scale. This makes me wonder – even if we own these now, what will happen as forms of technology shift and become obsolete? Will we own this content five years down the line? Ten? Fifty? How many computer migrations will these digital files survive? To be honest, whenever I think about this I have a crazy urge to shell out the likely hundreds (if not thousands) of dollars it might cost to have each and every one of my photos printed – even if they never make it into albums, just having them all in a box somewhere would make me feel better – to have them somewhere, anywhere. To me, this form of digital ownership is a particularly frightening (and close to home) one. Browsing through these albums with my partner I couldn’t help but say, “what will our children have to look at?” While you won’t see me running out to print off every text we’ve ever sent (yet), part of me wishes that I had an answer to this question. Before you think this is some kind of sentimental, ‘think of the children’, nostalgia-driven paranoia, I really do feel there is something here about the future of our personal books (scrapbooks, photo albums, letter albums) and how digital forms of interacting and recording meaning are disrupting things like ownership, memory, and dare I say it, our history in the making.


BBC News. (14 February 2014). Man gives girlfriend 240-page book of text messages.


CBC News. (22 March 2016). Save instant photos: Toronto photographer mourns coming end of Polaroids.

Drell, Lauren. (03 March 2012). 13 Products You Can Make From Your Instagram Snapshots. Mashable.


Polaroid Zip Instant Mobile Printer. Apple.


Zhang, Michael. (29 February 2016). Fujifilm is putting an end to its FP-100C Peel-Apart instant film. PetaPixel.



Week 10: Ownership in the Digital World

When I was researching ereaders, before I got my Kobo, the question of ownership was a bit of a pressing matter to me. This was around the time that Amazon was coming under fire for deleting books off of a user’s Kindle without warning or consent. This was a possibility I had never considered before. My worries about ebooks skewed more toward corrupted files or computer crashes. I thought I could lose ebooks, much like physical books can be misplaced or destroyed, but I did not think that the company I bought them from could take them away.

An NBC article on the controversial action by Amazon clarified that when we think we are buying ebooks we are really licencing them (Johnson 2012).The “buy” button might more properly be labeled “rent” (Johnson 2012). This case motivated me to buy a Kobo rather than a Kindle. While Kobo probably operates in the same way, it has, to my knowledge, never abused its customers. I also wanted the freedom of a Kobo. It’s one of the most open ereaders out there (Neal 2013). As well as supporting multiple formats, with and without DRM, it can be used with the Toronto Public Library. TPL has been offering ebooks for years and is compatible with all major ereaders… except the Kindle.

This research brought me face to face with the contradictions inherent in this kind of digital content. While a huge draw to ebooks is that they are more convenient, their actual convenience depends on the platform or device you use. For instance, I recently learned that one of my favourite authors, Hal Duncan, has ebook versions of his works available. While the major ones are sold on Kobo’s online store, the one’s I want are only available on Amazon. He’s not very well known, so libraries don’t have these titles. I am barred from reading them in ebook form unless I buy them, legally, from Amazon and then break the law to convert them into a format I can read on a Kobo. This seems bizarre, as having bought something I would expect to be able to use it as I want.

Another weakness of ebooks is an inability to lend them to other people. If I read something I like I can’t just grab it off my shelf and force it into someone’s hands. I recently read an excellent series, The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer. I first got them from the library, digitally, and then bought them from Kobo. They are fairly brick-shaped and it makes more sense to me to own them as virtual copies, especially since that’s how I first read them. But, I don’t recommend them to people that often because there is an enforced lack of follow through. I can’t facilitate their access to the books.

Ebooks thoroughly complicate the idea of book ownership. The problem is that ebook-sellers’ don’t address this up-front. They act like buying an ebook is the same as buying a physical book, even pricing them similarly. Yet, they expect to exert unprecedented power over these purchases.

Articles Referenced:

Johnson, Joel. 2012. “You don’t own your Kindle books, Amazon reminds customer.” NBC News, October 24. Accessed March 26, 2016.
Neal, Meghan. 2013. “Do You Ever Own Your E-Books?” VICE, August 19. Accessed March 26, 2016.

The Digital Object: The future of the Digital Library

My post for this week will be split into two parts: Digital Rights Management (DRM) and its relationship to the future of the book, and a review on the book Ready Player One. The first part of the post talks about the closed spaces facilitated by DRM and the second is a fictional world that looks at access to knowledge and information from an open source point of view.

Digital Rights Management is a system that restricts the access of proprietary hardware and copyrighted works. We’ve all seen them in e-readers, iTunes, etc. What’s interesting about DRM is that it locks an item into a system and the users has little to no control over the contents. For example, early e-readers allowed the user to highlight text but they could not copy it or provide annotations. This had implications on the practice of commonplacing. Later ebooks allowed the addition of comments, but somehow I feel that is lacking when compared to the annotations or marginalia in a physical book. That is not to say that there are no restrictions on a physical object but there are certain liberties afforded by the medium. I can lend, re-sell, or donate my collection as I see fit. What about digital books and music?

A few years ago, an article surfaced about the actor Bruce Willis and his attempt to ensure that his iTunes library could be left to his children in his will. Whether the story is true or not is not the point, but the principle of it brings up interesting questions: What happens to a digital collection once the owner has passed on? What is the future of libraries and archives in an increasingly digital world? With DRM you do not own the items you purchase but are in essence leasing it from an organization. This could have serious implications for libraries and archives that rely on donations. Could you imagine where we would be without either of these institutions and the insight into figures like Northrop Frye or Marshall McLuhan from donated collections of books? In addition, with a digital object the same type of markup is not left behind. We have version controls on some objects, but with the ease of editing that could end up being a momentous task to filter through them all to study a books history or the owners thoughts. Users need to have more control over digital objects and rules/laws need to be changed to accommodate those rights.

I recently finished reading Ready Player One by Ernest Cline. As a videogame geek I found the references to old videogames, TV series, and music, nostalgic. The author does an amazing job creating the dystopian future Earth. What I liked most about the book was the idea of open access to knowledge that the virtual world of OASIS offered. At no point in the book did the main protagonist worry about copyright or intellectual property laws but he could enjoy the products of the past freely. This type of open source world is something that is intriguing for the future of the book, and knowledge in general.

On a side note: Ready Player One is being made into a movie. I’m excited to see what they do with it.

My Time Machine Kinda Sucks…

So, I plan on going back just three years, to 2013.  My time machine isn’t very advanced, I suppose.

This is the year that the alleged first bookless public library opened: BiblioTech in San Antonio. This library loans out ereaders and, of course, ebooks while forgoing print books. My message would be about books and about libraries.

Regarding books, I would caution the library – and the world at large – that a binary decision between ebooks and print books is a false choice. In 2016, it is looking more and more likely that a hybrid model of books is here to stay for the short-to-medium term.

Regarding libraries, I would remind them that the immediate embrace of a bookless physical space may fail to capitalize on the library brand. Indeed, a 2010 OCLC survey showed that 75% of people associate libraries first and foremost with books (Gauder 38). This strong book brand should still be leveraged. Plus, in light of concerns about the longevity of digital media, “[p]aper is still the best medium of preservation, and libraries still need to fill their shelves with… paper” (Darnton 109-110). To that end, any local histories might be best stored as print books, not ebooks. An all digital collection is preparing for a future that may never becoming the present in our lifetimes.

Bookless Library
BiblioTech in San Antonio – the first all-digital, bookless public library. Source:


Darnton, Robert. The Case for Books: Past, Present, and Future. New York: PublicAffairs , 2009. Print.

Gauder, Brad, ed. Perceptions of Libraries, 2010: Context and Community. Dublin, Ohio: OCLC, 2011. Print.

What is ownership? A case of Twitter

Last year while doing a project for the workshop Introduction to Scholarly Communication my team created guidelines for Archiving Tweets of Political Events using Archive-It. Working on this project we encountered interesting issues surrounding copyright ownership and access. The issues of copyright and ownership were related to the push by libraries to archive publicly available web content to prevent its easy loss (Antracoli et al., 2014). The harvesting, archiving, and curation of social media, particularly Tweets, is a new issue and their copyright and ownership dimensions have yet to be tested in court (Small, Kasianovitz, Blanford, & Celaya, 2012). We made our recommendations based on ample research and our opinions.

We learned there is a great deal of debate around copyright and ownership issues related to Twitter and Tweets. Some argued that users who choose to make their Twitter accounts public cannot object to the reuse or collection of their Tweets, as users have the option to privatize their account.  At the same time, if a Twitter user’s tweet is indeed used, the user may view Tweets as a means for personal expression and therefore may wish to be credited for this expression (Small et al., 2012). There are three arguments against Tweets as being copyright material in Canada in the United States. First, the short length of one hundred and forty characters makes Tweets possibly ineligible for copyright protection (Reinberg, 2009; Small et al., 2012). In addition, much of what is posted on Twitter is the statement of common-knowledge facts or their impression, which are not copyrightable. Furthermore, many tweet comments are written in a similar manner, making copyright difficult to discern. Those scholars who argue for Tweets as copyrightable believe that some Tweets represent originality, as defined under copyright, or that a collection of Tweets as a whole potentially meets the minimum necessary for copyright protection (Reinberg, 2009).

We decided that no matter the outcome of the copyright decision if the tweets were used in an academic library they could be circumvented by the Twitter Terms of Service and/or the Fair Dealing exemption of copyright law in Canada. According to Twitter’s Terms of Service, posting Tweets grants Twitter “a worldwide, non-exclusive, royalty-free license (with the right to sublicense) to use, copy, reproduce, process, adapt, modify, publish, transmit, display and distribute such Content in any and all media or distribution methods (now known or later developed)” (Twitter, Inc., 2016b). By this standard, Twitter owns every Tweet, but public Tweets are also useable for educational means. Under the Copyright Act’s Fair Dealing exception, an individual is able to use copyright material for research, private study, education, satire, parody, criticism, review, or news reporting. Through the Political Tweets Librarian, academic libraries can harvest publicly available Tweets and their use for research, study, and other educational purposes falls clearly under the Fair Dealing exception of Canadian copyright law.


Antracoli, A., Duckworth, S., Silva, J., & Yarmey, K. (2014). Capture all the URLs: First steps in web archiving. Pennsylvania Libraries: Research & Practice, 2(2), 155-170. doi: 10.5195/palrap.2014.67

Reinberg, C. (2009). Are tweets copyright-protected? WIPO Magazine. Retrieved from

Small, H., Kasianovitz, K., Blanford, R., & Celaya, I. (2012). What your Tweets tell us about you: Identity, ownership and privacy of Twitter data. International Journal of Digital Curation, 174-197. Retrieved from

Twitter, Inc. (2016b). Terms of Service. Retrieved from

It’s About the Journey, Not the Ownership

This week’s question lends itself to so many specific examples, I felt a bit dizzy trying to decide what particular examples to write about in relation to the changing nature ownership in my lifetime. (Short answer: so many things.)

So, I figured I’d take a step back and discuss the changing nature of ownership in general – specifically, how the pleasure of ownership has been replaced with the pleasure leading up to ownership. (Hence the overly cute title of this blog post… apologies.)

In 2013, Russell Belk updated his landmark study published in the Journal of Consumer Research with a game-changing finding: The up-and-coming Generation Y is the first cohort not to rank ownership as the most appealing part of shopping. Rather, it was the decision process leading up to that decision, usually in the form of reading online reviews and comparing options for purchase (Belk).

This rings true.

For me, the process of discovery for books – let’s use that as an example – is more important and satisfying than ownership. This could involve browsing GoodReads or library shelves. Even the act of finding a good deal at a used bookstore like BMV is more of the appeal of shopping than the ownership of the product, in my experience. While I may insist on having all of the books by a favorite author, I am happy to borrow books and add them to a reading log (e.g. GoodReads) in place of ownership.

That said, all of the choices and information about products can make even the simplest decisions comically fraught

Set of book icons in flat design style.
Some colourful books to make this post more fun! (Licensed image owned by author).

Works cited:

Belk, Russell W. “Extended Self in a Digital World.” Journal of Consumer Research 40 (3): 477-500. 2013. Web. 20 March 2016.