This is from a reader’s email. I know if you’re a bookstore you can pretty much order as many Harry Potters as you can, because you know they will sell, but how does a library decide how many Harry Potter books to buy? I do a lot of work in libraries, but I have never been on the book ordering ends of things. I know how librarians choose which books to buy, but not how many. If anyone would like to help out with some simple explanation for my library patron reader, I’d appreciate it. update: Glenn asks a good question in the comments: do libraries want our “old” copies when we’re done with them? I know there are a lot of HPs that are already gathering dust in homes across the US.
This is only loosely library-related. I remember when one of the Harry Potter books came out and I was working in a library. I realized they got the book early and were just in some weird way honor bound not to reveal the ending, to ration the copies out fairly, etc. That seemed decent. Libraries do the same thing with DVDs, waiting to shelve and/or “release” them until a certain date. Now that entire very popular books like Harry Potter can be photographed and released via bittorent sites well in advance of their sale date, what does this mean for the adorable, if outdated, notion of these embargoes? Anyone who wants to read the Harry Potter spoilers and figure out who dies, click this link.
update: actually don’t bother clicking it since I’ve now gotten word that it’s wrong. Testing spoilers is so complicated. Last I checked there was someone posting what seem like real spoilers spamlike across a bunch of livejournal communities. Rocky few days ahead for people who don’t want to know what happens. Last I checked since then, the posts were being removed almost as fast as they were going up. However, the transcription project is already going well, though some people are claiming that the photographs have themselves been photoshopped to include fake “facts” and others claim there are at least two sets of book photos going around that are not at all the same.
Can you tell that I just added Freedom to Tinker back into my RSS reader? This post about how quickly digital copies of the newest Harry Potter book made it on to the Internet in text and audio — despite or possibly because of J.K. Rowling’s decision not to release the book in ebook format — says some important things about the relationship between distributing information digitally and copyright infringement. Different types of people can think the phrase “downloading music” means buying it, illegally sharing it, exercising your fair use rights, or possibly even making use of the lovely public domain.
Since there have been copying technologies, people have been making copies and sharing information. I’m not saying that this makes any and all sorts of information reproduction right as rain, but it does help to keep a cool head about these issues and remember that the Internet didn’t create copyright infringment, it only made it simpler. The simplification of copyright infringment through information reproduction has made the media campaign to dissuade people from even trying that much more aggressive, and made the lobbyists try that much harder to make even tighter legislation to outlaw it. And, as librarians who like to share as much as we’re legally able, this is a pickle indeed.
If someone could drop me a note and let me know who dies in the Harry Potter & Half-Blood Prince, I’d really appreciate it. We got the book on CD at the library last week and I had a brief pang where I wanted to say “Please let me take it home, I’ll listen to all 12 hours tonight and have it back by morning!” but then I remembered I hadn’t liked the last book very much, and I’m suspicious of any book that sets off this sort of shopping frenzy (less merch this year though), not to mention these sorts of lawsuits. I’m happy that we have a literary celebrity in our other books’ midst, but let’s remember to try to parlay this love of reading this one book to learning to love reading for its own sake, not because you’ve been sucked in to the latest tween supernatural soap opera sensation. [update: thanks for the plot-summary emails, I think I've got it now] [ update 2: want more spoilers? check out thebookspoiler.com]