If you want to see how counterproductive the current intellectual property environment can be for scholarly publishing, take a gander at the ACLS Humanities E-Book website. I foolishly inflicted an assignment on my students using this for today’s class, since there was a link to it out of our catalog. “Why make a .pdf for our reserves,” I wondered, “since there’s already this nice electronic version available to us.” Serves me right for not checking out exactly what that involved.
You can’t print from that site. You can’t link to a specific section or passage of text. As far as I can tell, you can’t even adjust the placement of text in the browser window so that you don’t have to scroll down to see the bottom of a page. If you try to go back to the site home page after accessing one text, the frame with the text you read remains.
The 1996 book I assigned there is no longer in print, and when it was, it was priced only as a library edition, never as something you could assign students. So what is the publisher of the book protecting, exactly? They are not going to bring this book back into print. They’ve made whatever money they’re going to make off of it. And now students who want to read it and teachers who want to teach it, acts which benefit the academic authors of the book, have to read it in this crippled format if they want to look at it as an ebook. There’s some nice stuff built into this ebook project–full MARC records, links to reviews of the text, search within the text. But basically: yuck.