Tuesday, May 15, 2012

So I got e-Dune from my library...

I got an email saying that the Dune e-book was "checked back in" and ready for me to "check out".

My local public library uses a service called Overdrive, which apparently a number of other library systems use.

One thing I noticed that was interesting was that Overdrive prompted me for my library card number.

But they did not prompt me for the password.

Now, I'm a computer geek, and I tend to observe who is asking me for information.  I noticed that it was Overdrive, not Houston Public Library, prompting me for my library card number.  I was wondering if they would also prompt me for the password, such as it is.  If they did, that would tell me an awful lot about how they are connected with my local library system.

As it happens, there is no password, per se, but a user name and library card number.  Libraries, you see, are not designed to be Fort Knox.  In fact, they are designed to maximize the ease of spread of information (with the exception of e-books, where they participate in locking down information).

But just the same, all you need is a valid library card number and you get get an e-book from Overdrive.

What is this madness, you ask?  How can they loan me an e-book without fully authenticating my identity?

I asked the same question, which was immediately followed by my next thought which is the obvious answer:

It doesn't fucking matter.

Think about it.  Let's say we get together and hack out someone's libary card number and "illegitimately" "borrow" an e-book from Overdrive.

What are the consequences?  None.

It's not like Overdrive doesn't have the book while you have it checked out.  It's not like they'll lose their copy.

Hell, in this case they didn't even "loan" it to me--I was redirected to Amazon, who generated a DRM "protected" copy of the e-book that expires in two weeks.

It just goes to show that even Overdrive and the Houston Public Library, and even Amazon, understand in their hearts how inane it is to create a vast artificial construct to force the concept of "loan" onto a digital file.  It also goes to show that libraries have no business participating in such nonsense, since it makes no sense--and libraries should be a bastion of sense, not stupidity.

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