Ebook Woes in the Ethicist

Did you catch the library related question in this week’s The Ethicist column?

Through my public library, I can check out a book on my Kindle for 21 days. Then the system sends a signal to erase the book and make it available for someone else. But there’s a loophole: if my Kindle is offline, the book isn’t deleted and is still available for another reader. So if I need another day, I leave the Kindle offline and continue until I’m done. When I go back online, the book is deleted. I say that’s fine. But my co-worker says that I promised to return it after 21 days — just like a physical book — and I must honor that promise.

6 thoughts on “Ebook Woes in the Ethicist”

  1. yikes:

    “my wife is a librarian and has a vested interest in seeing people play by the rules”

    and not:

    “my wife is a librarian and has a vested interest in helping people use the library”

  2. I’ve always seen the compact as this: you get the book for three weeks free. If you want to keep it longer, you have to pay the fine and/or forgo further use of our services until you return the item. So I don’t see the problem; you are paying the penalty by not being able to bring the device online and obtain other resources.

    1. Good point, teetop. For some, not getting online can hurt worse than having to pay an overdue fine. Even if that wasn’t the case, it always make me smile when I see someone figure out a loophole. I guess I’m not the rule-following librarian type.

  3. Actually, I have a title checked out that is expired. I can still access the book on my Kindle, but it is not on my account. The way I have always understood it is that it is automatically checked after the loan period expires, and can be checked out by someone else. It will just stay on my device until I connect wirelessly. I know that doesn’t respond to the ethics question, but at least I’m not holding up someone else from checking out the book.

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