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Old 12-13-2012, 07:15 AM   #1
kennyc
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Forbes: The Wrong War Over eBooks: Publishers Vs. Libraries

Good article in Forbes:

Quote:
The Wrong War Over eBooks: Publishers Vs. Libraries

Libraries, like other consumers, should be free to buy any published e-content at competitive prices, to keep these items in their collection, and to loan them to their patrons. Anything less violates basic democratic principles …

American Library Association

Libraries and big six publishers are at war over eBooks: how much they should cost, how they can be lent and who owns them. If you don’t use your public library and assume that this doesn’t affect you, you’re wrong.

In a society where bookstores disappear every day while the number of books available to read has swelled exponentially, libraries will play an ever more crucial role. Even more than in the past, we will depend on libraries of the future to help discover and curate great books. Libraries are already transforming themselves around the country to create more symbiotic relationships with their communities, with book clubs and as work and meeting spaces for local citizens.

For publishers, the library will be the showroom of the future. Ensuring that libraries have continuing access to published titles gives them a chance to meet this role, but an important obstacle remains: how eBooks are obtained by libraries.

This column is the first in a two-part series about libraries and their role in the marketing and readership of books. This first part addresses the present conflict. The second part will look forward to the future for libraries and publishers and the important challenges that they must address.

The solution to the current pricing problem lies in understanding that the argument publishers and libraries are having is the wrong argument. It is based on the paradigm of the printed book and as such presents a series of intractable challenges for both publishers and libraries. By changing the model for pricing an eBook, both parties could find a clear and equitable resolution to the current impasse.

The Issue

Do libraries increase book sales or cannibalize them? This is the issue at the heart of the struggle between libraries represented by the American Library Association (whose president is Maureen Sullivan) and the Big Six publishers.

The current struggle is taking place in a landscape that will be familiar to those who followed the travails of the music industry over the last decade. Publishing is changing dramatically as it tries to cope with the rise of eBooks and the increasing power of Amazon, the decline of bookstores and a flood of low-priced indie titles. In spite of the good year that Random House is experiencing (anticipating a merger with Penguin and just having paid employees a $5,000 bonus each thanks to the success of once-indie author EL James’ Fifty Shades trilogy), most publishers have found it difficult to maintain sales and profitability in the current environment. Whether they’re doomed or not is debatable, but no mainstream publisher is comfortable in the current environment.
.....
Much more here:


http://www.forbes.com/sites/davidvin...-vs-libraries/
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Old 12-13-2012, 04:37 PM   #2
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Originally Posted by kennyc View Post
The Issue

Do libraries increase book sales or cannibalize them?
For me this is not, and never has been, the issue. The actual issue is this: The mistaken belief that purchasing an ebook is purchasing some kind of license. Purchasing an ebook is purchasing an actual product. Once this is finally realized, most of these other issues will vanish....
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Old 12-13-2012, 05:04 PM   #3
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For me this is not, and never has been, the issue. The actual issue is this: The mistaken belief that purchasing an ebook is purchasing some kind of license. Purchasing an ebook is purchasing an actual product. Once this is finally realized, most of these other issues will vanish....
I agree with you there!

I've been arguing exactly that, on this site and others, for years.
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Old 12-13-2012, 07:24 PM   #4
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nevermind

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Old 12-13-2012, 07:43 PM   #5
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Pre-agency, libraries served two purposes for me:

First, they were my "test-kitchen" for new-to-me authors. If a book looked interesting and I didn't know the author, I'd borrow it from the library. If I liked the book, that author would go on my to-buy list. If I was uncertain, the next book would also be borrowed. If I didn't like it, I usually didn't read that author again.

Second, they were for borrowing hardbacks for authors I wasn't willing to buy ebooks at hardback prices. For my "must-own" authors, I'd eventually buy the ebook when the price dropped. Otherwise, no sale.

Since Agency pricing, I borrow almost everything exclusively. I think - after I used up a bunch of 40% off gift cards - I've purchased approximately 6 books under Agency pricing.

Now that Agency pricing is....postponed?....I don't know. I've been buying books that have been offered at those really good deal prices (0.99-2.99). But I haven't seen any real change in pricing on the books I want as Agency slowly is removed. And the library habit is there, now. I'm not sure I'd go back to spending $2000 / year on ebooks, like I did before Agency pricing.
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Old 12-13-2012, 10:16 PM   #6
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Here's the central problem:

If you can easily borrow any book you want from the library, you would be either a fool or a philanthropist or a book collector to buy one. And that's not much of a funding stream for authors, editors, translators, and publishers.

OP author David Vinjamuri implicitly agrees with this, and hints that his answer is to require a physical visit to the library. Since most future book sales will be on-line, the physical visit requirement would indeed make borrowing harder than buying, and thus prevent a boatload of sales cannibalization. Many months ago, I advocated the physical visit requirement (with an exemption for the seriously disabled) on this board.

HOWEVER, what I've learned since then is that library patrons hate the idea. The bad publicity Random House gets when charging libraries $84 for a $10 eBook is microscopic compared to the bad publicity they, and the library, would get for sending granddad out in the rain and snow to fill up his Nook. Therefore, I'm afraid that requiring people to walk over to the library is a non-starter.

The friction that people do seem to be accepting is having to wait. So I guess the system has to be built on that. However, it would be implausible to make people wait for unpopular books. So letting the library list in its catalog all 800,000 Overdrive titles (of which no one library today buys/leases more than a tiny proportion) may also be out.

I hope that some libraries and publishers will be brave enough to risk small-scale physical-visit-required experiments, because no other form of friction is going to be strong enough to allow libraries to stock hundreds of thousands of copyrighted eBook titles.

Someone may say that the government should just force the publishers to sell eBooks to libraries. But, besides that it would devastate employment in the publishing industry, there isn't the slightest chance of it happening. No friction, no library eBook.
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Old 12-13-2012, 10:22 PM   #7
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Thanks kennyc. The system won't let me give you any karma, but wanted to let you know I really enjoyed the article. Can't wait to read the second part. I hope publishers are reading it!
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Old 12-13-2012, 11:30 PM   #8
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I don't believe the majority of people make use of their public libraries. Working people tend to not have the excess time to visit libraries, I know for decades I didn't have a library card, and I read a LOT. Not until I found an old out-of-print book I wanted to read badly and my library had a copy did I actually get a library card again. I was always reading some paperback though that I purchased.

Has that changed very much with ereaders? I don't think so... I believe the majority will still be purchasing their ebooks same as they did their paperbacks, as long as the pricing remains reasonably in line with a paperback. If they're going to start asking me to pay $20 for an ebook when I can buy the paperback for $9, something is very wrong with the system. I'll buy the real book in that case and not even have to deal with the "do I own the book or did I just license it for a one-time read for my current reader only" BS.

At my library, there's a limit on the ebooks they have to offer, usually only 1 or 2 copies per book (usually just 1 though), just like having the real books on the shelves. So sticking to that model makes it very unlikely, actually impossible, that libraries will ever take away funding from authors, editors or publishers. You still have to wait often months to download the library copy of the ebook after being on a waiting list. It's not unusual to have 4 people ahead of you on the list and these are older books I'm checking out from probably the 1950s or earlier. A current best-selling novel would probably have 100 people ahead of you on the list. And that works the same as if you were waiting for the hard copy of the book to become available. And most everyone who is employed will choose to purchase a copy rather than wait months and months for a book. If libraries were purchasing one ebook copy, and then able to lend that one book to 1000 people simultaneously, then yes, I'd say there would be fear of taking away funding from the industry, but that's not how it works. They can only lend out the one copy to one person at a time. Two to three weeks later, another person can then borrow the book. There is no way around that to abuse the system to take any money away from authors or publishing houses.

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Originally Posted by CyGuy View Post
For me this is not, and never has been, the issue. The actual issue is this: The mistaken belief that purchasing an ebook is purchasing some kind of license. Purchasing an ebook is purchasing an actual product. Once this is finally realized, most of these other issues will vanish....
Absolutely totally agree with this. Libraries should own their copies of the ebooks, the same as they own the hard copies of books. This applies to every day people purchasing books also. Enough with the "you only have a license" tactic, it's just not going to fly with majority of people, which is why most of us strip DRM from our ebooks.
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Old 12-14-2012, 03:14 AM   #9
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Originally Posted by SteveEisenberg View Post
... to require a physical visit to the library.
Sure, make it as inconvenient as possible, that's gonna help. I like to get my books legally as much as the next guy, but if my library ever introduced a policy like that I couldn't guarantee I won't check out other, hassle-free (if less legal) venues.

Quote:
Since most future book sales will be on-line, the physical visit requirement would indeed make borrowing harder than buying, and thus prevent a boatload of sales cannibalization.
Here's an idea, why not make them read it on the premises? No takin' books home, no Siree, just imagine how many additional sales that must bring ...

Quote:
HOWEVER, what I've learned since then is that library patrons hate the idea.
You better believe it.

Quote:
I hope that some libraries and publishers will be brave enough to risk small-scale physical-visit-required experiments
Not going to fly, and certainly not if only a small proportion will experiment with it. I for one have access to multiple libraries and would switch in a heartbeat.

Quote:
Someone may say that the government should just force the publishers to sell eBooks to libraries.
Hear, hear! Would you believe that despite this being the fact in much of Europe the book world still hasn't gone under?
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Old 12-14-2012, 05:30 AM   #10
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Thanks kennyc. The system won't let me give you any karma, but wanted to let you know I really enjoyed the article. Can't wait to read the second part. I hope publishers are reading it!
You're welcome.

Interesting times we live in.
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Old 12-14-2012, 11:28 AM   #11
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I do not agree with the gist of he suggestion that says easily being able to borrow a book from a library would hurt the funding stream of authors, et. al. I mean it was what was being done before ebooks came along and authors seemed to be able to eat and keep a roof over their head. People bought books then and people will still buy books now. One thing a library has always done for me is to alert me and let me sample books from authors that I was not familiar with. That, I believe, is a good thing for authors. The more people that become aware of them, the better. Libraries and the ability to borrow from libraries is not the enemy here.
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Old 12-14-2012, 12:30 PM   #12
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I do not agree with the gist of he suggestion that says easily being able to borrow a book from a library would hurt the funding stream of authors, et. al. I mean it was what was being done before ebooks came along and authors seemed to be able to eat and keep a roof over their head. People bought books then and people will still buy books now. One thing a library has always done for me is to alert me and let me sample books from authors that I was not familiar with. That, I believe, is a good thing for authors. The more people that become aware of them, the better. Libraries and the ability to borrow from libraries is not the enemy here.
This makes sense to me.

I have bought books when I discovered series or authors I enjoyed via library books. Typically, the library will have only part of a series, or only a few books by an author, and I have gone looking for the others via paid sources.
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Old 12-14-2012, 12:36 PM   #13
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Or when the waiting list is too long, as Ripplinger mentioned above...
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Old 12-14-2012, 04:01 PM   #14
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Very interesting read.

I wish libraries didn't have to put up with this "war." If they owned their books, then no problem.
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Old 12-14-2012, 08:18 PM   #15
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Someone may say that the government should just force the publishers to sell eBooks to libraries.
Hear, hear! Would you believe that despite this being the fact in much of Europe the book world still hasn't gone under?
Can you provide a link to the eBook portal of a library in one of those countries?

We might not be talking about the same thing. If this was true, I suspect we would have heard of Simon and Schuster, and the like, working to thwart the rule.

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Originally Posted by rogue_librarian View Post
Sure, make it as inconvenient as possible, that's gonna help.
You previously endorsed a service requiring one-chapter-at-a-time downloads. This is far more inconvenient than my walking over to the library. Someone, just now reading this, who has to drive to their library, may think your way sounds better. But the first time they download a 20 chapter DRM-free book from one of those services (I've used 24x7 through my employer), they may start finding their local librarian's friendly face a lot more appealing.

I'm sure you would prefer something more convenient than either physical visit or chapter-at-a-time. My point is that friction in return for eBook borrowing is inescapable, even for a highly pro-patron librarian.

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Originally Posted by jersysman View Post
I do not agree with the gist of he suggestion that says easily being able to borrow a book from a library would hurt the funding stream of authors, et. al. I mean it was what was being done before ebooks came along and authors seemed to be able to eat and keep a roof over their head.
To borrow a paper book, I have to go to the physical library. And then I have to go back to return it.

I can borrow an Overdrive book right from my computer -- any day of the week. This makes Overdrive much more convenient than the library ever was.

Also, the paper library book is used. This doesn't bother me, but many people find it sub-optimal. By contrast, the Overdrive eBook is just as perfect as the same title purchased from Kobo or Amazon.

I'd love to read Simon and Schuster eBooks, but don't because they boycott Overdrive. Do I like this? No. Are they making a stupid business decision, or harming their authors? That I can't say.
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