Excellent commentary on a recent NYT Op-Ed by Scott Turow (head of the Authors Guild). I definitely recommend reading both.
…However, we aren’t the only ones who see our usage statistics. The vendors that sell us our products run the reports and it isn’t in their best interest for us to get the biggest bang out of our buck. I am not trying to imply that all of the vendors are nefarious. I am just saying that if they see that your usage stats are so good that you are only paying $.05 per use and the average library in your tier pays about $.10 per use, they are thinking that you are getting their product for a $50,000 discount.
I never thought of it this way—it’s a fascinating (frightening?) idea.
What if the trade-offs many have been portending between big:small, old:new, and open:closed actually were dependencies?
A recent analysis of the scientific publishing marketplace focusing on the financial implications of OA policies and business practices presents these issues in between the lines, concluding that commercial publishers have weathered the storm and adapted to changes, making it unlikely OA would be much of a problem for them going forward, while suggesting that the ultimate solution to providing OA on a widespread and sustainable basis will depend upon a robust subscription market much like the one we have today.
This is an interesting conclusion, though I guess only time will tell whether it’s accurate.
Having just mentioned DOIs in an instruction session last week, this is good for pointing out the lingering problems with that system.
And of course, these big, toll-access, subscription-based Publishers trumpet all the Added Value that their publishing processes put onto the articles that we write and give to them (and referee for them, and persuade our libraries to buy for them, and…). So obviously that Added Value will extend to ensuring that all references have DOIs where available? A pretty simple thing to add in the copy-editing stage, I would have thought.
Except that they don’t. They display few if any DOIs in their reference lists of “their” articles. In fact my limited, non-scientific evidence-collecting suggests to me that they probably do the opposite to Adding Value: remove DOIs from manuscripts submitted to them. OK, I have no direct evidence of the removal claim, but I reckon there is pretty good circumstantial evidence.
The book publishing industry, already facing disruption from Amazon and e-books, will confront a new form of turbulence in 2013. Starting in January, publishers face the loss of their back lists as authors begin using the Copyright Act to reclaim works they assigned years ago.
Even by the standards of copyright law, the author reclamation rules are a messy cat’s cradle of ambiguous rules and technicalities. The math makes your head spin.
For instance, authors have a five-year window to exercise the right but must also provide advance notice at least two years but no more than 10 years beforehand. For 1978 authors — who are eligible to reclaim in 2013 — the window is already closing.
Note of interest: J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Silmarillion was published in 1978, so it’s one of the works that could be affected by this. It will be interesting to see whether the Tolkien estate (or any of the authors for whom this applies) does anything about it.
Recently, Colin Robinson, a respected founder of a New York-based independent publisher, OR Books, wrote an essay for The Guardian entitled “Ten Ways to Save the Publishing Industry.” The summary paragraph was grim: “Book sales are stagnating, profit margins are being squeezed by higher discounts and falling prices and the distribution of book buyers is being ever more polarized between record-shattering bestsellers and an ocean of titles with tiny readerships.” For the most part, Robinson’s recommendations are common sense: an emphasis on selection, pricing, effective use of the Internet, and a focus on readers by devoting more effort to reaching them directly through social media. Jeremy Greenfield, editorial director of Digital Book World, in a response to Robinson’s manifesto makes a strong case with observations that I generally share: “The publishing industry isn’t a monolithic thing: some publishers are doing well and others are not. … I don’t see an industry that’s flailing—I see one that’s managing a complicated transition much better than would be expected.”
We know that there are issues related to ebooks that have nothing to do with libraries. For example that you don’t own your ebooks, you lease them, that you can’t loan them at all or can’t loan them easily, that you can’t switch platforms (without some possibly illegal hacking of your books) for no other reason than corporate greed. These issues apply to an increasing number of ebook readers (as of April 2012 20% of Americans had read and ebook), but not all of them are using library ebooks for a number of reasons.
In the past year, libraries have seen a sharp growth in e-book borrowing. That trend is transforming the relationship between libraries and publishers. Libraries need to offer electronic books to remain relevant today. But some publishers worry lending e-books will lead to piracy and loss of sales. Two of the big six publishers license their e-books to libraries. Others are exploring pilot programs or have declined to participate. Many library patrons are frustrated with the limited availability of titles and long waiting lists. And some buy a copy of the e-book anyway. Guest host, Frank Sesno, and his guests discuss the challenges of e-booking lending at the library.
I haven’t listened to this (yet), but thought it might be of interest.
There’s a choice academic and public libraries face. One is to focus entirely on providing access to the published information that our community members want. The other is to make libraries a platform for creating and sharing culture.
But we too have choices to make, both libraries and scholars. The next time your library spends $40 to get you an article you want to read, think about the implications. Is this really how we want to do it? Do we conduct research and write it up so that those who are affiliated with institutions that can afford to subscribe to lots of journals or can pay $40 for the temporary personal use of an article can have that knowledge, but nobody else can? Really?
So that’s it folks. eBooks and I are done. eBooks in libraries are a non-starter, their path has been set for the foreseeable future, and their future is determined by people who are not us. Not by the people who love books, who believe in their power to change lives, but by those who produce them for profit. No, not by the authors (as we all know, they see far too little profit for their labors), but by the publishers…the, until recently, necessary middlemen in the process between creators and consumers. Now that they’re not necessary to the process anymore, largely due to their inflexibility and inability to change in the face of rapidly shifting market conditions, they have attempted to salvage their failing business model with high prices, limited licensing policies, and technology so locked down that it remains impenetrable to many people.
If I hear one more publisher talk about “increasing friction,” I am going to punch that publisher in the face with a pair of book-shaped brass knuckles and discuss the option of dramatically increasing friction cheese-grater-style somewhere else on their physique. Don’t push me Penguin.
Publishers have painted themselves into a corner, a corner that will eventually eat them alive. But until that happens, until the market shakes out, there is little libraries can do that is in keeping with our core ethics and values.
As much as I love ebooks and technology, they are like a crummy loser boyfriend. Full of ups and downs that take you on a roller coaster of emotions only leaving you to love them one minute and hating them the next. Just like that loser boyfriend they have money issues.
Eliminate the artificial barriers for access. We do a VERY good job of maintaining proper access to our online resources (becasue your license agreements require us). We know better than you do who our patrons are and when to cut them off, so let us do our jobs and stop putting up extra logins while people are on network or proxied. If our patrons get confused, they don’t use, if they don’t use we don’t buy. Plain and simple, extra loggins affect our usage stats (negatively) and we don’t buy or drop your stuff if our usage stats go down. Remember we have wish list a mile long waiting for weakness in a product.
Earlier this week, Smashwords announced a groundbreaking agreement with Califa, the California public library consortium, in which they would agree to sell up to 10,000 books for lending by California libraries. The CEO of Mark Coker had gone direct to his authors and asked them if they wanted to make their books available for lending; the answer was clear. Of the surveyed authors, 82 percent believed that library access would help them sell more books; almost one quarter were willing to give their book to the library for free… .
For a lot of people, if they can’t get it cheap or free, they just won’t get it. For some people, it’s that they don’t have any money. The Discount Diva profiles the thinking of the cheap middle class, those who have some money, but don’t want to part with what they have. Just watch people haggle over library fines to see how cheap they are.
Libraries are helping both of them, and providing them with free stuff, but it’s free stuff that wouldn’t have been bought.
This sums up my public library usage very nicely. I do end up buying books (or asking for them for Christmas) when I really like something I’ve read from the library, but for the most part I don’t buy what I read. I don’t have the disposable income necessary to buy as many books as I read. ;-)
An interesting perspective, though the comments have some quibbles with the argument put forward.
I think there are three, maybe four key principles that libraries must adopt to deal with ebooks. All of them are finding resistance from the Big Six. Ownership: if we pay public dollars for content, then we need to be able to take possession of the copies. Anything else is sheer vendor lock-in, and shirks our obligation to preserve the public record. Discounts: volume purchasers (that would be us) get a break on price. Integration: our job isn’t to make it harder for the public to find content (the misguided notion of “friction”) – it’s to make it easier. One search should bring up everything the library offers. We can’t base our business model on customer frustration.
The fourth principle may be revenue sharing. Again in the name of patron convenience, I’m more than happy to provide a link through our catalog to purchase an ebook. But if we do, I think we should get a piece of the sale. Insistence on that is the only way publishers will take us seriously – and constitutes a powerful ongoing demonstration of our value.