Excellent commentary on a recent NYT Op-Ed by Scott Turow (head of the Authors Guild). I definitely recommend reading both.
What might this mean for our consideration of ebooks? Even though music and books are different in some aspects, they would both fall under what the report refers to as an “experience good” so I believe we can (at least cautiously) extrapolate the findings of this report to ebooks. A perennial issue in conversations with the Big Six is the displacement of sales due to library lending. At times, it even seems that the Big Six view library patrons as ebook pirates, so let us then embrace this study’s findings, which show a lack of sales displacement. In fact, libraries are much more similar to the legal music streaming services discussed in the report—and those streaming services stimulated sales.
I have long maintained that I only buy something if I already know what I’m getting and know that I like it, whether it’s music or books (print books; I still haven’t made the plunge into ebooks for my recreational reading). I’m glad studies continue to support the idea that “preview services” (like streaming or libraries) can and do stimulate sales rather than diminishing them.
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. ;-)
Indie writers owe Amazon big time for what they’ve given us. Are they perfect? No. Do they make mistakes? Yep. And they’ll continue to make mistakes. But I promise you that traditional publishers never call up their authors and ask what they can do better. I nearly wet my author pants when I got a call from someone in the Kindle publishing department who wanted to know what publishing and promotional features I’d like to see. He wanted to know all about my experience with them, what I liked, what I didn’t like, and on and on. I was floored. Amazon messed up their sales reporting page not that long ago, and you know what they did? They sent a goddamn email out to their authors explaining what had happened! And then they fixed it! Do you think a big publisher would do that? No, they certainly would not.
Top 10 Most Read Books in the World [infographic]
(based on number of books printed and sold)
In effect, while attempting to head down a well designed path to lower physical operating costs, eBooks further diminish a library’s value to its patrons. Patrons can now quickly and easily see what’s not available and go elsewhere, without having to even set foot inside of the library and, accidentally (or coincidentally) learn more about its offerings to the community (further diminishing the value the library can deliver).
Herein lies an opportunity.
He has some fascinating ideas—definitely worth a read.
William Lynch, chief executive of [Barnes & Noble], told Fortune magazine Tuesday that he planned to have near-field communication installed in Nook e-readers as early as this year. The technology would make it possible for browsers to touch books in the store with Nooks to get more information, such as reviews, and then purchase titles in whatever format they want.
This will be worth watching, and may even provide some ideas for libraries in terms of providing information about electronically available content to the people browsing the shelves. (Though, as I understand it, some libraries are already pointing to their e-content through things like QR codes and shelf signs.)
Nonetheless, these two pieces of anecdata together suggest at least the possibility that the sales the big publishers are losing by withholding from the libraries is a larger number than just the ebooks they’re not selling for loan. They may also be losing other sales that come from discoverability and library-reader-generated word-of-mouth.
The big publishers I have spoken to seem most focused on keeping “friction” in the library ebook experience to approximate the inconvenience of print book borrowing, where you have to go to the library to pick up the book and then to bring it back. In fact, the imperfect interface from OverDrive already provides a good deal of that (except for Kindle loans, which bump over to Amazon and work seamlessly). The absence of any new titles from four of the Big Six may not provide “friction”, but it certainly would drive many readers to a retail channel. (In fact, without some huge change in the way publisher-library relationships operate, there will always be a much larger number of titles available from retailers than from any library.)
…as the growth in ebook demand continues to increase, access to legitimately free ebooks is decreasing. The reason is that the Big Six publishers are fucking stupid. If you want to borrow an ebook from one of the Big Six, your ability to get it from the library is down to almost zero.
Now, what happens when you take all the ereader and tablet and laptop users who have been behaving like good citizens by borrowing their ebooks from the library and you cut off their legal supply? They’re going to get their fixes from the Dark Side of the internet. Or from each other.
Since publishers are so concerned with the “perpetuity of lending and simultaneity of availability” of their ebooks, I have to wonder if libraries shouldn’t just help them out and hit the STOP button themselves?[…]
Surely every library has a service gap or three to fill that’s more valuable than overpaying for temporary licenses to files and platforms they don’t own, that may or may not work on their patrons’ devices of choice, and whose pricing can fluctuate more wildly than that of crude oil and Netflix stock.
Amazon.com removed more than 4,000 e-books from its site this week after it tried and failed to get them more cheaply, a muscle-flexing move that is likely to have significant repercussions for the digital book market.
The dispute quickly reignited fears in some corners about the power Amazon enjoys as the shift to e-books accelerates. Amazon is dominant in both the physical and electronic markets for books.
Lengthy, but an interesting read that pieces together some of the developments in the booksellers vs. Amazon tale.