Skip to main content

Ebooks & Libraries

For a long time I've been frustrated with the way ebook publishers have been approaching library lending, but my rage has been overruling my sense and I haven't been able to get many coherent thoughts into print.

Luckily Bobbi Newman pretty much hit the nail on the head with her "9 Reasons Why Publishers Should Stop Acting Like Libraries Are the Enemy and Start Thanking Them". I could go through each of her reasons and expound on why each one makes so much sense and explains a piece of where my frustration is coming from, but I'm going to focus on the points that have been bugging me the most.

First from the consumer side, I know I'm not alone in the group of people who don't like to buy books until they're pretty sure they're going to love them. I simply read too much for buying every book I read to make any sort of financial sense. Often that means borrowing the first book in a series or by a new author to see if I want to spend money on the rest. Libraries are great places to do this test driving. Several authors/series I now consider "must-buys" were introduced to me after giving something from the library a try. The same is true as I start to use e-readers more often. Offering an easy lending option I can use through my local library would fill a similar role.

And as Bobbi points out in several of her points, people go to libraries to get introduced to books, to talk about books, just generally to be around other people who read and can suggest good books. If my to-read pile wasn't so high, I wouldn't think twice about asking someone at my local library about recommendations for a good ebook to borrow. Then if I liked said ebook, we'd get into my previous point about how trying something and loving it leads to buying several more titles by that author/in that series.

So the idea that libraries don't lead potential book buyers to the titles/authors that they will eventually buy is ludicrous. Along with book stores and recommendations of friends and family, libraries play a crucial role in exposing consumers to new titles.

Now from the librarian side of things. Of course we want to buy publisher's ebooks. We are interested in giving our patrons what they want and, increasingly, they want ebooks. Considering that this country has more libraries than McDonald's, that's a lot of potential customers for your books, especially since the bigger ones almost always buy multiple copies of any reasonably popular title. So discounting the bump that selling to libraries can give to your sales, especially considering the exponential effect of introducing consumer to titles they will evenutally buy mentioned above, is another mistake.

I keep hearing whispers from publishers, booksellers, and digital content vendors that seem to imply that they think not only individual consumers are trying to pirate ebooks, but that libraries are trying to find ways around paying for ebooks. Or at least that's the way they treat us feels like sometimes. Or maybe that 's the justification they give for the ridiculous products or pricing structures they offer. Trust me, libraries want to provide digital content for their consumers, but the real barriers to providing our patrons with ebooks are high prices and strong limitations placed on the ebooks we are allowed to lend, forcing us to make hard decisions. Can we afford to pay X for digital content and neglect other portions of our collection? In offering e-content with such strong DRM software/difficult software to download before you can borrow your book/user data no longer being controlled and protected solely by the library, can we really offer this product to our patrons and call it "good"?

I once saw an interview with Mark Cuban in which he made the point that the way to fight digital piracy is not by putting tighter and tighter controls on the delivery method but by making it cheap and easy to legally buy content (as shown by iTunes and other digital music stores that popped up after it). He said that there will always be a few people trying to pirate digital content, but most will be willing to pay a small fee for legal content if access to it is quick and easy. I think the same will happen with ebooks (and already is to some extent) and then eventually lending will become easy, too (again looking at services like Pandora and Spotify for music). But unless we as librarians make the effort to point out to publishers why making ebook lending difficult for libraries only hurts their bottom line, that day won't be soon.

Maybe later I'll get into some of the specific shenanigans by ebook publishers and why they make this librarian angry, but for now, it's at least helped me to lay out some of the more general problems I've noticed in the attitudes of ebook distributors toward libraries.
1 comment

Popular posts from this blog

2018 Reading Resolutions

As usual I'll be attempting to read 100 books in 2018.

Total Books Read: 37 of 100

I'm also going to valiantly try to read 20 books I own and get through the backlog on my bookcase. It would really help if I didn't do so much of my reading on audio (nearly all of which are borrowed at work) or get distracted when I'm looking for my next print read by all the pretty books at work.

Books I Own: 2 of 20
Growing Up Country: Memories of an Iowa Farm Girl by Carol BodensteinerSay No to the Bro by Kat Helgeson
I'm also adjusting my series finishing goal this year. Life is too short to spend finishing series I only feel meh about, so finishing 5 series this year is plenty.

Series Finished/Caught Up: 4 of 10
The War That Saved My Life Series by Kimberly Brubaker BradleyThe Devil Is a Part-Timer Manga by Satoshi WagaharaSix of Crows Series by Leigh BardugoA Narwhal and Jelly Book Series by Ben Clanton
As for subject matter reading, I posted last year about my Presidential Reading…

Finding Reliable Health Information Online

While going through an old blog of mine, I found this summary of a presentation I gave in late 2006 on finding reliable health information online. Surprisingly most of it is at least somewhat relevant today. Since I'm trying to relive the days when I used to research medical information for a living, this wasn't a bad way to jog my memory.
Finding Reliable Health Information Online
MedlinePlus: This site is put together by the National Library of Medicine (NLM) as a comprehensive consumer health resource. It is relatively easy to use and requires little or no knowledge of medical terminology. Use it like a search engine and simply type your term into the search box, or explore one of MedlinePlus’ specific resources, including drug information, dictionary, and medical encyclopedia. http://medlineplus.gov
Quackwatch: A great site for checking out “too good to be true” medical claims. This non-profit corporation is dedicated to combating “health-related frauds, myths, fads, fallacies…

2017 Reading Resolutions

Last year, I just barely squeaked out my 100 books, so I'm going to do attempt doing the same this year.

Total Books: 102 of 100

My year of reading in review on GoodReads

As in previous years, I'd also like to focus on reading books I own that have been languishing on my shelves. I'll be a little more realistic in my goal, though, and try to make this year the first I actually reach this particular milestone.

Books I Own: 16 of 25
The Elephants in My Backyard: A Memoir by Rajiv SurendraNever Broken: Songs Are Only Half the Story by JewelSuddenly One Summer by Julie JamesOn the Construction Site by Carron BrownOn the Space Station by Carron BrownSecrets of the Seashore by Carron BrownScarlett Epstein Hates it Here by Anna BreslawBreaking Character by Cameron GreyFinanicial Peace Junior: Teaching Kids How to Win With Money by Dave RamseyThe Wedding Trap by Adrienne BellThe 500 Hats of Bartholomew Cubbins by Dr. SeussMother Bruce by Ryan T. HigginsHotel Bruce by Ryan T. HigginsBr…