10 Replies Latest reply on Oct 27, 2014 7:14 AM by Froide
      • Re: Publishers limiting e-book access, librarians say
        Froide

        I didn't see the answer to this question in the Columbus Dispatch article that gb18 linked above - did I overlook it? WHY are publishers are limiting sales of ebooks to libraries?

         

        Many other articles have discussed this issue in the past, such as this 2-year-old one, in Publishing Perspectives:

         

        "The War Between Publishers and Libraries Over Ebooks: An Overview"

        by Dennis Abrams

         

        Of course, Dennis Abrams' Publishing Perspectives article may overlook some additional or newer factors. Or there might be some issues at play specific to Ohio, on which state the Dispatch article focuses. Nonetheless, based on the two articles linked in this thread, and various additional articles and survey results I've read over the past few years about reading habits and digital trends, here's my two cents.

         

        Technically speaking only, shouldn't publishers be indifferent about whether library patrons borrow paper books or ebooks, since in either case: borrowers can check out library books for a limited time only, libraries lend a given instance of any book to only one patron at a time, and library books are not only DRM-protected  but a book's availability automatically expires when time is up? Second thought: since ebooks are less expensive to produce than paper books are, but libraries typically pay similar or higher prices for ebooks than for paper books, plus the facts above, shouldn't publishers profit more from selling ebooks to libraries than from selling paper books? If the answer is yes, then shouldn't publishers rub their palms and happily fulfill libraries' requests to buy more ebooks? But that does not seem to be the case.

         

        Why not?

         

        I realize that cost is not the only marketplace driver: supply, demand, and market power are important factors, too.  And my read of both articles is: the exploding demand for ebooks, amongst both purchasers and borrowers, has inspired publishers to raise prices charged to libraries (because they can). For publishers, there's gold in them thar digital hills.

         

        OK.

         

        But given that no publisher - or ebook distributor - is a monopoly who can set market prices without considering what the competition is doing, why pull back on the number of ebooks sold to libraries?  Might the objective be to frustrate library patrons who won't want to wait in long queues to borrow "hot" titles, so they'll buy said titles, instead?  Or might it be fear that borrowers might crack the DRM scheme and steal or share copies of the library books, before the books expire? Or is something else at play?

         

        The Dennis Abrams article addresses the following question: Does the lending of ebooks at  libraries cannibalize ebook sales at bookstores? The partial answer is: Um, yes. But isn't that true of paper books, as well?  I'm unaware of any war between libraries and publishers over those. Plus, I don't have statistics to back up my hypothesis, but I'd be interested in learning whether or not some readers fall in love with a series or author they've encountered via a library book have then bought more books by that author or in that series.

         

        Isn't there an additional untapped market that publishers could reach if they made more digital content available to libraries? Specifically, would it not be strategically wise for publishers to partner with libraries (one of whose missions is encouraging reluctant readers to read) by fulfilling the libraries' demand for digital content that appeals to reluctant readers (e.g., audiobooks, ebooks, comic books, graphic novels, periodicals) as well as others? In that way reluctant readers, like other readers described above, might be inspired by content they've encountered via the library to want to read (or listen) more, and ultimately to either demand from the library - or even purchase on their own - even more digital, and maybe even tangible, content.

         

        I'm interested in reading what others think.

        1 of 1 people found this helpful
          • Re: Publishers limiting e-book access, librarians say
            LarryOnLI

            Froide wrote:

             

            I didn't see the answer to this question in the Columbus Dispatch article that gb18 linked above - did I overlook it? WHY are publishers are limiting sales of ebooks to libraries?

             

            Many other articles have discussed this issue in the past, such as this 2-year-old one, in Publishing Perspectives:

             

            "The War Between Publishers and Libraries Over Ebooks: An Overview"

            by Dennis Abrams

             

            Of course, Dennis Abrams' Publishing Perspectives article may overlook some additional or newer factors. Or there might be some issues at play specific to Ohio State, on which the Dispatch article focuses. Nonetheless, based on the two articles linked in this thread, and various additional articles and survey results I've read over the past few years, about reading habits and digital trends, here's my two cents.

             

            Technically speaking only, shouldn't publishers be indifferent about whether library patrons borrow paper books or ebooks, since in either case: borrowers can check out library books for a limited time only, libraries lend a given instance of any book to only one patron at a time, and library books are not only DRM-protected - a book's availability automatically expires when time is up? Second thought: since ebooks are less expensive to produce than paper books are, but libraries typically pay similar or higher prices for ebooks than for paper books, plus the facts above, shouldn't publishers profit more from selling ebooks to libraries than from selling paper books? If the answer is yes, then shouldn't publishers rub their palms and happily fulfill libraries' requests to buy more ebooks? But that does not seem to be the case.

             

            Why not?

             

            I realize that cost is not the only marketplace driver: supply, demand, and market power are important factors, too.  And my read of both articles is: the exploding demand for ebooks, amongst both purchasers and borrowers, has inspired publishers to raise prices charged to libraries (because they can). For publishers, there's gold in them thar digital hills.

             

            OK. But given that no publisher - or ebook distributor - is a monopoly who can set market prices without considering what the competition is doing, why pull back on the numbers of ebooks available?  Might the objective be to frustrate library patrons who don't want to wait in long queues to borrow "hot" titles, so they'll buy said titles, instead?  Or might it be fear that borrowers might crack the DRM scheme and steal or share copies of the library books, before the books expire? Or is something else at play?

             

            The Dennis Abrams article addresses this question: Does the lending of ebooks at  libraries cannibalize ebook sales at bookstores? The partial answer is: Um, yes. But isn't that true of paper books, as well?  And I'm unaware of any war between libraries and publishers over those.

             

            There's more than one way to approach the question: Does the lending of ebooks at  libraries cannibalize ebook sales at bookstores? Here's one: All things considered, digital lending has introduced another opportunity for publishers. Specifically, might not the easy availability of ebooks borrowed from libraries encourage some reluctant readers to read more, and in that way develop a potential new market to which publishers might later sell digital, maybe even tangible, reading material to in the future?

             

            I'm interested in reading what others think.

             

            All interesting points.

             

            The assumption is that publishers are OK with libraries lending hard copy books, but not e-books. I think this is not the case, and in fact publishers would love to prevent libraries from existing at all. It is just that given the nature of a printed book, there is no way to stop it. If a publishers refuses to sell a had copy book to a library, the librarian can just drive to the nearest B&N and buy a copy.

             

            The advent of eBook DRM and the special infrastructure required to lend eBooks along with the backing of the DMCA, give publishers a lot more control, and they probably see every library lend as a lost sale. Their answer, raise the price of eBooks sold (leased) to libraries and limit the number of times they can be lent.

              • Re: Publishers limiting e-book access, librarians say
                keriflur

                Publishers actually make a separate format, specifically for libraries, called the library binding. These books generally have no jackets, and the cover image is printed directly onto the hardback. The bindings are tend to be beefed up also.

                 

                If publishers didn't want to sell books to libraries, why would they print nearly everything in this expensive, limited-market format? Why would they give away countless free books at the two annual librarian conferences (and when I say countless, I mean attendees can walk out with over 50 books each, from staffed booths where pub reps will talk them through every book they're selling for the upcoming 6 months)?

                 

                I promise you, publishers want libraries to buy and lend books.

                  • Re: Publishers limiting e-book access, librarians say
                    bobstro

                    Yes, but do they feel the same about ebooks? I recall some of the "friction" discussion.

                      • Re: Publishers limiting e-book access, librarians say
                        Froide

                        Nobody who buys an ebook—library, consumer, or otherwise—actually owns it upon purchase. Instead, they purchase a license to access the content. The distinction might seem like a small one, but it has presented publishers with the opportunity to explore new ways of working with libraries in the digital age. And in so doing, it’s caused massive headaches for libraries as they’ve sought to broaden their ebook collections.

                        [...]

                        A long-standing conflict

                        To understand what Pronevitz and Massachusetts librarians think is in need of shaking up, you first have to understand how libraries go about offering ebooks to their patrons—and how that differs from the lending of print copies.

                        [...] The 4th paragraph within the following excerpt addresses the "friction" issue Bob George raised.

                        Librarians say they are eager to ensure greater access to the digital space, but say it’s an ongoing struggle to do so. Former Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners director Rob Maier, who now serves on a working group about digital content for the American Library Association, puts it in the starkest terms, saying: “At its root, it’s the public interest against the private interest of publishers.”

                         

                        Publishers’ perspective 

                        That said, the private interest isn’t an impossible one to sympathize with.

                         

                        Ebooks, publishers say, are fundamentally different from physical books in the most obvious way: You don’t need to go anywhere to pick them up. So while publishers have long and happily sold print books to libraries—in fact, they usually even do so at a discount—that usually involves a bit more effort to get the book on the part of the patron. They visit the library, spend some time there, and become more closely associated with the reading ecosystem at large. Ideally, in the long term, that creates a book customer.

                         

                        Maier, among others, say ebooks stand to do the same thing. They expose readers to the content in question and build their relationships with reading both as an activity and passion, and as an industry. But publishers point to the lack of “friction” ebooks enable. Rather than going to a library to check out a book, the digital systems allow people to borrow ebooks from the couch or the beach. It’s more of an automated process rather than an active building of a patron’s relationship with books, they argue.

                         

                        That is, of course, an arguable point, and librarians say it sounds behind the times. But publishers also say part of the hesitance is just their practicing due diligence. “It’s a format that’s new to all of us,” says Andi Sporkin, the vice president of communications for the Association of American Publishers.

                        • Re: Publishers limiting e-book access, librarians say
                          keriflur

                          Yes, they want friction (or at least they used to, I haven't heard anything about that in a while). Yes, it's stupid and frustrating. But to extrapolate that out to "publishers are against libraries" is ridiculous.

                            • Re: Publishers limiting e-book access, librarians say
                              captainnook

                              I think this is another facet of the Coelho point: publishers making hay over the fear of piracy. That's what the, "we can’t [be charged] 10 times the amount," comment is in reference to by the librarian. Publishers must see a slippery slope from frictionless lending to piracy, so they are charging a risk premium to libraries. It's also the age-old fear that every book lent by a library is a lost sale.

                              1 of 1 people found this helpful
                                • Re: Publishers limiting e-book access, librarians say
                                  keriflur

                                  I don't think it's a piracy issue. It's more that the lending effect is the same as piracy - lots of people get to read the book without paying for it. Hence the "friction" desire - to borrow a physical book, one has to go to the library, and sometimes the books are banged up or smelly, and that grosses people out, so they'd rather just buy. With ebooks, you have none of that. The experience is the same as if you bought the book, only you have to return it.

                        • Re: Publishers limiting e-book access, librarians say
                          bklvr896

                          This was discussed several years ago, by several of the publishers.  I believe they way they termed it was the lack of "friction" in borrowing eBooks.  In other words, I don't have to leave the comfort of my home to borrow an eBook nor do I have to worry about overdue fees.   I don't remember if it was MacMillan or S&S that discussed this but I remember the articles and subsequent discussions.

                           

                          With the advent of tablets and the Overdrive app, the "friction" has become even less.  I don't need to go through ADE, connect my device to a computer and copy the book.  I can simply download it directly to my device and begin reading it.

                           

                          If I'm going to be honest, I've borrowed more eBooks from the library since I've had my Nook (and even more with my Nook HD) than I did previously precisely because I don't have to get to the library when it's open, nor do I have to remember to return the book.  Mostly what I borrow are the beginning books in a series to see if I like the series.  Will I only continue to get that series from the library?  For the older books, probably, if I can.  Would I buy the books instead, if they weren't available at the library?  Some probably I would, others, probably not.  It would depend on the series and the author.  I'd probably be less likely to try new authors if I couldn't get at least the first books in a series from the library.  If they would discount the first book or two in a series so the book published 10 years ago wasn't the same price as the book published 6 months ago, I'd be more inclined to buy it.  Pre eBooks, I would pick up first in a series or a new author at the used book stores.

                           

                          When I get caught up, the wait is usually too long for me to put up with and I'll go ahead and buy it.  I don't know if my behavior is typical or not. 

                           

                          I also borrow books that I'm unlikely to buy at all, so that's not a lost sale for them, since I was never going to buy it anyway.

                        • Re: Publishers limiting e-book access, librarians say
                          Froide

                          Here's another article about the issue Bob George pointed out:

                          Peter Korn. (. "Libraries pay price for ebook 'friction'." Portland Tribune.

                           

                          And David Vinjamuri's 11 December 2012 Forbes article is another informative discussion of the subject:

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

                          .