January 6, 2012
Publishers Hate Libraries, But We Sort Of Knew That
Techdirt has an interesting article on ebooks called If Libraries Didn't Exist, Would Publishers Be Trying To Kill Book Lending? The article is a reaction to an examination of major publisher attitudes to providing ebooks to libraries as published in the New York Times on Christmas Eve. In essence, the publisher mentality is to place as many inconveniences on the library patron trying to borrow an ebook so as to nudge those patrons to a sale instead, assuming nudge means something like slamming someone’s head into a brick wall.
As Techdirt aptly points out, the inconvenience of borrowing an ebook may lead a prospective customer to acquire a copy that does not necessarily end in the exchange of money for goods. If a publisher regards a copy of an ebook borrowed from the library as a lost sale, they can’t be happy with the more convenient customer alternative. I might point out that the option to which I allude exists whether libraries lend ebooks or not. So why not work with libraries, entities that respect the limits of copyright law? Legislation such as SOPA is not a viable alternative, unless we want to end up with an Internet that is mostly shopping and news sites. I'm sure HarperCollins et al. wouldn't mind.
Both articles point out that there are many smaller, more nimble publishers who have no problem with libraries lending electronic books. Perhaps these publishers can lead the way to a more enlightened view of engaging the market. [MG]