It goes without saying that the “e-book issue” is a frequent conversation in public libraries at present. There is a great deal library patrons do not know about the challenges libraries are facing in acquiring e-books.
This December 24, 2011 article from the New York Times provides an overview of the issue but does not take into account what forward thinking libraries may be able to do: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/12/25/business/for-libraries-and-publishers-an-e-book-tug-of-war.html
These challenges/issues can be encapsulated by these talking points that I developed for our library staff:
1.E-books do not mean the demise of libraries. Not everyone has or can afford an e-reader and we are diligently working to find an e-book product to deliver to our patrons. We are in a beta test with 3M right now with the hope their product will make sense for us and for our patrons.
2. E-lending is not without some friction. Right now, the e-book model works very well in the for-profit world. Publishers want to ensure that only one patron can read an e-book copy at a time. Many publishers also offer licenses for e-books with a maximum of 26 loans. Our books, on average, circulate XX times before being removed from the collection. We’re working toward an easy-to-use and cost-effective solution.
3. Since this is still a ‘new’ technology, there are hurdles for downloading to specific devices. Device manufacturers want customers to pay for their service. We’re trying to come up with a solution that will work for most players, but some could be excluded.
These are things most librarians and library-type people already know but here are some things librarians do not seem to know:
1. Catching flies is so much more easy with honey than with vinegar. Playing nice with publishers and demonstrating how valuable we are to THEIR bottom line is a much more effective tactic than is boycotting publishers and/or chastizing them for what they are or are not doing for libraries. Publishers are business minded folk and will respond most positively to business minded arguments such as the fact that many library patrons actually BUY THE MATERIAL THEY CHECK OUT after they have read it or listened to it. There was an article on that very fact in Digital Book World just last week, check it out: http://www.digitalbookworld.com/2012/library-patrons-buy-books-they-borrow-study-says/
2. Libraries can help publishers sell mid-level titles. There is a great deal of promotion of “not-so best seller” books in libraries as smart, well-read librarians recommend the titles they have read in a given genre–those titles that might not be best sellers per se, but are great reads. Libraries can leverage that fact when talking to publishers and can encourage the VENDORS they work with to share that fact with publishers as well.
3. Libraries can use the technology our patrons come to us to use as channels for promoting authors/book talks/even specific titles. We library folk should be doing more of this so we can effectively demonstrate to publishers what key players we really are in the book market. Host a live book talk using Skype or any other cool technology. Invite authors you know (Daniel Woodrell, Nancy Pickard, Max Grinnell are all authors who have spoken at Johnson County Library and who would be happy to set up a talk with us if we asked them real nicely).
And let’s remember what publishers do not know about us:
1. Libraries are a step for many patrons in their materials BUYING process.
2. Libraries can promote mid-level titles better than anyone else through in person and online communication with our loyal patrons.
3. Libraries are very interested in promoting specific authors and are very interested in promoting live and online book talks with most of their local and regional authors with whom they have great relationships.
I bet there are many more great ideas about how libraries can be of good use to the publisher’s bottom line…share ‘em if you got ‘em.