Monday, May 24, 2010

eBooks: Free From A Public Library Near You

We have raised the issue of the UK public library versus the High Street and seen little constructive movement. Some would argue that the publishers get paid whatever the outcome, the High Street hasn’t any muscle to defend itself and the libraries are desperate to justify their position in today’s let alone tomorrow’s world.

The issue is simple and is free versus pay. Many argue that the public will not go to a library, aren’t members and will opt for the convenience of the Internet. Others that to lend a ebook from your home connection is as easy as buying it online and cheaper as it’s free.

Today we read that Barnet Council's digital library in London has opened up its doors and joined a small but growing number of libraries going digital. Nearly 1,000 eBooks have been borrowed from their libraries since the new service was rolled out in February.

The surprising element of the offer was that the member can borrow 10 titles at any time and for up to 3 weeks. This means that the library believes that readers will want to consume a digital book every 2 days! The number offered free would appear a bit excessive as each title can only be borrowed by one person at a time. It would appear for more logical to allow one maybe two books at any time and also encourage early ‘returns’.

Libraries will go digital. The likes of Overdrive now offer multiple platform support and a large repository of digital titles. The result is that the consumer will find the free model from antwhere at any time very compelling. It could also accelerate the move from ownership to a borrow or rent offer.

So how do the reseller compete with a publicly funded free service? Will the author continue to be rewarded on the current PLR (Public Lending Right) model or see a better system directly related to borrowings? How will the new agency models compare on earnings?

To read the original Times article

1 comment:

Inkling said...

A public library loaning ebooks makes a lot of sense:

1. For 'hot' new titles is might be cheaper to loan ebooks during the first few months after a book comes out. Patrons would get the book quicker and, even with royalties paid for each loan, it could be cheaper than buying a printed copy that's only in demand for a few months.

2. Library on-line catalogs mean fewer people now check the shelves of their local library for what is available and instead put a hold on a copy that must be pulled and transported across town to their local library. Any ebook loan that costs less than that process would be a net plus for the library.

Authors could also come out ahead. Paying per checkout for ebooks would smooth out an author's income so it no longer comes in spurts after each title is first released. And since there is no need to wait for returns, payments from authors to publishers could come more quickly.