Thursday, July 01, 2010

Does Anyone Care About The Impact of eBooks For Free?

With the announcement that South Ayrshire libraries are now to offer a free downloadable "ebooks" service to their members 24 x 7 we ask again who is dealing with the question of free versus buy on the High Street? Do the publishers feel that being paid is enough and that its no different to physical books being sold to libraries? Do the bookstore believe that libraries are no threat to their livlyhood? Do authors feel that they will get adequately rewarded by library royalties and a shrinking PLR (public lending right)? Why is this debate being sweept under the carpet?

Memebers of the library can then be read or listened to ebooks a computer, mobile phone, ebook reader, MP3 player or be burned to CD. Up to four titles can be borrowed at once from the libraries' website and although the selection today is relatively small it is being provided by US digital aggregator Overdrive who only this week partnered with Internet Archive in the US. The ebooks on the library shelf cover adult, children, fiction and non-fiction titles and include authors such as Kathy Reichs, Roald Dahl, Sophie Kinsella, and Man Booker Prize winner Hilary Mantel and autobiographies by Barack Obama, Frankie Boyle, Peter Kay, Andy Murray and Sir Chris Hoy.

We believe the questions over the commercial models of digital libraries, inter library lending of digital books and control of US material needs to be fully and frankly aired.


Martin Taylor said...

Hi Martin

I couldn't agree more. Serious issues that need serious debate and it doesn't seem to be happening. Librarians talk to each other, aggregators like Overdrive serve their own interests, and too often publishers, authors and booksellers seem to have thought little about it. I've posted my contribution here.

Martyn Daniels said...

its as if we sleepwalk into a future we all didn't think about and ten wonder why it doesn't work

Unknown said...

What ‘aggregators’ like Overdrive do is sell batches of thousands of books to libraries for either single user access, or multiple user access. Increasingly, libraries are plumping for multiple user access.

This means that a library buys a single book and can then lend it out to as many users as want to sign it out at any given time. Multiply this by the several thousand books that an ‘aggregator’ will sell in a batch to a library and you can easily see the enormous scale of the problem. Why would anyone bother to buy a book? Just become a member of your local library.

Most libraries have also formed mutually beneficial consortia among themselves. So it appears that only one library in the system may buy a book, and they will then distribute it to the other members of that library group. Ergo, one sale, with an absolutely minimal commission to the writer, and the book is all over the place, and available to thousands of readers. Free.

I know what I’m going to do in my next publishing contract. I will insist on excluding library use of any digital versions of the work.

Michael Elcock