Tuesday, November 15, 2011

A Library Plan For Publishers

Libraries used to exist to promote literacy and to make information available to the public that some could not afford. Parents took children to the library to read books.  Seniors on a fixed income took out books for free.  Students and researchers enjoyed access to encyclopedias, directories, and other large collections of expensive data.  People read periodicals and looked at microfiche. The library became a place of community, where the town gathered.  Today one questions if libraries will exist for long and if so, one asks: Whose needs will they serve?

If almost everyone has access to information via the Internet, what should libraries stack?  If it’s still trying to offer materials that are otherwise not available to the public, should it make databases and paid online directories accessible to patrons on a larger scale?

The real big question for libraries, aside from how they will obtain funding during the Great Recession is; What will they do about e-books?  Will the walls of the library now go where its patrons are and become mobile?

Amazon recently struck a deal with libraries for lending books and e-book lending spiked.  Some major publishers won’t sell e-books to libraries – Simon & Schuster, Macmillan and Hachette for instance. The question is: Will publishers compete against libraries that offer their books for free?

In the past, some libraries bought some print copies of popular or important books and it helped increase sales for publishers without hurting book store sales dramatically.  But if e-books can be lent out more often (and never need to be replaced due to wear and tear or lost items), publishers will quickly find their readers running to the library instead of the store.

So what would be a fair plan?  How can we support libraries while not injuring the book industry?

Here is what I believe libraries should be doing:

·         Hold workshops and/or have a staff member who helps patrons conduct online searches and who helps explain how consumers should interpret the results and filter the information that they turn up – so many people don’t know how to find the best and latest information or fully comprehend the difference between fact, opinion, and fantasy.

·         Make resources available that most people would find cost-prohibitive, such as directories and databases that otherwise cost hundreds or thousands of dollars.

·         Invite more authors to speak at libraries and to allow them to sell books; libraries should have bookstores built within them.

·         Make newspapers and magazines available as well as professional periodicals.

·         Have printed books available still.

·         Have e-books available but only if publishers can charge libraries more for the copies – or only if libraries agree to purchase a certain number of print books bundled with the e-book

·         Publishers should sell e-books to libraries but the “copy’ will only exist for say a year or two years, in which time the library can repurchase a copy.

Interview With Amazon Reviewer Stephanie de Pue
How are you involved in the book publishing industry? I am a top reviewer at Amazon US, and UK.  I do love to read, always have.  And I love getting my two cents in,
Where do you think it is heading? Some trends are clear, publishers are publishing less, sticking to the tried and true, their best sellers.  And, of course, there have been shake-outs in the industry, and in brick and mortar stores.

Why do you love books? Oh, the chance to lose myself in another world, I love it.  Also, I am actually an information junky.

Are e-books going to save or destroy the industry? I don't know on this. The future remains to be seen, as they say,

Brian Feinblum’s views, opinions, and ideas expressed in this blog are his alone and not that of his employer. You can follow him on Twitter @theprexpert and email him at brianfeinblum@gmail.com. He feels more important when discussed in the third-person.

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