The discussion between libraries and publishers about eBooks is one that will always be ongoing. Now we all know that the disconnect has been there for some time, not surprising, at least if you have been paying attention for the last decade or more. This isn’t a blame game, it’s no one entities fault, it’s actually everyones fault. Nobody wanted to admit it, at least not in the open. They kept pushing policies, trying things out, complaining about each other, but nobody has really said, “Hey, we don’t have a clue.” Now this isn’t one sided, this is all sides.
Having worked with libraries all over the U.S., on all levels, all types for well over a decade, I can honestly say this isn’t a surprise the disconnect exists. I’m also not siding on anyones side… not because I don’t surport anyone, but because in all honesty, it’s both sides fault. Now neither will admit that, neither will step up and say, “Yes, we know were disconnected from the reality that exists, how do we fix it?” That day happens, someone call me, I’ll buy a round for the first one to do so at a conference some time. The problem is easy, everyone finds it easier to complain or pass the blame around. Nobody wants to say they screwed up or give in, that sign of weakness thing. They’d rather take their ball home and not play with anyone.
I’ve said this for quite a few years, in order for libraries and publishers to get on the same page for eBooks and other areas, they need to remove themselves from the equation. Neither can be agnostic about the view, they don’t want to budge and they have the wrong people having the conversation. CEOs or others at pubs and head of ALA aren’t in the trenches every day, not a slam, just a point of fact. When I started selling eBooks to libraries many asked the same question, how do I use this with my kindle? Know why they asked that, that’s all they knew, kindle, amazon, it was ridiculous, who wants to read a textbook on a kindle e-ink? You know who, NOBODY, zero, zilch, nada, not a single student. That’s not me saying it, it was every librarian who asked me that question who I went back to and discussed it with afterwards.
What many people don’t think about is that a one size fits all approach to eBooks for libraries doesn’t exist, can’t exist. Simple reason being that we have such a variety of library types, that a single model shouldn’t exist. Also, were dealing with multitudes of content; fiction, research, articles, reference, study aides, the list goes on. You cannot say this will work for all, when you think this way you ultimately lose sight of the purpose of the library and the patrons using it, no matter the type of library you are.
Sure we know part of the issue is license or access to the content. We also have DRM,restricting usage. Some of the fears I can understand, I said understand, not that I support them. Pubs are worried libraries will take a digital copy and just let it go like wildfire. Rightfully so, I know many that would do that. Libraries think that they should only have to buy 1 of the digital copy, which is extremely odd to me, when multiple copies of a print edition is bought, why not with digital? Even if you pay more, but get unlimited access and say buy 50 copies of the eBook that is still cheaper then 50 print, why no do it? I think it’s because we have become a society where we want it cheap and we want it fast, easy and no strings attached, which is wrong. Sure some eBooks are cheaper to produce, some aren’t and their still is a return on investment that pubs want with digital. It comes quicker, but it’s still there, think of enhanced eBooks.
What I see happening is that some eBooks may not be available as eBooks themselves. Publishers may pull them back and create an app for an entity of titles, maybe by the same author or content that is the same. They do that, you’ll be buying apps instead.
Or the boycotts continue, which lets admit is a knee jerk reaction and one that won’t really solve anything. Not to mention, you have now taken content from your users, the same users that pay the taxes for you to buy the content. They are not being served, they have now lost access. Pubs need to pay attention to this and get things back on track, but everything is pretty much going to get ugly, just wait for ALA, it’ll be an interesting conference this year.
In the end what’s going to help, honest conversations, none of this we want and they want. It needs to be here’s a list from both of needs, wants, etc. Then be prepared to scrap about 50% of it and give in on that much, because there is no way that one is going to walk away with the larger percentage of their list intact, just can’t happen.