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Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Publishers vs Libraries: E-Book Edition

Major publishers are wary of putting e-books in the hands of libraries. Since digital bytes and bits don’t decay, they worry that libraries can buy a single digital edition and lend it endlessly without additional revenue coming back to the publisher.
Via the New York Times:
In [publisher’s] eyes, borrowing an e-book from a library has been too easy. Worried that people will click to borrow an e-book from a library rather than click to buy it, almost all major publishers in the United States now block libraries’ access to the e-book form of either all of their titles or their most recently published ones.
Borrowing a printed book from the library imposes an inconvenience upon its patrons. “You have to walk or drive to the library, then walk or drive back to return it,” says Maja Thomas, a senior vice president of the Hachettte Book Group, in charge of its digital division.
And print copies don’t last forever; eventually, the ones that are much in demand will have to be replaced. “Selling one copy that could be lent out an infinite number of times with no friction is not a sustainable business model for us,” Ms. Thomas says. Hachette stopped making its e-books available to libraries in 2009…
…To keep their overall revenue from taking a hit from lost sales to individuals, publishers need to reintroduce more inconvenience for the borrower or raise the price for the library purchaser.
Publishers will do what they believe they need to do but I’m pessimistic of any business model that purposefully introduces friction and inconvenience in order to survive.

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