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Publishers, Distributors, and the Future of E-Books

Day 2 of the E-book track looked at the role of publishers and distributors.

(L-R) Clare Appavoo , Michael Porter, Sarah Houghton, Andromeda Yelton, Brian Gurewitz

Serving the evolving library community
Clare Appavoo, Director, Sales and Strategic Support, North America, Ingram

The evolution of the e-book world requires flexibility with electronic and print platforms. Libraries wanted to mimic e-book acquisition with print, which is not very successful. Sophisticated user communities demanded better search interfaces and the ability to download books to e-readers. Not all publishers have been willing to launch into a downloading world, but it is increasing on a weekly basis.

Purchasing models are shifting; user selected acquisitionis  now available. The model mimics the traditional purchasing model–users choose books from a pre-selected pool. Consortial environment patron-driven acquisition is becoming increasingly popular.

Here are some future trends. Libraries at a crossroads
Michael Porter

libraryrenewal is a new type of nonprofit by and for libraries to help them find new e-content solutions. It is focusing on public libraries and e-books, starting with popular materials. We will have to rebuild our collections as e-books become more widespread. The market is clouded, and lack of competition raises prices. Closed infrastructures make pricing cloudy. The only way we can get around this is to create something ourselves and not just accept what is handed to us. We have not figured out how to act like a business and speak with a single voice. That is what libraryrenewal is here to do–provide a place to rally behind electronic content.

Sarah Houghton
San Rafael Public Library

The goal is to get people thinking. We can all agree that we have many choices in the way that digital content is available. Making it fit the print paradigm does not necessarily work. Lots of content has an arbitrary usage limit–1 user, 1 copy. We should dispense with the idea of a “copy”. Why should an electronic file expire at all? The reason is money! There is no ownership of this content; we license it. How does this affect the cultural record in our communities? DRM can lead to the keys to content being lost. Will it be readable in 50 years? We are trying so hard to look cool that we will take anything. If you want to get upset, get upset at those publishers who will not sell us digital content.

All stakeholders realize that the future of e-books is moving to an open mktplace. Everything is intermediated, and we cannot buy direct. Free is becoming dominant in our society. We are moving away from intermediaries. Within the next 5 years, DRM will start to fade away. In 10 years, we will see a free and open marketplace.

Authors make a lot less from e-books, and they have very little control over them. The publisher controls the DRM and can lock it down forever. Authors get 39% less royalties on e-book. Why? They are getting a bad deal. Libraries should band together with content creators.

Things to think about:

  • How will library access work with different media types?
  • Do locked down systems have a future?
  • What happens when content is only produced digitally?
  • How is privacy protected, especially for kids? If a kid checks out an e-book, is his reading history being tracked?
  • Do publishers have a long term role in digital content creation?

We can work together to get to the future we want to see.

Andromeda Yelton

We are looking for a model that puts more e-books out for the public good. The challenge is that there are lots of devices to read them on and lots of formats. It is hard to get content on to devices. GlueJar’s product makes e-book creation easier. There should be a price at which an author/publisher will create a Copyright Commons (CC) license. Gluejar will crowdsource money to make it worthwhile, and the book will become unglued and available under CC’s BY-NC-ND license, whihc means that you can do anything as long as you obey the terms of this license–attribute, no commercial use, no derivative works. You can make copies and change the format. This removes fear for publishers and users.

Brian Gurewitz
Director, Content Sales, OverDrive

OverDrive is a leader in making e-books popular in libraries. It is developing technology and solutions beneficial to all and distributes content to channels. Its challenge is to serve the demand for e-books.

Titles now have Kindle compatability. A new patron-driven acquisition model allows users to recommend books to the library, which makes purchase decision. Or the user can purchase the book from an affiliate of their choice. This keeps libraries important in the marketplace.

In the question period, several controversial topics were discussed. We must have legal clarity to proceed. Legal challenges are harder to solve than technical. We will have DRM for a while until this gets solved. There is no interest in Congress now in copyright issues, so now is not the time to pursue this. There may be more hope on the international side (IFLA is working on this).

Sarah said that libraries pay more for electronic content than consumers do, which is the reverse of print. We have to stand up and say we are not happy with this. Libraries and schools have always been partners with publishers. Now with e-media, publishers are questioning this. OverDrive is working with publishers to help them see the value of library space. But they don’t get involved in pricing; they just show the value of the market. The libraryrenewal model is different: publishers say what pricing they need and what DRM is necessary.

How will e-book models work with special libraries? Clare said that academic library models work well with special libraries as well.

Sarah said that Amazon is ignoring the libraries completely. OverDrive has made a deal and there is no access to data on our users. Michael Porter agreed: The basic tenet of librarianship is privacy. The only place to go to understand this is the libraryrenewal business plan.

Publishers must make money to keep publishing. They expect us to manage the licenses we have and are going to tighten up the ways to keep aggregators complying with the licenses.


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