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Publishers and Libraries – Diverging Interests

24 February 2012

From publishing professional Mike Shatzkin:

Because libraries are, at most 5% of a general trade publisher’s business and far less of the ebook business, and because the market is changing so rapidly and because every retailer except Amazon can be said to be struggling to carve out a sustainable position in the global ebook marketplace, there are many legitimate reasons for the biggest publishers to take a wait-and-see attitude about libraries and ebooks. The fear is of a “shopping and consuming” experience at the libraries which is comparable to what the retailers can offer. That potential is largely mitigated now because most of the big books don’t go to them. But, if they did, publishers fear the market could shift away from retail.

That fear is not just about a “lost sale”. It is also about a “lost channel” of sales, or a pipe to the consumer that runs entirely through Amazon.

. . . .

[W]e already face the possibility that we’re headed for a single retailer for ebooks and print online called Amazon. Every other channel to the consumer, libraries and retailers both (whether they know it or not) are ultimately fighting for their digital lives. Publishers don’t want to do anything that weakens Kobo, Google, Barnes & Noble, or anybody offering a commercial channel to customers.

. . . .

I think we should all understand that intelligent people on all sides feel that they are fighting for their survival. That includes Amazon, the publishers, the competing retailers, and the libraries. Our problem is that the interests don’t align and what I think people sometimes have trouble accepting is that it is possible they never will.

. . . .

I think most of us agree that the price-per-read major publishers will be able to capture is very likely to go down. (Some optimists would argue that the number of reads will go up, but, of course, that’s of questionable comfort if the number of authored books available also goes up, and it will.) So publishers are highly conscious of that in ways they never had to think about when the price of what they sold was bounded by physical realities.

Link to the rest at The Shatzkin Files

Amazon, Ebook Lending

4 Comments to “Publishers and Libraries – Diverging Interests”

  1. “Some optimists would argue that the number of reads will go up, but, of course, that’s of questionable comfort if the number of authored books available also goes up, and it will.”

    In addition to controlling the means of distribution in the past, the publishing industry also controlled the number of authors. Fewer authors, fewer titles available, more money from each title. What a shock it must be to have both those rugs pulled out from under them!

  2. I just don’t understand publishing’s recent dealings with libraries. I mean, they keep trying to convince us that they are interested in (and good for) literary culture and yet they’re causing a huge fuss over the one institute that really matters to literary culture. *scratches head*

    Granted, my husband works at a library so they’re kind of important to me.

  3. Sarah, I’ve heard a drowning victim will drown a friend in a panicked effort to push himself out of the water. Imagine that.

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