Great to See Major Publishers Embrace Alternative Ebook Models in Public Libraries, But Let’s Give Credit Where Credit is Due
From No Shelf Required:
This month, libraries across North America that work with hoopla digital will be able to provide access to some 15,000 (backlist) titles by HarperCollins, one of the ‘big five’ publishers that have resisted working with non-traditional ebook business models and adhered to the one-copy-one-user approach, resulting in less-than-ideal user experience for public library patrons. The news came the day before the official launch of the American Library Association conference in late June and has already received ample coverage, much of which has revolved around statements that with this move HarperCollins was changing the game, breaking new ground, and giving libraries something exciting to look forward to.
While HarperCollins deserves credit for being the first of the Big Five (others include Penguin Random, Macmillan, Hachette, Simon & Schuster) to go a step beyond the restrictive one copy-one user model (it was also the first to provide ebooks to libraries when others weren’t ready), HarperCollins isn’t the first publisher to embrace alternative models and certainly isn’t the one that is breaking new ground with this move. In fact, as many already know, hoopla has offered the cost-per-circulation model (which pays publishers per ‘loan’ instead of paying fixed fees to acquire titles) for a few years.
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I’ve had the privilege of working with vendors that cater to all types of libraries and have seen first-hand how difficult it is to crack the public library market in particular. My experience has shown that the vast majority of libraries are simply not ready or are not willing to work with new (unfamiliar) companies providing high-quality services (and models that are actually revolutionizing access to books) if, and particularly if a) they are not established and don’t have a proven record in the library field; b) they are not based in North America (not always the case but very often) and c) they do not work with the Big Five (because public library patrons want those bestsellers the most, an argument that certainly carries weight).
Link to the rest at No Shelf Required and thanks to Paul for the tip.