Ebook Lending

UK Library eBook Pilot Shows Library Loans Drive Sales

13 April 2014

From The Digital Reader:

It’s been just over a month since the Publisher’s Association launched a year long e-lending pilot in partnership with 4 libraries in the UK, and the early results are showing that ebook borrowers are also buyers. Janene Cox, the president of the Society of Chief Librarians (SCL), was speaking at the London Book Fair last week when she told The Bookseller that “people who loan books, buy books”.

The pilot, which is funded by a grant from the British Library Trust,enables the participating libraries to lend ebooks from a special catalog of 1,000 titles, most of which are otherwise unavailable to libraries.

There’s not enough information on just how much this pilot has increased ebook loans, but there is some early data to show that pilot is generating sales. In Derbyshire, for example, 464 ebooks were loaned in the first monitoring period, leading to about 20 sales to library patrons.  According to Cox, many of the patrons bought the ebook while they were  still only part of the way through reading the loaned ebook.

. . . .

One of the less obvious goals of this pilot is to show publishers that they benefit from library ebook loans. I don’t know that there is enough evidence yet from this pilot to prove the point, but this is a point worth proving.

Link to the rest at The Digital Reader and thanks to Meryl for the tip.

The Digital Paradox: How Copyright Laws Keep E-Books Locked Up

1 April 2014

From Spiegel Online:

Many publishing houses don’t allow their products to be lent out by digital libraries for fear of piracy. Articles and books by researchers are also affected. Readers are the ones who have to pay the price.

When the German author Johann Gottfried Seume took his famous “Stroll to Syracuse,” as he entitled his book about his nine-month walk to Sicily in 1802, he made sure to visit a number of local libraries along the way. At the time, it was often impossible to check out books. If you wanted to read them, you had to be mobile.

Today, the situation has come full circle. If a student in Freiburg wants to read the hard-copy version of a book from the university library in Basel, he or she can simply order it via an interlibrary loan. But if only an electronic version is available, interlibrary loans are generally not an option. The student has no choice but to climb into a train and head to Switzerland to read the book on a university computer.

It is a paradox: Books that traveled around the world via interlibrary loan in the 20th century paper era are safeguarded locally in the Internet age. Indeed, it is the sheer ease with which electronic publications can be sent around the world that is now resulting in their being locked up behind digital bars. The book doesn’t go to the reader, the reader comes to the book — just like in the 19th century.

Interlibrary loans were formalized in Prussia in 1893 with the “edict pertaining to lending.” But it doesn’t apply to the new electronic world. Today, publishing houses dictate their conditions to libraries, motivated by their justifiable fear of pirated copies. Unfortunately, it is honest readers who have to pay the price.

Many publishing houses don’t issue licenses for loaning out e-books: Influential German publishers such as Droemer Knaur, Kiepenheuer & Witsch, S. Fischer and Rowohlt, for example, are nowhere to be found on the German-language online lending library Onleihe. That means that important works such as the new definitive World War I study by Berlin-based political scientist Herfried Münkler cannot be checked out electronically. It is a situation that would be unimaginable in the world of paper.

. . . .

There are plenty of absurd examples. Franco Moretti, for example, an English professor at Stanford University, achieved renown with his study “Atlas of the European Novel.” But his research ends at the point when rigid copyright laws, which protect works for up to 70 years after the death of the author, present a roadblock. It is dangerous to scan more current works of literature, Moretti says. “The specter of copyright keeps (them) too protected for us to make inroads. Too bad!”

“Currently, copyright owners are often in a unique position of power,” says Hinte. “A reform and simplification of copyright laws is long overdue.”

In many cases, it is the readers themselves who, through their taxes, pay the university authors whose studies they are then unable to access. It is also likely that many professors themselves cannot even afford a subscription to the journal in which their work is published.

Link to the rest at Spiegel Online and thanks to Peter for the tip.

With $5.3M In Funding, Entitle Launches E-Book Service Emphasizing Ownership And Big Titles

17 December 2013

From Tech Crunch:

In the past few months, we’ve seen the launch of several e-book subscription services using a Netflix-style pricing model, where users pay a monthly fee and get access to any title in the catalog. A new service called Entitle is going in a different direction — users still pay a subscription fee, but they can only download a few books each month.

Isn’t that a worse deal? CEO Bryan Batten argued that it’s not, for a couple of reasons. First, Entitle users actually own the books they purchase, so if they unsubscribe they still have access to the titles that they’ve already paid for. And while many people have become accustomed to the pay-for-access model popularized by Netflix and Spotify, Batten argued that there’s still “a majority of people who like the thought of owning something.”

. . . .

The company has deals with major publishers including Simon & Schuster, HarperCollins, HarperCollins Christian, and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, with more than 100,000 professionally-published titles from authors like Stephen King, Dan Brown, Doris Kearns Goodwin, Michael Crichton, Walter Isaacson, Janet Evanovich, Mark Halperin, Ernest Hemingway, and F. Scott Fitzgerald (uh, some of those are more contemporary than others). Batten pointed out that the Entitle catalog includes recent releases like King’s Doctor Sleep, Glenn Beck’s Miracles & Massacres, and Goodwin’s The Bully Pulpit.

. . . .

The Digital Reader reported that Entitle’s ownership is a bit limited in that you can’t actually download the e-books to your computer, and they’re still locked up with digital rights management software. I tested this out on the Entitle website and the report appeared to be correct, though when I followed up with Batten he noted that there is a (somewhat circuitous) way to download.

Link to the rest at Tech Crunch and thanks to Joshua for the tip.

Lending traffic at Maine libraries shifting to e-books

14 October 2013

From the Morning Sentinel:

If you don’t see anyone inside the Wilton Free Public Library, it doesn’t mean no one is checking out a book.

The library had a dramatic rise over the past two years in electronic books borrowed on e-readers, such as Kindle and Nook. The growth of digital book circulation in Wilton matches similar growth at libraries across the state, though it is uncertain how the use might change the state’s libraries long-term.

. . . .

In 2011, the first year e-books and online audiobooks were available to patrons of the Wilton library, residents borrowed 83 titles. In 2012, 387 titles were borrowed, according to David Olsen, the Wilton library’s director. He said 418 digital books have been borrowed so far this year.

“We’re still in the early stages of this, and it’s impossible to predict how this will change libraries,” he said.

. . . .

Three years ago, the state created the Maine InfoNet Download Library, an online book collection that can be accessed through local and university libraries across the state that chose to participate in the program.

As of September, there were 4,286 audiobooks and 7,083 e-books available for borrowing in the state book exchange.

Olsen, who prefers e-books for his personal reading, pointed out that paper books were once a new technology and said people should not be concerned that going paperless will hurt reading or libraries.

“We’re about connecting people with literature, not specifically paper books. Libraries are about literature and learning,” he said.

. . . .

In August 2010, 4,301 titles were borrowed online in the state. By August the next year, that number more than doubled to 11,729 checkouts, and there were 20,739 books downloaded in August 2012. The number leveled off slightly this August, with 27,742 titles borrowed and 7,444 new users.

Link to the rest at the Morning Sentinel

Bezos: Books Will Live On

26 September 2013

From PC Magazine:

“Rights holders” are holding the line on stopping you from lending your Kindle books to friends and family, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos said in an interview this week at Amazon headquarters in Seattle.

“We do what the rights owner wants,” he said when asked about borrowing, lending, and donating e-books.

Amazon enabled a borrowing and lending feature for Kindle books back in 2010, but you can only loan a book once, and even then, few publishers have taken Amazon up on its offer. Bezos said the publishers have “very legitimate concerns about how you would monitor that account-to-account sharing.”

‘”You are welcome to go with our team and meet with the rights holders and see how much progress you make,” he said. “I’m being delicate here.”

. . . .

For now, families who want to lend books between family members should just open one joint Kindle account for everyone, Bezos said. That’s what he’s done with his wife, a novelist, and their four kids.

. . . .

The tail of these things tends to be very long lived; [the transition to e-books] will go on for a very long time,” he said. “Our heaviest Kindle e-book buyers also buy lots of paper books, so they’re buying both. For many people, it’s not an either-or choice. If you go out into the future far enough, paper books will be luxury items, but that’s quite a distance.

Link to the rest at PC Magazine

Cory Doctorow: Libraries and E-books

12 September 2013

From Locus Online:

At the start of the summer, I traveled to Chicago for the annual national conference of the American Library Association.

. . . .

While I was in Chicago, I sat down with some of the ALA strategists to talk about how libraries are getting a raw deal on e-books. When libraries want to buy an e-book from the publisher, they find themselves paying as much as five times the price you or I pay for the same book. Literally – librarians are paying $60-80, and sometimes more, to include current release frontlist titles in their collections. Each of these e-books can only be lent to one patron at a time, which means that libraries are sometimes buying a dozen – or more – of these overpriced text-files.

Not only that, but libraries have to buy these books with DRM on them, and invest in expensive, proprietary collection-management software from companies like Overdrive in order to ensure that only one patron at a time can check out any given e-book. These e-books come with restrictions that don’t appear on regular print books; they can’t be sold on as used books once their circulations drop below a certain threshold; neither can they be shared with another library’s patrons though standard practices like interlibrary loan, a mainstay of libraries for more than a century.

To add insult to injury, HarperCollins insists that libraries delete their e-books after they are circulated 26 times. This has been pitched as having some parallel to the fact that many library books eventually disintegrate and have to be discarded. But this is both wrong and perverse. Wrong because the 26-circulation cutoff bears no relationship to how many times a book can circulate before it falls to bits. It amazes me to think that HarperCollins wants to frame its products as so badly manufactured that they can’t withstand being read 27 or more times. But beyond the factual problems with a 26-circ cap, there is the fundamental perversity of celebrating and importing the limitations of physical media into the digital world. It’s like insisting that electric bulbs be limited to outputting no more than one lumen of light, since that’s all a comparably-sized candle would manage. The fact that books don’t last forever is not a feature to be preserved through the digital transition: it’s a bug, and the sooner we eliminate it, the better.

. . . .

Unlike every other channel for e-books, libraries are not the publishers’ competitors. They don’t want to sell devices. They don’t want to win over customers to a particular cloud. They just want readers to read, writers to write, and publishers to sell. They deserve a better deal than they’re getting.

There’s a good case to be made for libraries getting discounts on e-books, rather than paying premiums. For one thing, they’re excellent customers and they make bulk-buys. For another, the e-books that libraries buy stay in their collection forever, unlike print books. When a library downsizes its stock of last-year’s print bestseller, it puts most of its copies in its booksale for a nominal sum, a dollar or two, and often those books end up in the used-book stream, being sold alongside the new books on Amazon at steep discounts, competing for readers’ dollars.

. . . .

Library e-book circulation data is a source of potentially priceless, actionable business intelligence for the publishers, if they can stop focusing on gouging libraries on price and focus on cooperating with them instead. Libraries could provide publishers with daily circulation figures, broken down by city, for every book, along with correlations between books (‘‘this book was checked out with that book’’). Provided the data is sufficiently aggregated, it would not pose a risk to individual patron privacy. This has to be managed carefully, of course, but if there’s one group that can be relied upon to treat this issue with the care it is due, it’s librarians.

Link to the rest at Locus Online and thanks to Sandra for the tip.

Publishing Hears Echoes of Netflix Business Model

3 September 2013

From The Wall Street Journal:

Offering unlimited television shows and music for a flat monthly fee has worked forNetflix . . . and Spotify AB. Will it work in the book industry?

It is a question of intensifying debate in the publishing industry right now, as two digital startups plan launches of rival e-book subscription services this fall. If successful, the new services could pose fresh challenges for brick-and-mortar bookstores already struggling to cope with the growth of e-book sales and low prices of physical books offered online.

Still, both services face plenty of challenges, starting with persuading publishers to make their books available.

. . . .

Industry insiders express skepticism whether consumers, who tend to read only a few books a month, will embrace subscription plans that don’t offer all the hits—particularly given the discounts available on e-book sales. “Success comes when you solve a problem, and from a consumer point of view, I don’t see the problem,” said Amy Rhodes, a former publishing executive who is now a partner in consulting firm Market Partners International Inc. “You’ll need very attractive prices for people who read a lot of books, and even then you’ll need all the big titles.”

Resistance also reflects uncertainty about the impact of a new business model on the industry, including on bookstores that now sell lots of books. “There’s a general fear of the unknown,” said Matt MacInnis, chief executive of Inkling, a San Francisco developer of interactive e-books.

“Publishers have operated their economic model for 100 years,” he added. “They don’t know how to model this.”

. . . .

Some publishers and author representatives have embraced eReatah’s limited offering. Subscribers can choose among paying $16.99 a month for two new titles; $25.50 for three books; and $33.50 for four. Subscribers to eReatah will keep their books and authors will get regular royalties on each download.

. . . .

But eReatah’s pricing levels might not persuade many consumers, others say, given that it is effectively charging about $8.50 for a book. “The value of most subscription models, be it cable or magazine, is the perception of getting more than you paid for,” said Forrester Research Inc. analyst James McQuivey. Consumers might be less willing to embrace a model where they only get several books a month. “Going unlimited is the only way this will work for books.”

Bryan Batten, eReatah’s founder and CEO, said more than 75% of the site’s titles cost more than $8.50 at regular sales outlets. He said he never formally pitched an all-you-can-consume model to publishers because he expected complications with author contracts.

. . . .

“The problem with an all-you-can-eat model is that authors stand to make pennies, not dollars,” said Evan Schnittman, chief marketing and sales officer at Lagardère SCA’s Hachette Book Group. “I love the idea of different business models, but don’t forget the author.”

Link to the rest at The Wall Street Journal (Link may expire) and thanks to Joshua for the tip.

There’s no mention of whether indie authors will be included in these services. Of course, Amazon would be ideally placed to offer this type of service.

PG will second the concern about typical publishing contracts, which don’t provide a clear basis for calculating ebook royalties for an all-you-can eat style program like Netflix.

The subsidiary-rights licensing provisions of Big Publishing’s contracts with authors are generally written with licenses of only single ebooks in mind, not entire catalogs of ebooks. Since subsidiary rights licensing provisions often provide that the author receives 50% of licensing revenues instead of the industry-standard 25% of net revenues for individual ebook sales, publishers will definitely not want to go down that path.

Presumably, a publisher will be paid a portion of the monthly subscription fee regardless of whether any ebooks are downloaded or not.  Presumably, a publisher will not feel the need to pay royalties if a subscriber doesn’t download any ebooks during a month (or a year).

If a subscriber signs up for three ebooks per month and downloads only one, presumably a publisher will not feel any obligation to pay the author of the downloaded book a royalty based upon the total subscription fee instead of one-third of the subscription fee.

The ‘Other’ E-Book Pricing Problem

19 July 2013

From The Huffington Post:

While the e-book world takes a minute to digest the court ruling finding Apple conspired with book publishers to jack up the price of e-books to consumers, it’s worth noting that there is another e-book pricing battle going on.

Consumers are the ultimate victims here, also, but those most directly affected are public libraries. Some book publishers don’t lease e-books to libraries at all, depriving library customers of versions of popular best-sellers. Others set the lease rates exorbitantly high, squeezing the already squeezed library budget.

The American Library Association (ALA), and particularly former President Maureen Sullivan, have raised the issue loudly and persistently, but the publishers haven’t been terribly responsive. Now, state and local governments are just starting to become involved on behalf of their libraries and the library patrons.

. . . .

In Connecticut, Gov. Dan Malloy (D) on June 6 signed a bill requiring the state attorney general and the state librarian to conduct a study on the availability of e-books to public library customers. The study will have a broad mandate, taking in such topics as surveying current practices used by publishers and distributors (companies like Overdrive or Baker & Taylor, which supply the software to make the e-books available to libraries), to determine if there are any problems with those practices and if so, what to do about them.

The requirement of a study was the last compromise in the legislative process, which started out with a bill by State Rep. Brian Sear (D) “to require publishers of electronic books to offer such books for sale to public and academic libraries at the same rates as offered to the general public.” That bill would mean the publishers couldn’t charge the public $12.99 for an e-book and charge libraries $85 for the same e-book, which is the practice now.

Link to the rest at The Huffington Post and thanks to Mira for the tip.

Ebooks leave librarians out of work

15 May 2013

From Global Times:

Ebooks might be convenient, but they come at a cost. The spread of ebooks has driven circulation down in China’s university libraries, and even caused some librarians to lose their jobs.

. . . .

Hankou’s library is now lending 68,000 less books a year compared to 2010. But ebook access at a nearby school has increased from 356 to 44,556 since 2009.

Link to the rest at Global Times

Overdrive Unveils Big Library Read Pilot Project

14 May 2013

From Good EReader:

Overdrive has gained the support of over 3,000 libraries for a new pilot project to take ebook accessibility to an entirely new level. The intention behind this new initiative is to create a global “library book club.”

Library partners in the OverDrive network will be invited to participate in the pilot program beginning May 15 – June 1, 2013. Participating libraries will be provided no-cost access to the librarian-selected ebook Four Corners of the Sky by Michael Malone via Sourcebooks. This title will be prominently displayed on the OverDrive-powered library websites, and discoverable through the libraries’ catalogs. For the pilot, the ebook will be simultaneously available for any and all readers with a library card to browse, sample, and borrow. At the end of the pilot period, the title will be removed from the collection, but libraries can still buy it.

“We want to demonstrate once and for all the enormous influence of the library demographic, and that when libraries put an ebook in their catalog it serves a valuable role in increasing exposure and engagement with an author’s work,” said Steve Potash, OverDrive’s CEO.

Link to the rest at Good EReader

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