Book Publishers: Going the Way of the Music & Movie Industries?

Posted on October 23, 2011

Recently, Amazon announced a partnership with public libraries to support lending of e-books to Kindles. This is great for me, because I have a Kindle, and the nearest library with e-books of any kind is an hour’s drive.

Here’s the problem: I went to the library’s website and browsed their e-books. Of 200 titles, not a single one was available for lending. Almost every book had a waiting list of multiple people.

That’s a problem.

I’m hoping that because e-book lending is still new, that the library is starting with a small number of copies to see what the level of demand is. 200 is a very small number of titles, compared to the thousands of paper books held. No doubt that digital books will become the norm in the future… libraries are already dumping old paper copies for electronic versions.

In the meantime, book publishers need to embrace new technologies. It’s ridiculous that digital files, an infinite resource, are artificially constrained by “copies”.  Rule #1 in business: Make it easy for customers to buy your product.

I understand that book publishers and distributors want to get paid — I have no problem with 2 week (extendable) lending periods and libraries paying for each copy. If the publishers are smart, they will charge less per extra copy and re-evaluate their business models for the internet era. We’ve seen the music and movie industries refuse to change; let’s hope book publishers won’t be as myopic.


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