[Web4lib] Kindle lending

Steven E. Patamia, Ph.D. patamia at gmail.com
Sun Nov 7 01:09:55 EST 2010

Consider carefully what Tim writes here.  He is facing the existential
threat I wrote about in the thread on whether libraries should be technology
hubs.  Notice carefully how he explains that leaping blindly on each new
technological innovation plays into the hands of Publishers because you are
constraining yourself to playing by their rules.  This cries out for
legislation -- and in the present political climate I am not clear on
whether you can get support -- but I am clear that somebody had better try!
 [Aside -- if, as many have encouraged, you madly embrace each new thing --
like facebook -- you become a slave to it as much as a beneficiary.
 Sometimes you must and sometimes the downside is not so bad -- but all the
twittering and face booking you can imagine will do little to empower you to
overcome the existential threat Tim is rightly worried about.]

On Sat, Nov 6, 2010 at 10:29 PM, Tim Spalding <tim at librarything.com> wrote:

> What form will pushing and advocacy take, exactly? It seems to me that
> while technology is sure to change, the basic parameters of the
> discussion change won't. If I'm wrong, someone tell me how.
> The simple fact is that libraries used to be able to buy something at
> the same rate as everyone else, and then lend it out to different
> people until it fell apart. They didn't need to push for that right.
> It was implicit in notions of physical ownership under common law and
> codified in the Fair Use doctrine. Publishers have never liked it, but
> it didn't matter what they thought about it.
> Now it does matter. As I calculated in a blog post, the average public
> library is "spending" something like $0.50 per read today(1). That's
> not a number publishers are ever going to be happy with. And it will
> certainly be publishers--not libraries--who make the law here. eBooks
> are in their infancy, but the ebook market (about 7%) is already twice
> as large as the entire library market (3-4%). If libraries are going
> to influence the debate, they better do it soon!
> Of course, there will be exceptions. Publishers will be glad to sell
> libraries titles that consumers won't buy on their own, or that don't
> get a lot of reads per copy. That means much of what academic
> libraries buy is safe--to the extent continuing to pay $200 for some
> Brill monograph is safe. They will also be relatively more willing to
> cut deals if libraries make the experience difficult--as the UK
> Publishers are now advocating--foisting opportunity cost on the reader
> and therefore reaching people unwilling to pay ebook prices. (The same
> principle is why coupons work. The extra work involved gives the
> sellers a way to price discriminate.)
> But public libraries are not going to be able to do what they do
> now—serve as a magical value-creation engine that takes a $10 or $20
> book and turns it into hundreds of dollars of effective value. Costs
> will rise. And when libraries stop offering a true value multiplier,
> and become a mere subsidy, they will lose support.
> So, I ask, what will the adaptation look like? What advocacy or
> refocusing can libraries engage in—or what external force—will change
> the basic economic dynamics of ebook lending? Believe me, I want to
> figure that out as much as anyone.
> My answer:
> * Emphasize paper; it embeds a model that works.
> * Stop advocating for library-hostile systems among your patrons; for
> example, stop lending Nooks and Kindles when their very terms of
> service prohibit a library from lending them!
> * A "buying consortium" is a pipe dream, but I could see a pledge to
> buy only ebooks of certain sorts.
> I imagine a logo that goes on the paper book, webpage or ebook.
> Instead of saying "Organic" or whatever it says "Library Friendly." It
> indicates that the author and publisher have agreed to a certain slate
> of lending rights. Moral suasion of this sort can be very
> effective--especially if the notion spreads early, before everyone
> takes it for granted that the publisher sets all the terms.
> Best,
> Tim
> --
Steven E. Patamia, Ph.D., J.D.

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