Ebook Library: Reader Coalition Dissolves
At 1:00 AM this morning, I linked to the petition from libraries and readers, pleading with publishers to lift limits on ebook lending. I saw immediately that they had surpassed the goal of 10,000 by 250 signatures.
Since they had exceeded expectations, I hoped to add a crushing blow, 10,251. Probably wanting to ship immediately, the Topeka and Shawnee County Public Library shut the tool down halfway through my signing. I reloaded the page, but only the hollow shell remained. I hope they intend to rally again, but at least for now, ebook readers and libraries are quiet.
Libraries, readers, and publishers anticipated a conflict as ebook sales and lending both soared late in 2011. Popularity of the Kindle and Nook fired an expanding population of readers. The benefits of this growth in reading worldwide seem so obvious that one might find it hard to pin down the cons. However, the end of lending loomed when the American Association of Publishers (AAP) released on May 18, 2012 that ebook sales shot above hardcover print for the first time.
Publishers panicked, fearing decreased sales. The big publishing players Harper Collins and Random House restricted lending, and some won’t sell to libraries period: Hachette, Simon & Schuster, Macmillan, and recently Penguin.
A decrease in ebook sales may seem likely because of increased library lending, but reality contradicts this intuition. Lending libraries have historically increased sales, as readers are able to explore new books, authors, and publishers without risk. Patrons migrate naturally towards purchases. Since 1731, lending libraries have been an American fixture, allowing free access to literacy. Ben Franklin founded the first from his personal library, inviting colonists into his home to borrow books.
All publishers need do is look at 2011 statistics to see the explosive sales, along with increased lending. Libraries promote ebooks to a massive, passionate audience, and publishers will lose by taking them on.Continued on the next page