I usually tweet these kinds of articles that arrived on my virtual doorstep today, but I really wanted to highlight some things from the three articles that got me thinking today.
First, this one on eBook pricing from Teleread:
Sattersten points out that the main issue at hand is consumer perception of value. Consumers see that everything else digital is cheaper than the physical equivalent, and think e-books vs. books should be the same way. He brings up the example of a print book that’s cheaper than an e-book, explaining “That creates a short circuit in customers’ brains. You don’t pay more for things that are more convenient. You pay less.”
The article points to the importance of another calculation that is going on in the electronic content market equation: that of the consumer. The consumer will make their own evalution to what is worth the asked price and what is not. In the past, when a consumer thought something was overpriced, they would go without or, in the less common alternative, steal it. The bar for pirating digital content is much lower compared to stealing physical content; it’s a few keystrokes and mouse clicks compared to stuffing a CD or book into your clothing. This is not to say that all consumers make the choice to pirate, but when they see something they feel is overpriced, they will look for other ways to get it. The idea is to make the price and effort of getting it legitimately much lower than the same steps to pirating it.
Second, this lovely article on e-lending from Slate:
These restrictions are misguided. They’re bad for readers, they’re bad for authors, they’re bad for e-book stores, and they may even be bad for publishers. Of course, the ways in which our rights get chipped away as we move away from analog content is a constant worry in the digital age. I’m not the first pundit to note how terrible it is that we can no longer share, resell, or modify the books, movies, and video games that we get over the Internet. But the sharing restrictions that publishers have placed on e-books strike me as particularly stringent, a rule that underlines how we’ll mourn physical media when it goes away. Under Amazon’s and Barnes & Noble’s sharing model, you’re allowed to loan out a book just once, for two weeks, and while it’s loaned out, you don’t have access to it. The fact that publishers can’t stomach even this milquetoast model should have us scared for a future in which physical media loses its primacy. (Emphasis mine)
The paragraph below the one quoted has a nice set of links to studies about the secondary market for goods. (Although he duly notes that eBook reselling might not be a terribly viable option to which I currently begrudgingly agree.) But it raises a good point: like Cory Doctorow saying that durability is a feature not a bug, the ability to easily lend material to another is an enhancement, not a net loss. These lending possibilities within friend and family groups that do not share physical proximity creates more audiences for eBooks to reach. Whereas the physical book would have to wait for the next time the family or friends group got together, the eBook does not suffer such limitations. While some may argue that unlimited eBook lending would preclude others from buying the book, I would argue that the current limitations do nothing to expand audience or author market share and other things that generate revenue.
Last, this awesome little article on the emergence of a sharing culture from Time:
[T]he ownership society was rotting from the inside out. Its demise began with Napster. The digitalization of music and the ability to share it made owning CDs superfluous. Then Napsterization spread to nearly all other media, and by 2008 the financial architecture that had been built to support all that ownership — the subprime mortgages and the credit-default swaps — had collapsed on top of us. Ownership hadn’t made the U.S. vital; it had just about ruined the country.
While the common rationale offered for the increase in library usage is the economic recession, I’m wondering if the emergence of people who are happy to borrow over buying is another factor. If so, it represents a possible longer trend to which libraries are perfectly suited for capitalizing on. (Whether and how they would be able to capitalize on it is another matter.)
Although, as I think on the implications of a greater lending oriented society, the role of the library may not be as the entity doing the actual lending but to help others set up such borrowing arrangements. I imagine it as a community based niche ‘collection’ that the library can refer people to while providing management consultation. Personally, I don’t see a problem to encouraging other borrowing arrangements in the community; if someone does see a problem, please point it out to me.
Share your thoughts on what you think about one or all of these articles. There’s a lot of food for thought here!