With the tidal wave of talk about eBooks this past week, there has been a good amount of writing about the reader and how these changes would affect them from the vantage of the library. However, I haven’t seen much actual talk to a reader regarding these changes. It’s been in the background of my thoughts since I believe that neither the publisher nor libraries but readers have the larger controlling stake in this discussion. They are the ones who will dictate the market to the rest of us. Libraries will just follow along as they always have.
But in thinking about eBook piracy, DRM, and format, I think that readers have already started the shift when it comes to those aspects. It reminds me of the quote from John Gilmore:
The Net interprets censorship as damage and routes around it.
While this is not a censorship issue, it does share a basic “why can’t I get to my content” aspect. And with the readily available tools that people create to allow them to remove DRM, to convert eBooks into formats they can use on their eReaders, and to share with friends (out of genuine good intent), I think readers are already making themselves known what they think the standard of care and handling should be when it comes to eBooks. While libraries cannot follow them entirely on this path, it indicates to me that the care and interest for books and their availability is a shared concern. So, that leaves me with some questions.
Are we giving readers enough credit in this eBook debate? What is their role in all of this? Will they be able to do what we cannot?
I tend to come at things from a marketing perspective, good or bad I’ll let you decide. 😉 Anyway, I think the issue is demographics – “ebook readers” is a demographic, yes, but in the same way “movie audiences” are. It’s just too huge and varied to be targeted, especially if the publishers *don’t want* us to target them.
I think readers would be able to do what we can’t, because they (moreso than libraries or librarians) are “where the $$ is at” as far as publishers are concerned. They have a lot of unused power in the market. But how do we talk to ebook readers? *ARE* we talking to ebook readers?
This is one reason I promote aligning with authors, and getting authors actively on board. Authors DO talk to their readers – midlist authors especially, to whom promotion is crucial. They have blogs, they have websites, they do guest reviews, they have forums on GoodReads. It’s not the only solution, no, but IMHO it is a good way to communicate with readers at a level that librarians, in general, cannot.
I don’t know. Publishers are certainly not listening to readers when it comes to agency pricing. They’re just doing it. (And Random finally decided to join, which makes it a near-unanimous vote of publishers to raise e-book prices.)
Publishers do a terrible job of market research. They are far more removed from consumers than most industries. I don’t get it, myself.
Authors are connected to readers, though – and it is to authors, not publishers, that readers are loyal.
Then again, publishers don’t listen to authors, either.
Then who are they listening to? There doesn’t seem to be anyone left in your list except other publishers. And that doesn’t bode well since it creates a pretty potent echo chamber for a group that is a huge middleman.
My concern would be for the role of editing. I’d rather not get overwhelmed with a ton of unedited self published books, especially self published eBooks.
Now, the question I get out of your reply is how much each individual component of publishing could be spun out into its own compartmentalized unit. Like, an editing company that simply edits manuscripts.
Recently the Kindle decided to create a user library through Facebook where people could loan their books to a stranger one time for two weeks. At first there was a lot of excitement and buzz about this….but soon, there seemed to be more anger and backlash. Why would the average reader want to loan THEIR OWN copy of Cutting for Stone to Suzie in Wyoming and then never ever ever be able to loan out that paid for book again if say, a sister wanted to borrow it?
This is just the publishing conglomerates way to grab more revenue (it isn’t going to the authors) and frankly, the American people are lazy and ill informed about their rights. If Kindle and Nook buyers would demand the same usage rights of their electronic book as they have for a paper book, they would listen (and publishers can program the books so that they can only be distributed to one person at a time and not disseminated to the world as they rightly fear). But we are an apathetic nation. We have a mad love affair right now with corporations and are willing to be ravished by them repeatedly!
Does no one really get it? This is a new world. E-books are NOT books. A book is a format–paper, lendable, etc. An e-book is a different format–electronic, bits/bytes, ephemeral (truly it is). I actually prefer to call it e-lit, e-fiction, e-nonfiction, e-stories or whatever. This “e-book” format is NOT the same as a book and will never be treated that way. Where the end user was in control of the book, he/she will never be truly in control of the e-book.
Now that much of the public has invested in e-readers, the companies will slowly raise prices, control access, and determine what libraries will do. The clueless, lazy, non-thinking public will accept it just as we do wars, corruption, union-busting, and Wall Street manipulation.
So where does that leave us? At their mercy or willing to fight back and stand up? Give me a paper book any day. I refuse to spend an outrageous sum for a machine to hold a book that is never really mine. And, no matter what they say, it never really is.
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