One-Two Punches on Publishing

First, this wonderful blog post, “It is a reading revolution, and there will be blood”. Wonderful salient quote:

It’s a revolution. That means what worked in the past is not going to work.

Yes, as humans we have a strong need for facts. We want to have something of the past that we can gather up – gather up so we can pretend that the future is predictable. But, what could you possibly use as precedent?

There has never been a market like books. There has never been a transition like the one we are part of. There’ll always be the one person who knows nothing about reading and claims this revolution is the same as what happened in music. There’ll always be some analyst who claims that in 2015 we might see 25% market share for ebooks. However, they have absolutely no clue. Same as us.

Of course, there is one difference. All the analysts and experts and Publishers and authors have zero power. We readers, on the other hand, have all the power.

It’s a revolution and it’s not based on facts or logic or any set pattern. It’s based on readers expecting to be treated decently and expecting people to behave in a human way – to treat other people the way they would like to be treated. And if they aren’t, then they have the power to do something about it.

Then comes the ever wise Eric Hellman with his post on publishing:

An efficient library channel will compete, to some extent, with ebook direct-sales channels. The optimum strategy for publishers, however, is not to force inefficiency in the library channel, but rather to optimize pricing to monetize increased efficiency.

The efficiency of library acquisitions can be increased by introducing more consortia. A library needing a collection specializing in medicine, for example, should bolster its collection by participating in a consortium with the corresponding specialization. In principle, there could be a consortium specialized for every book that gets published. Such a consortium could manage the number of copies it purchases to closely manage global demand. If the economics worked out it could even strike a deal for unlimited use of the book by consortium members.

For myself, there is something comforting about these two posts. Libraries have always been trailing the desires of the reader; it might just be the perfect place to be at the moment. The large consumer base (as opposed to our tiny percent) of the market is capable of doing much more than libraries can when it comes to price and access. I wouldn’t suggest coattail riding here, but I think that librarians are uniquely poised to influence consumers in the reading market.

Both posts are certainly worth the read. It does present a question: where do libraries fit in a reader powered world? More provocatively, where do we fit in a world where the reader can bypass publishers and libraries to get books?

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