All Carrot, No Stick

Fundamentally, I think the phrase I used in the title represents the best example for the biggest issue when it comes to a eBook dialogue between publishers and public libraries. Simply put, there are no consequences to a publisher for not responding to our demands or wishes. For all the fuss and muster that goes into reasons why a publisher should allow libraries to lend their books, there are no clearly articulated punishments for non-compliance.

It’s not a logical leap to figure out why there aren’t any. While I’m sure I could get a room full of librarians to agree on the positive reasons publishers should deal with us, any discussion as what consequences to mete out if they don’t would be a complete non-starter (except for a strongly worded statement that re-issues the positive reasons and demands reconsideration on the basis of those reasons). To me it seems like librarians just generally wimp out when it comes to issues on this scale, opting to threaten to become “No more Mrs. Pleasant-to-Be-Around Gal”.

I would surmise that the only real stick that public libraries have going for them is that no one wants to been seen as beating up or picking on them. It’s this kind of shame that possibly prevented Amazon from going after libraries that lent out Kindles. Otherwise, without some sort of coordination or collective action, libraries do not have a stick to use to punish publishers for non-compliance. With the stakes that are involved in being part of eBooks, there is no better time than now to create consequences.

The carrot is simply not enough.

7 thoughts on “All Carrot, No Stick

  1. The consequence is simple….libraries are, by far, the largest purchasers of books. This is not going to change. Without libraries, publishers will end up with books with no buyers, and, for titles that people might still buy…guess what? they’re just going to go up on the torrent sties. That’s our stick. Deal with us or become the record industry and have no customers.

  2. And what is your suggestion for consequences? I have a hard time imagining libraries not buying books from publishers, which is the only concrete “punishment” I can see that libraries could met out.

    • No, we will buy books from publishers, just not eBooks. Also, we can refuse to take their money or materials for book or author publicity, refuse their preview or advanced books, not review their books for our publications, and not allow them to be vendors at our conferences. There are alternatives that allow us to continue to purchase books.

  3. Pingback: All Carrot, No Stick, Ctd. « Agnostic, Maybe

  4. @Rob, sorry, but libraries are not the largest buyers for books. If they were they would have the ear of the publishers. Libraries are a drop in the bucket for purchasing.

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