A Fistful of eBook Settlement Dollars

In checking my email after being away for the weekend, I got the eBook state settlement notice. (Quoted in full below) My first thought in opening this email is that it looks a lot like a well drafted phishing attempt. But then I remembered that I had actually bought a book on my iPad when the iBooks app came out. (Sir Ken Robinson’s The Element, which is basically a very lengthy rehashing of one of his TED talks.) I think I purchased the book for either $12.99 or $14.99 which makes me think that any credit will only be a couple of bucks. I’ll be interested to see how they calculate the “right” price.

Here’s the email I got:

Benefits from an Attorney General E-books Settlement Fund

Para una notificación en Español, llamar o visitar nuestro website.

Settlement ID Number: [redacted]

Records indicate that you are eligible for a payment from Settlements reached by the State Attorneys General with electronic book publishers Hachette, HarperCollins, and Simon & Schuster. The Settlements resolve an antitrust lawsuit about the price of electronic books. Apple Inc. (“Apple”) has not been sued in this case. It is assisting in providing this notice as a service to its customers.

What the Settlements Provide

The Settlements create a $69 million fund for payments to consumers who purchased qualifying electronic books from April 1, 2010 through May 21, 2012. If the Court approves the Settlements, eligible consumers like you will receive credits to your iTunes account. The credit can be used on any purchases of electronic books. The amount of your payment has been determined based on the qualifying electronic book purchases identified by Apple in your iTunes account.

How to Receive your Benefit

Because you are pre-qualified, you do not need to do anything at this time to receive your credit. If the Court approves the Settlements, you will receive another email letting you know how to activate your credit. Once you activate the credit, it will be applied to your account by Apple. (If you bought electronic books from more than one retailer, you may receive notices with different instructions about whether you will receive a credit or need to file a Claim Form for that retailer. You will have a separate claim for each retailer and you should follow the specific instructions from each one.)

You also have the option to receive a check instead of your credit. You can request a check by calling 1-866-621-4153, or going to the Settlement website listed below, and clicking on the Check Request Option link. Be sure to reference the Settlement ID number found at the top of this email. The Settlement website is:

www.EBookAGSettlements.com

Your Other Rights

You can choose to exclude yourself from the Settlements and keep your right to sue on your own. If you exclude yourself, you can’t receive any benefits from the Settlements. If you don’t exclude yourself, you can submit objections about the Settlements.

Your written Exclusion Form or objections must be postmarked by December 12, 2012.Please visit the Settlement website for detailed information on how to submit a valid Exclusion Form or objection.

A separate lawsuit against two other publishers and Apple continues and is set for a trial in 2013. Apple denies the allegations in that lawsuit. Your rights in the separate suit are not affected by any action you take in regards to these Settlements.

The Court will hold a hearing on February 8, 2013 at 10 a.m. to consider whether to approve the Settlements. You or your own lawyer may ask to appear and speak at the hearing.

For more detailed information:

Call 1-866-621-4153 or Visit www.EBookAGSettlements.com

LISNews has a copy of the Kindle email that was sent out in case you want to compare the two.

I’d be interested to hear if any libraries that purchased an eReader (Kindle, Nook, iPad, etc.) to lend to their community got a notice for any books they might have purchased to put on it. With that in mind, I’m wondering about the cost analysis between purchasing an eReader, buying books for it, and lending it out versus purchasing the books through Overdrive or another library eBook middle man and making it available through the website. If someone who is better with numbers and ‘what if?” situations could do that, I’d show my appreciate with some link love.

Update: Amelia from Twitter provided me with the Barnes & Noble letter.

Dear [redacted],

We’re pleased to tell you that you are eligible for gift certificate credits thanks to recent legal settlements between States Attorneys General and three eBook publishers. Barnes & Noble was not a party to the settlements but as a NOOK® customer, you can take advantage of the benefits agreed to by the settling publishers.

Although we are required to notify you now of the settlements, there is nothing you need to do to receive the credits as you will receive them automatically in the form of an electronic gift certificate sent via email. Once the settlements’ claim period ends, the Attorneys General will calculate the amount of your credits. If the Court gives final approval to the settlements, we expect to be able to send you your gift certificate in the first half of 2013.

Once you receive your gift certificate, you can register it on our website,  www.bn.com, for up to one year. Once registered, no further action will be required on your part, and the certificate will have no expiration date and you can use it any time to shop the wide selection of great titles on  bn.com.

You may prefer to receive a check instead of a gift certificate, or you may decide not to participate in this settlement at all. If you want to consider either of these options, we recommend that you review the steps you can take, as well as your rights, which are explained in the attached legal notice.

As always, we appreciate your business and thank you for being a valued NOOK and Barnes & Noble customer.

Sincerely,

Barnes & Noble

Benefits from an Attorney General E-books Settlement Fund

Para una notificación en Español, llamar o visitar nuestro website.

Records indicate that you are eligible for a payment from Settlements reached by the State Attorneys General with E-book publishers Hachette, HarperCollins, and Simon & Schuster. The Settlements resolve an antitrust lawsuit about the price of electronic books (“E-books”). Barnes & Noble has not been sued in this case. It is providing this notice as a service to its customers.

What the Settlements Provide

10/17/12                   iCloud Mail – You Are Eligible For eBook Credits

The Settlements create a $69 million fund for payments to consumers who purchased qualifying E-books from April 1, 2010 through May 21, 2012. If the Court approves the Settlements, eligible consumers like you will receive credits to your E-reader accounts. The credit can be used on any purchases of E-books or print books. The amount of your payment has been determined based on the qualifying E-book purchases identified by Barnes & Noble in your E-reader account.

How to Receive your Benefit

Because you are pre-qualified, you do not need to do anything at this time to receive your credit. If the Court approves the Settlements, you will receive another email letting you know how to activate your credit. Once you activate the credit, it will be applied to your account by Barnes & Noble. (If you bought E-books from more than one retailer, you may receive notices with different instructions about whether you will receive a credit or need to file a Claim Form for that retailer. You will have a separate claim for each retailer and you should follow the specific instructions from each one.)

You also have the option to receive a check instead of your credit. You can request a check by calling 1-866-621-4153, or going to the Settlement website listed below, and clicking on the Check Request Option link. Be sure to reference the Settlement ID number found at the bottom of this email.

The Settlement website is: http://www.EbooksAGSettlements.com

Your Other Rights

You can choose to exclude yourself from the Settlements and keep your right to sue on your own. If you exclude yourself, you can’t receive any benefits from the Settlements. If you don’t exclude yourself, you can submit objections about the Settlements.

Your written Exclusion Form or objections must be postmarked by December 12, 2012. Please visit the Settlement website for detailed information on how to submit a valid Exclusion Form or objection.

A separate lawsuit against two other publishers and Apple, Inc. continues and is set for a trial in 2013. Your rights in the separate suit are not affected by any action you take in regards to these Settlements. The Court will hold a hearing on February 8, 2013 at 10 a.m. to consider whether to approve the Settlements. You or your own lawyer may ask to appear and speak at the hearing.

For more detailed information:

Call 1-866-621-4153 or Visit http://www.EbooksAGSettlements.com

Settlement ID Number: XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

 

The Friction Fiction

madness

In this whole Penguin books quagmire, the aspect that has been furrowing my brow and aggravating my mind has been the use of the term, “friction”. This was from Molly Raphael’s report that I quoted in my blog post yesterday:

A key issue that arose in each meeting is the degree to which “friction” may decline in the ebook lending transaction as compared to lending print books. From the publisher viewpoint, this friction provides some measure of security. Borrowing a print book from a library involves a nontrivial amount of personal work that often involves two trips—one to pick up the book and one to return it. The online availability of ebooks alters this friction calculation, and publishers are concerned that the ready download-ability of library ebooks could have an adverse effect on sales.

This is a quotation by Alison Lazarus, president of sales for Macmillan, from the Digital Shift’s article today:

“We want to insure that customers who have typically been book buyers do not migrate their purchasing into borrowing as accessibility to our books becomes frictionless,” as Alison Lazarus, the president of sales for Macmillan, previously told LJ. “This would imperil our retailers, wholesalers, authors and ourselves and would ultimately be detrimental to libraries,” she said.

Here’s the kicker from that same article:

Some publishers like the idea of in-library lending of ebooks as a way to recreate the “friction” of a print transaction: The patron has to physically go to the library.

So, for those playing the library eBook home game, let’s recap:

  • eBooks are treated the same way as physical books under the “1 copy, 1 person” rule, despite the fact that they are computer files;
  • eBooks are licensed, not owned (unless you’re lucky enough to be in Kansas), therefore First Sale Doctrine rights do not apply and content can be pulled at any time for any reason… just like it was in the last few months;
  • The idea of recreating the friction of print books for eBooks is a good idea.

Everyone up on the same page here now? Excellent.

When publishers talk about recreating friction, I just want to say ‘no thanks’. Libraries are moving towards a frictionless or seamless world of information and content access, not recreating the inconveniences of the past. Progress on this particular material does not move through clinging to the models of the past. I’m sorry if this makes our so-called publishing partners uncomfortable, but honestly, get over it. Or at least have the decency to produce a study or a survey or some sort of hard evidence as to why such friction is necessary aside from imaginative executive speculation. If we are going to tell our library members something that sounds stupid when we say it, give us something to justify your rationales.

(By the way, publisher hand wringing about the future ain’t got nothing on librarian hand wringing about the future. Your version of this fretting activity is our dinner theater.)

So I ask this most basic of questions: are these the people we really want to partner with as we move forward? To clarify what I mean by “moving forward”, I mean it in the plain sense of “the future”. Because, as I see it, this library future is going to be heavily based on digital platforms and outlets. It will be about information access from anywhere at anytime by any (authorized) user. How will this future mesh with a partner who wants their digital content to be treated as if it was print? While we move forward, we have a partner trying to drag us backwards.

I might add that these rules are the publishing companies attempt at having their cake and eating it: treating the digital as if it was print while usurping any First Sale Doctrine rights. They will have achieved the total control they have sought for years over their content. Keep in mind that these are the companies that have supported legislation like SOPA. They aren’t interested in our mission, they are interested in our budgets and what we can do for them. Don’t let their statements of support fool you; this is still a money game since love doesn’t pay the bills.

Perhaps when publishers join the 21st century and start acting like true partners, then we’ll be able to work out this eBook issue together. Until then, we are subject to their uninformed whims and unfounded speculations.

Penguin Unfriends Libraries

In joining the other publishing benchwarmers today, Penguin pulled the rest of its catalog from Overdrive. Enjoy the Penguin press release on this occasion:

In these ever changing times, it is vital that we forge relationships with libraries and build a future together.  We care about preserving the value of our authors’ work as well as helping libraries continue to serve their communities.  Our ongoing partnership with the [American Library Association] is more important than ever, and our recent talks with ALA leadership helped bring everything into focus.
Looking ahead, we are continuing to talk about our future plans for eBook and digital audiobook availability for library lending with a number of partners providing these services. Because of these discussions, as of February 10, 2012, Penguin will no longer offer additional copies of eBooks and audiobooks for purchase via Overdrive.
Physical editions of Penguin’s new and backlist titles will continue to be available in libraries everywhere.

This sort of sentiment begs the old saying that starts out “With friends like these…” They could have at least thrown us a bone as to whether it was Overdrive or libraries that were making them nervous about their bottom line. In looking back at Molly Raphael’s report from meeting with publishers last week, I’m guessing that it is us.

“A key issue that arose in each meeting is the degree to which “friction” may decline in the ebook lending transaction as compared to lending print books. From the publisher viewpoint, this friction provides some measure of security. Borrowing a print book from a library involves a nontrivial amount of personal work that often involves two trips—one to pick up the book and one to return it. The online availability of e-books alters this friction calculation, and publishers are concerned that the ready download-ability of library ebooks could have an adverse effect on sales.”

(Emphasis mine.)

That last sentence gave me the twitchy eye. Perhaps it could be explained as Molly’s interpretation, but there is something about that “could have” phrase. It suggests a line of thinking for which there is no supporting empirical evidence. Has there been any research, a study, or other inquiry that shows a correlation between an increase in library eBook lending and a drop in sales? There is raw data that exists showing how many eBook checkouts in a library region and there are sales figures showing the sales for that area. Has anyone analyzed these numbers? Who is doing the market research for these people?

Can their presumption be proven? Has it already been proven?

All I know is that limiting your market is not always the best way to expand it. If you want people to read, then you make it as widely available as you can. The placement of obstacles just stymies the average modern consumer, a person whose demand for instant gratification will just have them move on to the next thing.

This is just a nice reminder that publishers have shifted to selling a product, not a culture. I guess the latter is up to us to provide.

(h/t: Librarian in Black)

Much Ado About Publishing

OThis week (and possibly at secret locations), top officers and officials from ALA meet with publishing companies Simon & Schuster, Macmillan, Penguin, and Random House publishers  in New York City. The announcement of these meetings has moved me to a place of cautious cynicism. As much as I had previously hoped for publishers to meet with the library community, I’m sketchy as to the possible results and benefits from these gatherings. The ALA’s list of demands starts off with a demand for publishers to listen to their demands and (I love this part) “deal with libraries and […] do this as soon as possible”. I’m unsure as to the origin of this Jack Bauer sense of urgency; libraries have already missed the eBook train. (And by missed, I mean “kept off of it”.) While some might see this as a time for catching up, I’d be more interested in what it would take to catch up as well as the terms associated. More than likely, if current eBook licensing arrangements are any indication, it could have the makings of a pill that is too bitter to swallow.

Publishers, for their part, aren’t in much of a better talking position. If they are counting on brick-and-mortar stores like Barnes and Noble to be their saviors, then libraries are a natural second choice for physical locations that supply books to a population. But, since we lend materials (and lending is a codeword  for “lost sale”, no matter if a person patiently waits three months to read a book), this presents a unusual hesitance for allowing the lending eBooks to libraries. Coupled with the fact that they have “new concerns about the security of our digital editions”, this might be a starting stalemate for any meetings.

Personally, I would *love* to hear any and all explanations given to this latter point. So, a person who downloads an eBook directly from Amazon or Barnes & Nobles is not a threat, but someone who is required to installs Adobe Digital Editions, make an account with Adobe, then use their library card through the library’s website is a threat? How different is the file in these cases that makes one a problem and the other not?

Simply put, this won’t be a “Come to Jesus” moment for publishers nor will it be a breakthrough for less restrictive library eBook lending. I’d like to imagine that these meetings would be productive, but I think that the only thing they will produce are press releases about their productivity.

eBooks at Another Milestone

Between ALA Annual in New Orleans and TEDxLibrariansTO in Toronto, I feel I am missing out on two important librarian gatherings going on right now. In my perspective, the importance is in their timing in the scheme of things.

[Originally, this was one post talking about both ALA and TEDx. Upon review, I broke it out to two separate posts. You can read the other part here. -A]

For Annual, I think another eBook milepost has been reached. With the announcement of Baker & Taylor and Barnes & Noble joining forces, the offical emergence of 3M onto the eBook scene, and the announcement of a Freegal-like eBook lending service, there is a corner being turned here. Thus begins an era of different lending models and pricing schemes where librarians will be choosing which models they want and which they do not. This point cannot be stressed enough; this will be a time when librarians can pick which lending models they are comfortable with them.

My concern is that this power will be cast aside in favor of the blind “costs be damned” mantra of providing content to patrons because they demand it. Also, there is still a lack of ownership or collection control being offered from the major players. (If I recall correctly from Computers in Libraries 2011, there are companies that offer eBook ownership, but damned if I can remember which. I just know it’s not any of the major fiction groups.) There continues to be a movement towards licensing or leasing without an ownership alternative.

The idea that really concerns me is the movement towards a “buy it now” option offered next to the lending option. Would libraries see any of this money? Would we be purchasing the license for an eBook just to lose out when the patron opts to buy it when they see the length of the wait? Will libraries become another advertising platform for eBook vendors to reach customers? The idea of libraries purchasing eBook licenses on platforms that simultaneously encourage people not to use the library for borrowing but to purchase instead seems like a big loss for libraries.

While some may argue that libraries will be able to provide a means for patrons to purchase titles they like (something they can’t do with print), I would say that the current eBook lending and licensing model stacks the deck towards making a sale more so than with print books. The instant gratification of eBooks delivery lowers the bar compared to print books along with a (generally) lower price point. It provides the ingredients to easily create frustration while providing a quick and relatively cheap remedy. (“You don’t want to go through the hassle of borrowing when you can go through the ease of buying, do you?”)

My question for this kind of move is this: where does it leave libraries in their role in society? What kind of future does it offer? I’m not in complete opposition to it, but I don’t see how it furthers the core mission.

Carry On My Wayward Collection

From Library Journal:

The state librarian of Kansas, with the backing of state attorney general’s office, is planning to terminate the Kansas Digital Library Consortium’s contract with ebook vendor OverDrive and is asserting the bold argument that the consortium has purchased, not licensed, its ebook content from OverDrive and, therefore, has the right to transfer the content to a new service provider.

But wait! There’s more!

Budler said the current contract, which expires in December, required the state library to obtain permission from the publishers to transfer the content. As a result, she has sent two rounds of letters to 168 publishers (on May 16 and June 10) seeking their consent "to transfer this digital content from the current platform supplied by OverDrive to a new platform provider. It is understood that the same Digital Rights Management and the same user restrictions (one copy, one user) will be enforced by the new platform provider," the June 10 letter reads.

"I’m not sure [publishers' permission] is absolutely required but certainly we are making a good faith effort to comply with the contract’s terms," said Chanay, who assisted Budler in writing the letters.

Chanay said that at some point "it may become a bigger deal" if some publisher decided to take issue with the transfer of content.

I will eagerly await how that situation will resolves itself. Which publishers, if any, will object? And under what grounds? And what will it mean for the libraries in Kansas (or any state, for that matter) that seek to move content from one eBook provider to another in the future? I can imagine another round of fallout akin to the HarperCollins fiasco if any of the major publishing houses say no.

On its face, the article sounds like an excellent supporting argument for outright library eBook ownership. Considering the time and expense required to move purchased material by gaining permission alone, the contract hoops that the Kansas State Library is required to jump makes it a costly one. Perhaps that is part of the business plan; to make it so that changing providers is such an ordeal and undertaking that it will discourage all but the most frustrated of librarians to endure it.

My wonder is how something like this will change the language on future contracts with other states. I don’t imagine publishers allowing Overdrive to put them in this spot again.

This will be one to watch.

(h/t: LISNews)

HarperCollins and Big Tent Librarianship

Earlier today, I got some vague messages via both text and Twitter in regards to a posting by the Annoyed Librarian over on Library Journal. Generally, this is not a good sign since it can mean, well, anything from a blog whose tagline was “Whatever it is, I’m against it.” (On the day when the Movers and Shakers were formally announced, no less. Go figure.)

So, with a bit of apprehension, I went over and read the post.

After I was done, I have to admit that they made some good points. Not that I agree with all of them, but they were well reasoned and presented. It was a fair minded counterpoint argument to the Big Tent Librarianship idea within the frame of HarperCollins debate and the overall library community when it comes to what it means to talk about libraries (e.g.. saying “libraries” in most cases means “public libraries”).

Huh. That usually doesn’t happen.

My main point of contention with their post is over the illusion of separation between different types of librarians. The AL describes a roomful of representative librarians from different areas as only having a degree in common. I disagree. Give me that room of individuals and I’ll ask them the right questions. I’ll ask about budgets, user experience, customer service, the collection, and what trends are influencing their libraries. They may not have common solutions for all of these issues, but I believe that each of those issues will have commonalities that will lead to cross library type conversations. That’s the idea behind Big Tent Librarianship: that these conversations need to happen in order to find the common points between different librarians.

Within the context of HarperCollins, I cannot accept the position that academic libraries (or school or special libraries for that matter) are not going to be affected by a decision being made by one of the six largest publishers. The issue has drawn far too much attention within the publishing and library worlds to be set aside as passing conflict of limited consequences. While the books that the AL’s library are buying today are not from HarperCollins, the practices of one publishing giant can be duplicated by others within the industry. It may not be the same as limited circulation lifespan, but it could be something akin to  re-subscribing for the latest updated edition of a textbook. As licensed content, the “old” edition of the textbook disappears with only the “new” edition available for lease. I cannot imagine that this would not alter or disrupt collection development workflow or the integrity of an academic collection. The outcome of this boycott has ramifications for the future of the publisher/library eBook relationships across the board for libraries.

The most interesting point in their post concerns when people write or talk about libraries they actually mean public libraries and describing this as ‘public library privilege’. I have to say that I agree with that point. The public library tends to take center stage to the near exclusion (and sometimes detriment) of school, academic, and other kinds of libraries. I don’t really have an answer for this phenomena, only some questions/guesses. Is it the result of a ‘tyranny’ of the majority of the membership? Are public librarians the only ones who can get sufficient off-work time to do ALA activities? Is it because public libraries have a higher visibility and longer usage lifespan to individuals than other types of libraries? Are public libraries the linchpin in the overall library structure from which other libraries arise from? When are academic and school librarians going to rise up and make their own noise at this discrepancy?

In a tangent, this may turn into a defense of the term ‘libraryland’. I use the term because I see it as the overarching term that means ‘everyone’. Precisely because when I say ‘library’, I am usually talking about public libraries. Why? Because I’m a public librarian. I’m going to talk about what I know about because there are way smarter people who write about other library types. I try to inject those issues into my social media streams by sharing their posts with my followers and posting blurbs on my blog. For that reason, a term like ‘libraryland’ seems more inclusive and more encompassing to me. Perhaps it is the product of my own thought processes attempting to sort different areas of interest, but it works for me when I’m figuring out at what level an issue or topic ascends to discussion.

I will admit that I won’t pass up this chance to mention a gripe I have concerning the Annoyed Librarian blog. It can be summed up into a sentence: fix your damn RSS feed so that it shows more than a blurb in Google Reader. It’s not the only blog that does that out there, but I don’t have the same issue with other Library Journal blogs (like Roy Tennant’s). Unless the headline is something good, I’ll tend to skip over them. For the Annoyed Librarian blog, I always end up clicking that damn link since it is the library blog equivalent of disaster porn. I can’t help myself but look to find out what written train wreck awaits me when it scrolls up in my Google Reader. I wouldn’t consider this column’s content to rise to the level of car wreck (perhaps minor fender bender) but I know I can’t possibly be the only one who clicks on that link for that reason.

Weekend #hcod & #ebookrights

This article from the Wall Street Journal:

Some publishers, which are monitoring the sites closely, say they fear that making books available for loan may deter people from buying physical and digital books.

Despite an American Library Association study to the contrary, publishers believe that lending books represents a lost sale. But when you have quotes like these:

ebook sales in general are rapidly gaining on print sales. Forrester Research reports that ebook sales in the United States hit $966 million in 2010, up from $301 million the year before.

In Canada, HarperCollins says it’s seen a 500 per cent increase in ebook sales since 2009, while Random House Canada has seen a 400-percent jump. (The Province)

It’s not hard to see why they make statements like this:

We have serious concerns that our previous e-book policy, selling e-books to libraries in perpetuity, if left unchanged, would undermine the emerging e-book eco-system, hurt the growing e-book channel, place additional pressure on physical bookstores, and in the end lead to a decrease in book sales and royalties paid to authors.

Right. I have yet to see a study or statistic which proves their last point that lending (library or otherwise) leads to less buying. My understanding is that reading leads to more reading, especially when there is a favorite author involved. As evidence I offer my anecdotal experience in lending out Game of Thrones to people and seeing a number of them buy it for themselves or the sequels.

Eric Hellman has a theory about why HarperCollins put limitations on their eBook sales:

[..] HarperCollins has played a neat trick. By focusing our attention on the books that are lent many times, supposedly shortchanging the publisher and the author, HarperCollins has gotten us to overlook the 80% of books that don’t circulate much at all. Libraries pay full price for those, too, and it’s pretty clear that publishers make infinitely more money on books that don’t circulate in libraries than on books that don’t sell in bookstores!

On balance, the economic effect of libraries, in addition to those I’ve discussed before, is to shift money from very popular books to those that are less popular. It can be argued that libraries support a breadth of culture that would go away without their support. Guess who publishes those very popular books? The Big 6 publishers, of course. They pay the big advances to authors, the big coop advertising fees to bookstores, they get their authors on talk shows and their books reviewed in the Times. That takes a lot of money, but the expenditure is richly rewarded by a "vital few" or "smash hit" economy.

So here’s the cunning. By focusing on popularity-driven revenue mechanisms, HarperCollins is pushing money towards the smash hits and away from the long tail. Libraries may be adversely affected, but they’re collateral damage. It’s the long tail publishers that HarperCollins is trying to destroy.

Read his whole post. While the math makes my eyes cross (it’s not him, it’s me), I can understand the point that he is getting at. That when you have a limited budget and must consider re-buys of a popular license, you’re going to divert it away from the eBooks that do not circulate as well. That Janet Evanovich eBook will have a high enough demand to warrant a re-buy (at a lower price point: “If a library decides to repurchase an e-book later in the book’s life, the price will be significantly lower as it will be pegged to a paperback price point.”) while the midlist authors that don’t get the same demand may get squeezed out by collection development money headed towards Janet.

That makes sense to me. Personally I hope it’s not the real reason although my cynical side was doing a jig while I read it. We’ll just see how it plays out.

Ebook Reader’s Bill of Rights Interview with The Pod Delusion

This past Sunday, Sarah Houghton-Jan and I did an interview with Salim Fadhley of The Pod Delusion about the eBook Reader’s Bill of Rights. You can listen or download our interview from the link above. (It should be noted that Salim has licensed the interview under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike which is frikkin’ sweet!) We had a great chat with him about the eBook Reader’s Bill of Rights and I was very pleased in how it came out.

Before the interview, we chatted a bit about the continuing plight of libraries in England. They are still on track to close approximately 1 in 3 public libraries over there as they wrestle with government cuts.  So, just when you thought it was tough here in the States, you’re not alone in the budget struggles.

So, enjoy listening to Sarah, Salim (who has a great podcast voice) and I!

The Publisher of Tolkien Has Taken a Business Lesson from Sauron

If there is a crime here, it is that HarperCollins is guilty of attempted infanticide by their move to strangle ebook library lending in its cradle. Granted, it is the only publisher to ask for such restrictions but I’m certain the other ones are watching the outcome to this controversy very closely. Otherwise, this whole situation really turns into something out of The Godfather; it’s nothing personal, it’s just business.

The “just business” aspect is the key here, the thing I believe that people are forgetting in their rush to lament a mere easily reversible announcement. HarperCollins is a publishing business where they have owners (News Corporation, in this case) to answer to for profitability. As much as one would like to romanticize publishing, at the end of the day the amount of money made has to be greater than the amount of money spent. In moving to limit ebook circulations in order to compel libraries to buy new licenses as well as check up on who is borrowing their books (something we do anyway, but whatever), they are carving out their own path to the ebook library market and working towards what they consider to be in their best business interests. It’s nothing personal, it’s just business.

I don’t think I’m alone in this viewpoint, but I think librarians (and especially public librarians) forget that do have power in a situation like this. It’s easily overlooked but extraordinarily simple: if it’s not a good deal, don’t buy it. This absurd and juvenile notion that we have to provide everything our patrons could possibly ask for is folly and a recipe for making extremely bad business decisions of our own. In not buying products from a publisher, database provider, or other library vendor, we are voting with our money. Just don’t buy it!

We have a fiduciary duty to spend the money libraries are given in the best interests of the communities that we serve.  I think the only thing that pisses off a taxpayer more than being taxed is the idea that their money is being spent unwisely. As librarians, we pride ourselves on the Return of Investment (ROI) that libraries generate for their communities; we even go so far as to use it in our advocacy materials. Why ruin it with a bad deal that is not in our favor, not in our patrons favor, ruining a perfectly good ROI, and is, well, just plain stupid?

This goes beyond buying HarperCollins material through Overdrive. When will the fear of being caught spending money foolishly override the fear that we are not being ‘good’ librarians if we don’t provide every kind of service or material possible? Sometimes, there are deals that we just need to walk away from. This is one of those times. Because the last thing I want to hear is the people who go forward and eat this crap sandwich is lamenting how awful the taste is.

No thanks. I’m a crap free diet.

P.S. I’ve written about something like this before; it was happening in the UK.

More reading on this:

Publishing Industry Forces OverDrive and Other Library eBook Vendors to Take a Giant Step Back (Librarian by Day)

The Publisher That Kicked the Hornet’s Nest (theanalogdivide)

Friday Alert: HarperCollins in cagemathc with Macmillan to see who can alienate readers better (Dear Author)

HarperCollins Seeks to Limit Digital Lending, Access Patron Data, Generally Piss Off Readers (Smart Bitches, Trashy Books)

Congratulations HarperCollins – you just guaranteed Amazon and Kindle will win the eBook & eReader war (Literary Sluts)

HarperCollins Puts 26 Loan Cap on Ebook Circulations (Library Journal)

On eating your corn seed (Courtney Milan)

And for good measure read this:

OverDrive and the Library eBook Convenience Paradox (Go to Hellman)

HarperCollins to Libraries: we will nuke your ebooks after 26 checkouts (BoingBoing)

Library eBook Revolution, Begin (Librarian in Black)

Let’s Play Rent-A-Book! (David Lee King)

Update update: Read this brilliant take.

HarperCollins and the Suspension of eBook Disbelief (Go To Hellman)