What if publishers are the “middle men” between libraries and ebook content ?


Here’s another way of looking at the question “how can public library consortia and publishers play nicely together so that our users have free, technically simple access to ebooks?

I said in my last post that digital content makes it easy to cut out the middle men, with an instant path from supplier to consumer… and suggested that it was not attractive to publishers for libraries to be “middle men” between them and consumers.

Source: i can has cheezburger

But – What if publishers are actually disposible “middle men” between library users and content producers ?

What if we can provide a “try before you buy” distribution channel that benefits authors?

What if we guaranteed eyeballs, clickthroughs and a supportive reading culture directly to authors?

What if authors directly supplied “pay to own” ebook downloads to consumers, while libraries paid authors for temporary access copies for our users?

What if the role of library consortia, set up to provide ebook access,  was partly to support authors  with skills, training, facilities, standardised and open formatting and distribution channels?

What if instead of paying publishers, we dealt directly with authors ?

What if instead of trying to persuade publishers to play nicely with us, we turned to our users and asked them to fund us to help directly support authors – or other digital content creators?

Naive crazytalk maybe. 🙂

6 thoughts on “What if publishers are the “middle men” between libraries and ebook content ?

  1. Just wondering if any discussion around Public Lending Right in relation to ebooks? I haven’t heard any debate but your post raises this for me

  2. This isn’t directly related to your last two posts, but my concern about ebooks isn’t the rights so much as the devices. I, and many others, think of libraries as a great equalizer. Many borrow items from libraries because they can’t afford to buy them.
    Do we assume people who can’t afford to buy books are going to purchase ebook readers to borrow ebooks? Although prices will most likely come down, it’s an expense, especially when you consider a family who would have to buy several for a household of readers, or else take turns…

  3. Great posts, Kathryn. You’ve summed up some of my worry about ebooks and pose some great questions.

    Your questions above assume that publishers’ only function is to sell content to libraries, but they do many other things, including selling content to bookstores and other retail outlets, and providing a distribution and support infrastructure for authors. I didn’t really think about this before reading Cory Doctorow’s commentary about his publishers. The evil here (I’ll get over my hesitation in using that word; thanks, BP) is that the publishing industry is just one more industry motivated by its bottom line. If the companies were somehow sustained by doing good in the world, ebook models for libraries would have been the first to roll out. I know I’m coming off as overly cynical, but as long as libraries are seen as “markets” rather than institutions working for the public good, there is little hope of overturning DRM and the ridiculous lack of interoperability in today’s electronic content and devices.

    I love the hope suggested by the scenario you outline, though. Naive crazytalk? Nah… Envisioning a better future is the first step to making one. Libraries forever! Or as you’d say, “Lie-brees forever!” 😀

  4. Oh hang on, I’m wrong. Aren’t distributors in between publishers and libraries or retailers? How are they contributing to this problem, and how could they advocate for change? Thinking about how we buy from Blackwell, who buys from publishers, including ebrary and NetLibrary, but not from My iLibrary (worst name EVAR).

  5. Definitely interesting points, and some that I do think can be implemented. Depending on the type of book. By cutting out the publisher, and dealing directly with the author, you are in essence dealing with a self-publishing entity. Not a bad deal for some authors, not a good idea for others. As a published author, one of the things I rely on my publisher for is my editor. While I edit the books and stories myself, I’m far from a great self-editor. Also, my editor has the experience of working with other stories similar to mine to spot where the holes in my story may be and helps me make a more satisfactory product for my readers. This is me though, and one of my reasons why to participate in fairly traditional publishing models. The niche markets which do well in micro- and self-publishing would probably benefit greatly by a direct to libraries model.

    Cindy also brings up a good point with the distributors who exist between libraries and publishers. I would really like to see talks open up between publishers/content producers and libraries on how to streamline the stream of access for ebooks.

What do you think? Let us know.