Solving the Digital Loan Problem: Can Library Lending of eBooks be a Win-Win for Publishers and libraries?
Ruth Liebmann, Random House, Micah Bowers, BlueFire Reader, Katie Dunneback, Librarian and Consultant
Katie set the stage with a broad introduction to libraries. The people inside give the libraries meaning. Libraries develop relationships with their customers and advise on books to read (readers advisory). Libraries are discovery centers through the readers advisory services. Libraries are where individuals experiment with new formats at low investment. Libraries can help save the reader time. Katie suggested ways that publishers can benefit from libraries, particularly by introducing slicker DRM and using the sills of MLS librarians who know cataloging and metadata. Katie then demonstrated a 21 step process to download a public library ebook and download it to an eReader device. Katie walked us through the readers advisory process, describing how she interviews patrons on their likes/dislikes of an author and recommend similar authors/series. She also discusses eReaders with patrons and provided us with a list of eReader topics that she discussed with 2 patrons the previous week. Topics included: price, lighting, territorial rights, covers, library access, etc.
Micah is intimately familiar with the problems of the 21 step download process for library ebooks. He is looking for ways to make things easier. As the technology develops, things are getting easier but it is slower than most would like. Why Bluefire Reader? They saw a need to create apps for easier download of library books. He’d like to see lots and lots of applications developed that have a direct relationship with the consumer and support the library. Micah is still working on ways to make the process easier through BlueFire, they aren’t finished yet. Librarians have such expertise and need to be brought into the conversation of eBooks.
Ruth – We are always looking for ways to make the reading experience better for end-users. Their mission is to have books available in libraries at the same time/format the are available in retail. Libraries have economic power in the supply chain. Libraries are in the same ball park as independent book sellers. They see the library book as a sale, not competing with a sale. Ruth feels one of the greatest places to get a recommendation on a book is from a library.
An audience member asked Ruth if selling Random House titles to libraries was influencing sales, meaning less sales, since her company was reluctant to contract titles with OverDrive for library download for fear of less sales. The discussion ensued about patrons wanting immediacy and if a library has a waiting list, this might constitute a sale. Additionally, libraries role as readers advisors can assist with sales. Ruth at Random House didn’t have a firm answer about the impact of library sales on publisher sales, but supported their position to have titles available at retail/libraries at the same time.