Greed vs. Library eBook Lending

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In the news last week it was announced that cer­tain pub­lish­ers decided that eBooks which have been sold to libraries will have a license to allow a book to be loaned 26 times before the embed­ded DRM (Dig­i­tal Rights Man­age­ment sys­tem) kicks in so the library will have to buy a new copy.

(Image Copy­right: Media Bistro)

One of the pub­lish­ers wrote an open let­ter to librar­i­ans which is, excuse the lan­guage, total bull­shit.  All the rea­son­ing in that let­ter could be refuted by the same logic which they have used. That is, there is no rhyme or rea­son, when one says some­thing which sim­ply can­not be proven, such as: “ place addi­tional pres­sure on phys­i­cal book­stores” some­one else can eas­ily claim that “Book retail­ers are miss­ing an oppor­tu­nity to unite the phys­i­cal and dig­i­tal worlds”.

Maybe they haven't heard that agency pric­ing (some of which are priced higher than the hard cover) are already being touted as the rea­son for eBook piracy.

But we won't really know until we try, right?
How­ever, we could look at sim­i­lar his­tory and the mis­takes our pre­de­ces­sors made.

Do you know what killed the music indus­try?
MP3?
No.
MP4?
Try again.
Dig­i­tal music?
Nope.
All the iGad­gets?
Yeah, right.
Thiev­ing teenagers?
You wish it was that easy.

What killed the music indus­try was greed plain and sim­ple.

Sales of CDs have fallen 50% over the last decade, that’s a huge amount – but why?

Did we fall out of love with CDs?
Were they too bulky?
Were they too expen­sive?
Yes, but still…

Wait a minute!
Yes, they were too damn expen­sive, con­sid­er­ing that the markup was unbe­liev­ably high.

At first we didn’t mind pay­ing $10-$15 for a CD (before we knew it the price was raised to $15-$20), the qual­ity was good, they didn't scratch, didn't get stuck in the player, we got a slick case, a nice book­let and the sound was much bet­ter than a tape. So we didn’t cry about the higher price (cas­sette tapes were $5-$8 or so) and the music indus­try got accus­tomed to rak­ing in huge amounts of cash – after all they could sell all of their old cat­a­logs again.

The indus­try promised “us” that CDs will get cheaper – and they did, but only to man­u­fac­ture, the labels kept the retail prices (and prof­its) high.

They shot them­selves in the foot by pulling a fraud not only on the con­sumer, but on the artists as well.

I don’t have an MBA nor am I in the book pub­lish­ing busi­ness; I’m just a lowly con­sumer who hap­pens to like a cer­tain prod­uct.
So when a sim­ple schmo from New Jer­sey real­izes that:
1) you’ll never make the amount of money you made before
and
2) you are not enti­tled to my money (be it through the wal­let or taxes)

it might be time to start think­ing about how will you sell con­sumers a prod­uct they want to buy. Not how to get con­sumers to buy a prod­uct you want to sell.
Yes, some­times that would mean fewer prof­its in the short term — but look­ing beyond the next fis­cal quar­ter might, just might, be bet­ter for the com­pany and the indus­try at large in the long run.

At these rough eco­nomic times it would be wise to sup­port not only libraries who are get­ting their bud­gets slashed left and right, but also not put obsta­cles in the way and make it more expen­sive of those who are learn­ing to read, or learn­ing to love to read.

Think of it as a long term busi­ness investment.

Zohar — Man of la Book

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