Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Publishers ask for business models and don't know what a library is

My favorite blog commentary on ALA President Maureen Sullivan's talk to the American Association of Publishers so far: this post from Agnostic Maybe. Brilliant.

First, the cartoon is funny. Most blogs don't have illustrations. Second, the points in the posting do make the humble librarian scratch his or her head. So....publishers (the big six, anyhow) want us to look forward, let go of the past! (Oh, except they also want us to preserve all their existing revenue streams.) They, the producers and distributors, want us, the consumers, to tell them how to price and deliver their products.

The request is itself unusual. Equally unusual is that they apparently don't know that we have. ALA has offered several business models.

Which ones will prevail? Here are two that won't:

* don't sell ebooks to libraries at all.

* charge three to five times the cost of print, which has higher production and distribution costs than electronic files.

And here's just a wild idea that it appears no one in publishing has considered:

* ask the authors what seems right and fair to them.

I recently conducted a focus group with local authors, and put this proposition to them:

* Would you consider DONATING a single copy of your ebook file to the library if we agree to...

* Preserve, review, recommend, and digitally display it;

* Buy an extra copy for every four people who are waiting for it;

* Put a "click here to buy" button in our catalog, with the understanding that you'll share in the revenue of the sale (say, we take 10% AND YOU GET 90%).

Guess what?

They said, "Yes."

Are we talking to the right people?

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