Tuesday, November 22, 2011

petulant penguin books plays poorly with others

Penguin Pulls Out of Ebook Lending Over Piracy Concerns
(Nov. 22, 2011  Mashable)

IF they were trying to kill library lending of ebooks (and if anybody re-posts this, please include this "if" clause so I don't come off as a paranoid conspiracy theorist), this would be a great tactic -- one by one take away the participation of the major publishers, and thus the availability of the most popular books.

After all, one major reason some users don't borrow ebooks from the library is the sparse selection. But you know what, many (probably most) of those readers don't just cave in and buy the ebooks. I sure don't. I buy ebooks I would've bought anyway, and for books I'm not willing to pay for, I borrow a physical copy from the library.

Is there a chance of piracy? Of course. And some morons steal other types of free library books. But they are few because it takes an uncommonly low level of stupidity to do the work and take the risk of stealing something free. By far most people aren't even tempted.

Most of the people I see at the library checking out ebooks are fairly new to computers. Their previous experience is often limited to emailing their grandkids and looking at family pictures on Facebook. Sometimes the ebook reader (usually a gift) is their first computer experience. It's hard enough setting up the library account. They're not going to be pirating books -- or navigating warez or P2P sites -- anytime soon.

And anyway, illegal free copies of copyrighted books have been widely available online for years before public libraries started legally lending ebooks. Libraries aren't the problem.

Why would a publisher want to license ebooks to libraries? For the same reasons that for over a century they've been selling physical books to libraries:

Sales to libraries are sales, pretty much guaranteed for important and popular books, highly likely for many other books. Yes, this is a trade-off against possible sales to more individuals, but traditionally seen as a wise one, the way investors diversify and put some of their money into low-yielding but safe bonds and only some of their money into potentially high-profit but high-risk stocks.

Exposure. The loss of a few book sales can be cheap as advertising costs go. Lots of people see the books in libraries. People might be hesitant to pay to take a chance on a book they might not like, or to read a book once, but sometimes want to own a copy of a library book they've read and loved. And if they really love it, they buy extra copies as gifts.

Publishers, you're not manipulating me into buying. You're just making me dislike and greatly disrespect you, a business for which I used to have quite positive feelings.

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