slower than molasses

January 28, 2011

this week is the Digital Book World Conference & Expo 2011.  on Wednesday, a panel of publishers convened to present “A CEO’s View of the Future.”  the panel consisted of Brian Napack, President of Macmillan, Jane Friedman, CEO of Open Road Integrated Media, David Steinberger, CEO of Perseus, Michael Hyatt, CEO of Thomas Nelson, and David Nussbam, CEO of F+W Media.

during the question and answer period of the session, Sarah Wendell, of the oft quoted Smart Bitches, Trashy Books, asked a very pertinent question (and kudos for her advocacy!):

Macmillan books are not available for digital lending in libraries. After making pronouncements about a publishers job being to unite the creators with their audience, and the importance of building a community, how can either of those things happen without library lending? I want to borrow Macmillan digital books in libraries, and I can’t – why not?

LJ summarized Napack’s answer:

Napack responded that Macmillan had “spent a long time looking for a business model” for putting Macmillan ebooks in libraries, but did not confirm when—or if—it would happen.

so while Macmillan is busy counting its money from library print sales, they’re unwilling to entertain the notion of making money off of library customers through ebook lending because of DRM and fear?!  how long is it going to take for publishers to recognize that people who borrow from the library don’t stop buying books and do much in the way of word of mouth in recommending books to others – we’ve all seen it.  Sarah passionately agrees on this point:

I find the idea of struggling with the question of a library business model absolutely barmy, because it demonstrates a lack of understanding about how libraries serve as a gateway to readers, to potential word-of-mouth sales, and to more book purchases by individuals who must own copies of books they loved. NOT having books available in the libraries for digital lending is a loss and a bad business model. Yet I don’t see Macmillan changing their position on this one.

and Jane of Dear Author put it quite succinctly in a retort to Napack:

Apparently publishers believe that the library patron is not a book buyer.  I am not sure where publishers get this idea as it is well known that publishers don’t view readers as their customers and thus have very little data on consumer spending habits.

Napack did little to change the impression that publishing is a business based on outdated models that responds too slowly to change.  i also can’t help but wonder if any librarians were at the Digital Book World Conference.

posting by marin who bids adieu to the readers of this blog – thanks for humoring my ramblings and engaging in a conversation, both online and in-person.

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