April 27, 2017
Today’s PW Daily had a link to a Guardian article titled “How eBooks Lost Their Shine: Kindles Now Look Clunky and Unhip,” which presents the case for the idea that, far from bulldozing traditional print books into the dust, ebooks have lost sales in the recent couple of years and are settling into a certain specific use and marketing niche while the book itself as an object has become more appreciated. One of the interesting points is the preference of teens for print when reading actual books, in part because of digital technology’s tendency to distract the reader with the draw of other digital forms of entertainment and interaction. This article talks about the UK’s situation, but the New York Times in late 2015 published an article, “The Plot Twist: E-Book Sales Slip, and Print Is Far From Dead” noting the same phenomena already developing here as well.
There is a rebutting argument, however, taking notice that all of this is focused on sales by publishers as reported to the Association of American Publishers, which these days hardly covers the entire ebook market. Robert Springer in an article on the site EContent, clearly lays out the opposite case, quoting Smashwords CEO and Founder Mark Coker
Amazon’s virtual stranglehold on ebook sales is another reason that subscription services are struggling. The ecommerce giant controls “something north” of 70% of the ebook market, says Mark Coker, the founder and CEO of Smashwords, a company that helps authors and publishers distribute ebooks. For $9.99 a month, Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited program allows ebook readers to choose from more than 1 million ebooks.
So, ebooks sales of content by traditional publishers are settling if not outright declining, but “independent” author content sold by Amazon on the cheap represents a large segment of the ebook market, which Coker estimates at already 10-20% of the total book market. Coker presented a program on this topic last summer at BEA, which I attended. The Smashwords founder was critical of both traditional publishers (for not adapting effectively to the new situation) and of Amazon for habituating readers to the idea that books should be virtually free, for promoting quantity over quality, and for rigidly exclusive contracts with ebook independent authors (as part of the KDP Select program).
Smashwords incidentally, is the one indie title source that provides ebook content to OverDrive for us to lend. Still, the traditional publishers, while they seem to have succeeded in pulling back some of their own business to print, are the main drivers of our customers’ electronic borrowing, especially in the sharply increasing eaudio market but with respect to ebooks as well. Sno-Isle’s OverDrive statistics showed over 130,000 checkouts last month, for instance, compared to less than 70,000 in April 2015. Perhaps would-be buyers of some published ebooks are choosing to borrow them from their libraries instead?
March 1, 2016
This controversy is so much more involved and multi-faceted (and I think important to learn about and discuss!) than I appreciated earlier. As more read ebooks on smartphones, the issue of how far companies are obligated to go to assist law enforcement in bypassing their own privacy and security features will be of interest to many. Regardless of your take (if you have one), I just wanted to point out the relevant ALA press release and another very well-linked blog post from the Center for the Future of Libraries (also on the ALA website) covering many of the issues and positions.
NPR also has an article with very clear FAQ style explanation and background.
February 21, 2013
This week, Library Journal’s Barbara Hoffert analyzes trends in circulation and budgets of public libraries. This is a survey of 175 libraries who responded to questions sent out to Library Journal subscribers. Here is the link:
Among those reporting, 65% of circulation was fiction vs non-ficion. The top fiction genres were mystery, general, romance, and thriller; while non-fiction’s most popular subject areas were cooking, health, how-to, and arts/crafts. No big surprises there.
More revealing, perhaps, are the discussions of eBooks, self-publishing, apps, and social media marketing opportunities. One particularly interesting fact: eBook circulation was still only 3% of the total but grew close to 70% among libraries serving over 250,000 residents.
This information paints a panoramic backdrop against which we can highlight our own data from Collection HQ and other sources.
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.
January 19, 2011
at the end of last year, Amazon announced Kindle lending which is similar to nook lending:
Eligible Kindle books can be loaned once for a period of 14 days. The borrower does not need to own a Kindle — Kindle books can also be read using our free Kindle reading applications for PC, Mac, iPad, iPhone, BlackBerry, and Android devices. Not all books are lendable — it is up to the publisher or rights holder to determine which titles are eligible for lending. The lender will not be able to read the book during the loan period.
of course, it didn’t take long for strangers to create their own facebook lending library for Kindle copies (via GalleyCat) with an active good reads counterpart (via Dear Author) and a web site dedicated to Kindle Lending (via lifehacker). but as Jane on Dear Author points out, Kindle lending is quite restrictive (link to handy chart comparing Kindle and nook lending, as well as a list of participating publishers); lending is determined by the publishers or rights holder (see above verbage from Amazon) who aren’t likely to jump on this band wagon.
in fact, it should come as no surprise that in the last few weeks, it appears that the number of lendable titles on the nook is decreasing. again, Jane from Dear Author:
Apparently publishers really don’t like digital lending even though they want to keep charging us print prices without giving digital readers corresponding print rights for the digital books. In other words, charge the consumer the same price but don’t allow her to trade, resell, or loan the book out.
oh publishers, when will you learn?! when did lending become a bad word? haven’t publishers made big money from library budgets for years?
at least from a device perspective, Barnes & Noble and the nook are willing to play with libraries and allow lending via that route, small victories.
posting by marin