Expert publishing blog opinions are solely those of the blogger and not necessarily endorsed by DBW.
Today, Hachette Book Group announced a major expansion in its library e-book sales policy. The American Library Association largely praised the move, though noting that pricing could be better. Anyhow, with Hachette Book Group’s change, we are now clearly entering a new phase.
Take a look at the trajectory in 2013. In January, Macmillan announced a library e-book pilot, its first-ever foray into library e-book lending. Then in March, Penguin announced an end to its embargo period—so that libraries may obtain access to e-titles at the same time as other customers. In April, Simon & Schuster, the last holdout among the Big Six, announced a pilot program based in New York City. And now as May begins, we hear about Hachette’s new library access to its full e-catalog with no embargo period.
We’ve come a long way in the past year. Now, all of the Big Six publishers are in the library e-book market in one way or another, with the momentum towards greater engagement. So it is now clearly acknowledged by them that being in libraries is good for business—and for the rest of society too. The library community welcomes this realization and looks forward to working with large publishers to ensure that publishers and libraries bring together authors and readers as effectively and efficiently as possible, consistent with the missions and operational needs of both communities.
The new phase becomes one of navigating our way to find terms that work best. Or to look at it another way, the job just became harder—at least for me. It was easier to characterize publishers with the choice line “they won’t even sell to libraries—at any price—what’s up with that??” In other words, position publishers as social villains. Focusing on contract terms will call for more complex engagement in the coming year.
The issues concerning contract terms are multiple. There is the most visible one—pricing—both the absolute level of prices (too high) and our desire for multiple entry points (several concurrent options, such as purchase/perpetual licensing as well as limited licensing models such as 26 circulations). Other issues include privacy, access to user data, accessibility for people with disabilities, archiving and preservation, and interoperability of e-book lending systems with library systems.
So, not to worry for me. I do not face imminent unemployment. There’s much more to do… and that’s only thinking about the Big Six. We’re also increasing our focus on the opportunities presented by mid-sized and smaller publishers and the rapidly growing and evolving phenomenon of self-publishing (hopefully my next post).