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Books Technology

The Looming Library Lending Battle 390

Posted by samzenpus
from the price-of-lending dept.
smitty777 writes "The NY Times is running a piece on the tug of war between publishers and libraries for e-book lending. In one corner are the publishers, who claim that unlimited lending of e-books 'without friction is not a sustainable business model for us.' For example, Harper Collins claims in this corporate statement that unlimited lending would lead to a decrease in royalties for both the publisher and the writers. The NYT author further states that 'To keep their overall revenue from taking a hit from lost sales to individuals, publishers need to reintroduce more inconvenience for the borrower or raise the price for the library purchaser.' Their current solution is to limit the number of readings to 26 before a book license must be renewed. In the other corner are the libraries, who are happy that e-books are luring people back to libraries, bringing with them desperately needed additional funding. With e-book sales going extremely well this year and the introduction of more capable e-readers, this debate is likely to get worse before it gets better. The Guardian also has an interesting related piece on the pricing practices of the Big Six publishers."
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The Looming Library Lending Battle

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  • by bogaboga (793279) on Sunday December 25, 2011 @06:03PM (#38490398)

    ...unlimited lending of e-books 'without friction is not a sustainable business model for us.'...

    Keyword: "friction", in this context.

    • That means the property of real books have that they degrade over time.

      I guess publishers take their words by the same place they take their business models.

      • gigapedia (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Weezul (52464) on Sunday December 25, 2011 @09:03PM (#38491206)

        I borrow my books from library.nu because they've generous lending terms.

        Authors and editors are valuable, but publishers are basically parasites nowadays.

        • Re:gigapedia (Score:4, Insightful)

          by Anonymous Coward on Sunday December 25, 2011 @10:22PM (#38491518)

          I agree with the sentiment but remember in many cases publishers pay for the editors. Unless a new business model where editors and authors share in royalties, skip publishers, and go straight into electronic distributors arises there will be a need for someone to pay editors.

          • Re:gigapedia (Score:5, Insightful)

            by forkfail (228161) on Monday December 26, 2011 @12:12AM (#38492030)

            Freelance authors need freelance editors, methinks.

          • Re:gigapedia (Score:4, Interesting)

            by Runaway1956 (1322357) on Monday December 26, 2011 @04:23AM (#38492800) Homepage Journal

            "Unless a new business model"

            Uhhh, I think that's what millions of us have been calling for in the entertainment industries. The world has changed, technology has advanced, and we're still paying for our entertainment according to some medieval scheme which supported hordes of typesetters, editors, and marketing droids. Today, half or more of an editor's job is done automagically with spell checkers, online thesuarus, and other simple tools of the trade. Typesetters? Get real - publishers haven't paid for real life typesetters in a long time. Marketing droids? I question whether they ever were necessary, but they are most certainly UNnecessary today.

            Your idea of editors and authors sharing royalties sounds reasonable. How about, author takes 60%, editor takes 30%, and the remaining ten percent is divvied up between the publishing house, marketing droids, and whoever/whatever else is actually necessary? With a scheme like that, a title could sell for about ten cents, and make a profit for everyone involved. Call it 50 cents, and almost no one could bitch.

            If dead tree copies are deemed to be necessary, then the author and the editor can sign a separate agreement with the publisher, in which those two individuals retain all their rights. The publisher is simply a separate contractor, providing a service - that of printing x number of copies, @ n.yy dollars per copy.

            As for the idea of higher prices for libraries - I could probably live with that. Charge libraries a dollar for those fifty cent books. Hell, I'll buy my books in the name of the library, and pay the dollar, then "return" the files to the library! Everyone's a winner then!

      • by forkfail (228161) on Monday December 26, 2011 @12:10AM (#38492028)

        However, 26 lends is WAY below the lifespan of a well cared for, hardbound book.

    • by symbolset (646467) * on Sunday December 25, 2011 @06:07PM (#38490428) Journal
      Friction in this context is the level of effort a library patron has to go to to get the book. Zero friction is: as soon as it occurs to them they want the book, it magically appears in their hand. Which is pretty much would unlimited library ebook lending over the Internet would be like. Since it's so much easier to borrow the ebook for free than pay for it, it's not a viable marketplace for publishers to sell books in.
      • by youn (1516637) on Sunday December 25, 2011 @06:16PM (#38490478) Homepage

        It does not really make sense as an argument... you had as much friction to go buy the book as to go rent it. I am really worried that in the digital age, the first sale doctrine is being completely obliterated. Before, you bought a book, a record, anything... you could lend it, resell it, break it even copy it for your own use as you pleased... now, bit by bit (no pun intended)... you get less and less rights on the products you buy

        • No, not really (Score:5, Informative)

          by symbolset (646467) * on Sunday December 25, 2011 @06:42PM (#38490618) Journal

          You can start here [wikipedia.org] and read up on it. It's a rather abstract concept. Publishers need a market with friction because they live on the transaction costs people buying books. In a sense, publishers are the friction.

          I don't like these guys but this is the correct assessment of the situation. Limitless free library ebooks are the death of them.

          • Re:No, not really (Score:5, Insightful)

            by blue trane (110704) on Sunday December 25, 2011 @06:56PM (#38490684) Homepage Journal

            Give them a basic income so they can concentrate on doing things that contribute to the more rapid advancement of knowledge, instead of working to impose artificial scarcity.

            • Re:No, not really (Score:5, Insightful)

              by rsilvergun (571051) on Sunday December 25, 2011 @07:25PM (#38490796)
              Bu.. Bu.. Socialism! Seriously, good luck with that. I'd love to have it, and maybe it would work in Europe, but Americans have a deeply ingrained notion that if you didn't 'work' for it, it's not yours (funny how that goes out the window when we're talking inheritance & trust funds, but double think's strong in this country...).
              • Re:No, not really (Score:5, Informative)

                by Baloroth (2370816) on Sunday December 25, 2011 @07:49PM (#38490924)
                Actually America already does precisely that in the universities for research. Historically, writers of philosophy, politics, and science have been funded that way across the world. A few literature writers as well (Tolkien and C.S. Lewis come to mind). I believe that is still pretty common. However, authors like J.K Rowling (who IMO don't contribute to the advancement of knowledge) can't succeed under such a system. Or would you propose that we should pay any writer who wants it no matter the actual contribution to society of their work? No, that system would never work because everyone wants to become the next billionaire runaway success writer. The writers themselves wouldn't agree to it: if they actually wanted to, that system is already in place (as I said: university professors do pretty much exactly that in many cases).
                • Re:No, not really (Score:5, Informative)

                  by rsilvergun (571051) on Sunday December 25, 2011 @08:10PM (#38490994)
                  Not exactly. [wikipedia.org] The idea with basic income is that you're guaranteed enough money to be comfortable (food, shelter, medical care). This frees you up to take risks (like writing for a living), because you're not risking starvation if you spend a few years writing full time. You see some of this in Canada, where socialized medicine has allowed several writers to work part time for enough to support themselves. In American you can't do that because part timers don't get medical benefits....

                  To contrast the Universities, you can't get funding unless you've got a proven track record; e.g. it's already your full time job (I'm aware there are exceptions, they are exceptions nonetheless). You can't generally transition from, say, full time accountant to full time writer that way. They won't give you the funding because, hey, you're an accountant, not a writer. Now, get a few successful books under your belt and you'll get grants, but we're not talking about the lucky few that manage to make it; we're talking about the thousands that didn't...
                • Re:No, not really (Score:5, Insightful)

                  by ubrgeek (679399) on Sunday December 25, 2011 @08:18PM (#38491022)
                  > authors like J.K Rowling (who IMO don't contribute to the advancement of knowledge)

                  Right. Because there's nothing to be gained from getting kids to enjoy reading. It's not like they'll carry that forward later into life.
                  • Re:No, not really (Score:4, Insightful)

                    by Baloroth (2370816) on Sunday December 25, 2011 @10:46PM (#38491606)
                    I've seen no indication that kids gain a love of reading anything besides more fluff books from the Harry Potter series. The distinct lack of well educated individuals in America seems to agree with that. A "love of reading" is all fine and dandy, but when it is a love of reading just Stephen King or (*shudder*) Stephanie Meyer, it doesn't carry forwards to very much. May even be counter-productive in some cases, since they grow so used to such simple works that they never move on. It's the literary equivalent of eating baby food your whole life (or, well, mac'n'cheese anyways: it's still tasty to adults, but it won't provide what you need to grow intellectually.) Now, if they read Isaac Asimov (or Mark Twain et al.) afterwards, that would be different. But they usually don't.
                    • by gbjbaanb (229885)

                      I doubt anyone's made any study of this, but children's books have been around for a long time and adults have gone on from them to more 'serious' work.

                      for example, Dr Seuss's works have been about for a long time, lots of children have read them, yet you're not seriously arguing that adults of today cannot read anything that doesn't rhyme in simple stanzas.

                      There has to be a complex ecosystem of books, suitable for everyone's level of reading ability. That means everything from the Gruffalo to Harry Potter

              • Re:No, not really (Score:5, Informative)

                by LordLimecat (1103839) on Sunday December 25, 2011 @08:38PM (#38491100)

                Serious counterpoint to your strawman:
                We have limited resources: paper to print books, time to publish them, shipping to distribute them. For ebooks, its computer time to produce them, writer's time to create them.

                Absent the capitalist system of letting the market decide which products are desirable, how do you determine which ebooks deserve to succeed? How do you determine how much to reimburse the author?

                These are the fatal flaws with hard-core socialism / communism: you have no reliable, accurate way to determine the best way to allocate resources. Figure that out, and your idea can work. Its less of an issue with ebooks since fewer resources are needed, but theres still the issue of authors expecting to be paid and the folks who digitize their work expecting to be paid in line with the worth of their product.

                • Re:No, not really (Score:5, Insightful)

                  by AmiMoJo (196126) <{ten.3dlrow} {ta} {ojom}> on Monday December 26, 2011 @05:05AM (#38492874) Homepage

                  These are the fatal flaws with hard-core socialism / communism: you have no reliable, accurate way to determine the best way to allocate resources.

                  Socialism can determine resource allocation based on fair metrics: popularity, cost/benefit to society as a whole and to the individual, democratic polling and so on. Capitalism's flaw is that it can only determine the best way to allocate resources by looking at what makes the most profit, which can be at odds with what is best for society (e.g. Fox News ot The Daily Mail/Sun newspapers).

                  Capitalism only works when socialism lays down some pretty strict rules to skew the results. When we fail to do that the result is bullshit like the Murdoch empire and the global financial meltdown. Left to itself capitalism just lurches from boom to bust and back again.

            • by quixote9 (999874) on Sunday December 25, 2011 @07:36PM (#38490860) Homepage
              Reduce the friction. Get rid of it entirely. Then count the usage levels of any given work. (Yeah, yeah, I know That's not simple, but it would be a whole lot more straightforward than the current mess.) Then pay the artists / authors / coders / whatever based on how much their work is used or enjoyed.

              Then the reduced friction would be in everyone's interest, both the users' and the creators'.

              Of course, the publishers would still go fairly extinct. Is that a problem?
              • Problem: is the amount to be paid to authors a static amount? If so, what makes you think all authors are going to agree to those terms?

          • Re:No, not really (Score:5, Informative)

            by Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) on Sunday December 25, 2011 @07:41PM (#38490888)

            I don't like these guys but this is the correct assessment of the situation. Limitless free library ebooks are the death of them.

            Except "limitless" is not the issue at stake. Almost all library e-book lending works just like physical copies - the library can only "lend out" as many copies at any one time as the library purchased in the first place. What the publishers want is to impose restrictions that are even more onerous than the real world - deleting books after a certain (small) number of check-outs.

            At best they can argue that physical books eventually wear out, but not in the same time frame these guys are trying force on ebook lending.

          • by Raenex (947668)

            Limitless free library ebooks are the death of them.

            From the article: "E-lending is not without some friction. Software ensures that only one patron can read an e-book copy at a time, and people who see a long waiting list for a certain title may decide to buy it instead."

            • by magarity (164372)

              Limitless free library ebooks are the death of them.

              From the article: "E-lending is not without some friction. Software ensures that only one patron can read an e-book copy at a time, and people who see a long waiting list for a certain title may decide to buy it instead."

              Except that it doesn't; I've borrowed a book from my library to my Kindle and then just kept the wireless turned off. I got an email that my loan had expired and it showed up again on the library's website as available. Amazon's 'manage my Kindle' page showed it as revoked from my device. But my Kindle kept it and I finished reading it. Only when I turned on the wireless connection several days after the supposed loan expiration date did it get removed from the device.

              • Except that it doesn't; I've borrowed a book from my library to my Kindle and then just kept the wireless turned off.

                There is your friction right there - if you want to "keep" that book, you can't get any more books - you can't even go online with that device. That's like a $100 wasted so you can "keep" a $5 ebook. I don't think that's really much of a risk to the market.

          • Re:No, not really (Score:5, Insightful)

            by Belial6 (794905) on Sunday December 25, 2011 @08:04PM (#38490968)
            They would have made the exact same argument if they were talking about the founding of public libraries. In 1930, how was there more 'friction' from the library than from the publisher. Answer, there wasn't. Media Barons just want to use the shift in book 'manufacturing' as an excuse to get rid of the libraries that they no doubt always thought were stealing from them.
          • Re:No, not really (Score:5, Insightful)

            by FoolishOwl (1698506) on Sunday December 25, 2011 @08:23PM (#38491044) Journal

            Professional writers are discovering that they can make far more money by self-publishing on the Internet than they can by working through a publisher, and by charging much less for their works, at that.

            See A Newbie's Guide to Publishing [blogspot.com].

            Publishing companies add nothing of value to the process, and are simply parasitic.

            • Established, successful professional writers can make more through selling directly, because they don't need to pay for promotions. If Stephen King wants to appear on the Today show, he can pick up the phone and offer them an exclusive on his new book in return for five or ten minutes out of each hour of the program. Joe Unknown doesn't have that ability. He needs the services offered by a publisher: editors who understand not only clean prose, but what will sell; marketing teams that can put together a big
              • Re:No, not really (Score:5, Interesting)

                by 0123456 (636235) on Sunday December 25, 2011 @09:26PM (#38491292)

                Joe Unknown doesn't have that ability. He needs the services offered by a publisher: editors who understand not only clean prose, but what will sell; marketing teams that can put together a big push on a book; and salesmen that can make a store take a chance on an unknown writer.

                Uh, Amazon will 'take a chance' on anyone who can upload a book to them. Most books get no marketing beyond that required to get into book stores. Most publishers expect a book to be edited before they see it so they don't have to spend time doing so.

                The average unknown writer will never sell a book to a big publisher. The average unknown writer who does sell a book will get an advance of a few thousand dollars and then be expected to do their own marketing. The average unknown writer who's capable of writing a book that would sell to a big publisher would do much better to just upload it to Amazon, Smashwords and other book retailers where they'll make most of the money rather than hand that money to the publisher instead.

                In my experience, the only people who still think publishers are required are publishers and unpublished writers.

              • by symbolset (646467) *

                In addition to providing this service the publishers act as gatekeepers - in a process that could take years and had little to do with improving the quality of published works, but saved to reduce the rate of releases (and hence, the publishers' exposure to risk). If Joe Unknown couldn't get them to publish his books, he was out of the game entirely and there was nothing he could do about it. Now many can and do just self-publish their work through an ePub distributor and can build enough of a following t

            • Re:No, not really (Score:5, Insightful)

              by Tom (822) on Sunday December 25, 2011 @09:46PM (#38491376) Homepage Journal

              Not entirely.

              I am in the process of publishing my first book (as an e-book, incidentally). I could self-publish through Amazon with ease. But I wouldn't mind someone taking care of all that busywork for me, and doing some marketing, and for his efforts take a cut.

              It depends on what exactly the publisher is doing for you that matters.

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward

        They're refering to the degradation of physical material. In library lending, books will hold up through a certain number of checkouts before they need to be repaired or replaced.

        Publishing houses are attempting to apply this same limitation of physical books to e-books in an attemp to preserve their buisness model at the expense of the larger consumer market

      • by rrohbeck (944847) on Sunday December 25, 2011 @06:28PM (#38490536)

        Zero friction is: as soon as it occurs to them they want the book, it magically appears in their hand.

        Sounds like P2P to me.
        This way of thinking worked soo well for the music industry.
        The publishers will go the way of the Dodo if they don't recognize the change of the times. Amazon shows how it's done, as usual. Hey Harper-Collins, you could have significant ebook sales too (which would make up for reduced revenue per sale) - if you wanted.

    • by Trepidity (597) <delirium-slashdot@@@hackish...org> on Sunday December 25, 2011 @06:09PM (#38490440)

      In the paper-book-lending context, I'd guess friction refers to things like the need to physically go to libraries to pick up and return books, the need to repurchase books every once in a while if they're damaged, etc. Basically anything that keeps lending from being instant and easy, which publishers are worried that ebook lending will be.

      The main fight as I see it is over whether lending should have some sort of royalty model. Traditionally there was a very decoupled one: very popular books would probably sell more copies to libraries, so sales were in a sense proportional to demand, but per copy, there was no greater charge for a book that's lent out every week versus one that sits on the shelf all year. Publishers seem to want more of a royalty model for ebooks where libraries pay by lending-person-days or per X lend-outs or something of that sort. There are some ways of structuring that that would reduce costs for libraries for some kinds of books, mainly that it'd be cheaper to stock huge long-tail catalogues that rarely get borrowed, if it's pay-per-lending or pay-per-lending-day. I'm guessing the publishers might even allow that to happen, and are mainly hoping to capitalize on best-seller titles, which are where most of the profits lie, and where they're worried library lending will cut into sales.

    • by ExecutorElassus (1202245) on Sunday December 25, 2011 @06:15PM (#38490470)
      The term which applies was coined by the excellent David Wong (whose talents are wasted writing dick jokes for cracked.com), and is FArtS (ha ha! "farts!" get it): it stands for "Forced ARTificial Scarcity."
      To be honest, there is a perfectly logical chain of events, enabled by technology which already exists, and is in wide use, which effectively eliminates printers, publishers, bookstores, all the shipping of books, and so on. If it costs nothing to make a digital copy and deliver it to my reader, why should I pay for one? The entire publishing industry hasn't figured out the answer to that question, but they're going to have to, fast. One way or another, the print media economy is going to come crashing down in the next few years, wiping out anything that hasn't adapted to the new model (whatever that is).
      Publishers know this, and they're terrified. So, they are trying to impose (force) limits (scarcity) on the distribution and use of digital media where no scarcity exists (the artificial part). That's what this "friction" is: an effort by an industry whose days are numbered to prolong - even if for just a little while, and at great inconvenience to the rest of us - the economic model upon which they depend.
      • The economic problem is not the central problem of mankind.

      • by Bucc5062 (856482)

        "Publishers know this, and they're terrified."

        So, their pissed off. My work has been outsourced twice so when my current boss talks about looking into contractors for a project, I get terrified. WHyt, because my three horses, my small farm, and my middle class living could be gone just as quick. The income to debt ratio, the income to cost ratio is vastly different between me and your so called terrified publishers.

        These guys would be pissed, because this type of model begins to take control of a market

    • by _KiTA_ (241027) on Sunday December 25, 2011 @07:40PM (#38490878) Homepage

      ...unlimited lending of e-books 'without friction is not a sustainable business model for us.'...

      Keyword: "friction", in this context.

      They want income from libraries per each book loaned. Presumably this is supposed to be similar to how deadtree books decay and must be replaced by libraries. In reality it's just a money grab from the content middlemen, same as the RIAA, MPAA, etc etc.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by aurizon (122550)

      Publishers in the UK have long had the law that book in a library can not be repaired as they wear out from the toll of circulation and other wear and tear. This is seen in the fly-leaf inscription "You must not circulate this book in any other binding or cover and you must impose this same condition on any acquirer".

      This prevents repair of worn books as well as re-purposing paperbacks into effectively hard cover books. The same law is in effect in many countries. In the USA the "First Sale" doctrine kills

  • what is next college libraries can't have textbooks that are being sold in the book store. Now e-books end being just as bad as the college book market.

  • by ptx0 (1471517) on Sunday December 25, 2011 @06:10PM (#38490452)
    Shouldn't changing dynamics of supply and demand dictate the market needs? It sounds like these companies are simply grasping at straws to hold onto the last vestige of their current position by artifically creating demand. It's bollocks, if you can't make a living as a writer then you probably shouldn't be..
    • by malkavian (9512) on Sunday December 25, 2011 @07:19PM (#38490774) Homepage

      Evolution is finely tuned, revolution is almost invariably bloody.
      What's happened with Digital is that there's been a revolution. The old establishments are fighting hard to last long enough to evolve some new method of staying in business (and employing people) and continuing.
      In the meantime, we have a fight with lawyers, as people try to hold on to the old ways (same as happened with the introduction of the printing press).
      The simple press of reality will eventually force the matter, and digital will start to be what it should (i.e. very low cost, almost zero scarcity). What's good for society at large is a slow, planned migration to this, rather than a quick scorched earth approach.
      That being said, I'm not saying "Suck it up", otherwise the extremely conservative may well get legislation in place that will effectively break progress for a long, long time.. We all have to keep fighting the abuses that are laid on by the corporations to obtain the freedoms that society needs to flourish. It's an eternal fight.
      That's life though.. Without the struggle, there's no progress.

      • by Dunbal (464142) * on Sunday December 25, 2011 @07:53PM (#38490936)
        Evolution is usually pretty bloody as well. Not surviving because you weren't the fittest usually means you end up inside another creature's stomach.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by ptx0 (1471517)
        If I hadn't posted in this thread, you'd receive mod points from me.

        I agree that we need to fight the establishment, since the people in charge almost invariably try to strip away rights to protect their own interests. If an eBook is being lent out, I think that the author deserves some sort of royalty at a fraction of the cost of the paperback/hardcove ( simply because the electronic copy costs the author a lot less capital to produce and distribute (near-$0))

        I'm at a loss as to how I should generali
      • by Xeno man (1614779)
        Define slow? 1 year? 10 years? 100 years? Who's to say that were going to fast or to slow. As markets change, businesses will rise and business will fall. Who's to say that we need to drag our heels to keep certain entities around longer because its too fast or to rip the band-aid off quickly to get it over with so we can get on with the future.

        A good example is the video rental market. To me anyway, when I was younger, my options on renting a video was to be lucky enough to find something that I might
  • Don't read (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Metricmouse (2532810) on Sunday December 25, 2011 @06:11PM (#38490458)
    "...publishers need to reintroduce more inconvenience for the borrower"... In other words don't read our books.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Grave (8234)

      "'To keep their overall revenue from taking a hit from lost sales to individuals, publishers need to reintroduce more inconvenience for the borrower or raise the price for the library purchaser."

      Anyone who genuinely believes the above is going to reduce piracy/increase profits for the publisher is an idiot. The degree of inconvenience/expense a customer will endure in order to acquire a legal copy of a product is limited. In the digital age, you cannot shutdown piracy the way you could with purely physica

  • by kurt555gs (309278) <kurt555gs AT ovi DOT com> on Sunday December 25, 2011 @06:17PM (#38490480) Homepage

    I'm sure the somewhere in the depths of SOPA, the "library problem" is being handled.

    • by mapkinase (958129) on Sunday December 25, 2011 @06:57PM (#38490688) Homepage Journal

      I lived with limited borrowing in libraries with hardcopies, I can live with limited borrowing in libraries with e-copies.

      Currently I can reserve a book, cancel it online at my county library and pick it up at any location. The waiting period for one of Songs of Ice and Ire was 200 people. Those are people like me - cheapskates who do not want to cough up any amount for a hardcopy.

      If library had unlimited number of books, I assume few people would buy the book and all just go to the library and read it.

      I think that the pricing where people should wait for a free book for a limited time is quite reasonable model.

      I do not care about a model for movies, tv and music, but books are of a different category and while I won't care if Hollywood or BMG survives, I will care about surviving of publishers and ultimately, good writers.

  • I can't really see going to the Library to get an ebook since you can just buy it online easily anyway. The point of the library used to be that the ordinary person in any given community didn't have access to very many books privately so the library made knowledge more accessible by keeping all kinds of books that anyone in the community might reasonably need: philosophy, encyclopedias, maps, science, etc etc. Building and stocking these libraries nationwide was a HUGE industry. Libraries in poor communi
    • by unrtst (777550) on Sunday December 25, 2011 @07:18PM (#38490768)

      There's really no difference so long as they adhere to the "if we only have one digital 'copy', then only one person can have it checked out via overdrive at a time". In the past, they only bought the books people actually read anyway (no library has a library of congress size collection of books, and they even sell off their old books to make room quite often).

      I'm always amazed that libraries have stayed around as long as they have; very thankful for that, but still amazed. If libraries didn't exist right now, and someone was trying to start some, I'd imagine publishers would be just as scared, even though it means a whole lot of book sales to the libraries, a handy distributed archive for free, and a bunch more potential readers (ex. people that might not have the cash on hand to buy a bunch of books now, but might later on, or even people that simply lack the physical space at home to store them).

      Forget this being bad for publishers for a second... ebooks could be very very bad for libraries in general. As long as Overdrive has the copies, there's no need for the libraries themselves (there's still a need for the money to buy the ebooks, but that could get diverted from the libraries to overdrive or similar).

      Personally, I think the requirement that ebooks only be checked out 26 (or whatever) times before they have to buy another copy is just ridiculous! I'll concede that restricting each copy to only be used by one person at a time is an understandable correlation to the current physical world, but even that is 100% arbitrarily imposed. Unless society allows things to become extremely draconian and Fahrenheit 451 -ish then, at some point, ebooks and mp3's are almost certainly going to be freely available to all (maybe after some tax to support the storage and bandwidth)... there's simply no technical reason to prevent that.

      It's the printing press all over again, and the world will adapt (er... the world at large will drag the small minority that are part of the publishing industry along kicking and screaming the whole way). If I were in print, I'd be scared too - they're going to go the way of monks handwriting bibles eventually.

      The real question is how the authors will get paid. If we did have a universal system that had all ebooks freely available, then I'd suspect all other ebook distribution would damn near stop (including giving your friend a copy of your ebook, since they could just go get it themselves for free). If that happens, then we'll have very solid stats on downloads per-title. That could be used to pay the authors. Number of music tracks owned per-person is certainly much higher now than it was in the days of LP's and tapes. Number of books owned is likely to go the same route. Thus, authors could be paid a very small amount per download of their book, and still make approximately what they make today.... we'd just have to get that money into that system somehow (tax?). This is probably a good 20years off still before it gets anywhere near that point... in the meantime, I expect a lot of fighting/kicking/screaming/drm/laws/etc from the industry.

  • by PolygamousRanchKid (1290638) on Sunday December 25, 2011 @06:39PM (#38490592)

    For folks who want to read, and maybe even, learn? What is this world coming to?

    Where's the Fahrenheit 451 Fire Department, when you need one?

    Ironically, it looks like we might see this day, since distribution of physical printed material can't be limited and controlled . . . by whoever wants to control it, for whatever reason.

    Printed books . . . they just cause trouble.

    • by Dr. Spork (142693) on Sunday December 25, 2011 @07:41PM (#38490890)

      "I'm sorry ma'am, but federal law requires that I incinerate this ebook!"

      "But... WHY?"

      "It's already been looked at 26 times."

      ?

  • Libraries (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ChiRaven (800537) on Sunday December 25, 2011 @06:39PM (#38490594) Journal
    I have yet to meet a debate in which I did not favor the side of the Libraries, if there was one.
  • by blahplusplus (757119) on Sunday December 25, 2011 @06:40PM (#38490600)

    ... doesn't like when things like lowering their income through radical technology effects them instead of workers. It's ok to look down on the poor and people who's jobs are offshored as not being 'efficient' or 'competitive' but when it happens to business models or "intellectual property" (read: Intellectual monopoly) - heaven forbid!

  • WTF am I reading? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by jtownatpunk.net (245670) on Sunday December 25, 2011 @06:40PM (#38490606)

    With the In one corner are the publishers, who claim that unlimited lending of e-books 'without friction is not a sustainable business model for us.'

    WTF is "friction"? And what is this "unlimited" thing? I don't know how the Amazon deal works but the Overdrive model allows libraries to loan a specific number of copies of each title. There's nothing "unlimited" about that. I'm patron 19 of 22 waiting for one of 3 copies of a title on my list. And what's "friction"? Do they mean I no longer have to haul my fat ass to the library to get the book? I don't have to do that buy purchase their book in ebook form, either. Seems like a pretty level playing field to me. And the artificial scarcity created by the licensing model might push me towards purchasing since I can get it right now instead of a few months from now. Is that what they call "friction"? If so, again...covered.

    Publishers, stop acting like you sell paper. You don't. You sell content. Act like it.

    • Publishers, stop acting like you sell paper. You don't. You sell content. Act like it.

      They license content. Selling implies the buyer ends up owning something. Apparently only corporate persons are allowed to own information and ideas, meat persons are only allowed to rent (ideally on a per use basis).

  • by unity100 (970058) on Sunday December 25, 2011 @06:46PM (#38490630) Homepage Journal
    Society didnt show mercy to carriage industry when automobiles came out.

    There is no reason why it should show mercy to publishing industry - carriage industry produced something even. publishing industry is just middlemen. and now, unnecessary.

    And look how they threaten new technologies and those who use new technologies - 'without friction' they say. wow. imagine it with carriage industry - if this suing frenzy bullshit had been around back at the start of 20th century, we probably wouldnt be using cars as we are using them today.

    i say fuck them. you should say so too. society's progress cannot be held hostage to the desires of a minority interest to protect its private profit.
    • by brit74 (831798) on Sunday December 25, 2011 @07:43PM (#38490898)
      > "Society didnt show mercy to carriage industry when automobiles came out."

      Can I make a suggestion that we stop using the horse and carriage versus the car analogy? It doesn't make sense. As long as you want books to read, you need people to write them. This involves work. The comparison to the "horse and buggy" is flawed because when people buy cars, they stopped needing horses and buggys, which puts them out of business. The creation of books for you to read still requires the labor of authors to write those books, which means you're essentially arguing that you've found a way to not pay the authors but you still want authors to come around and do the work.
      • by Belial6 (794905) on Sunday December 25, 2011 @09:53PM (#38491400)
        Yes. A better analogy would be comparing candles vs. the electric light. The cost of producing a candle's worth of light is so small as to be basically free. It isn't totally free, but it takes me less than one second to earn enough to pay for what a months worth of work could buy in candles 200 years ago. There are still candle makers. They just needed to find a different way to sell their wares than by trying to be the sellers of functional light.
  • by Animats (122034) on Sunday December 25, 2011 @06:47PM (#38490634) Homepage

    It's a tough time for libraries. First they had to deal with becoming homeless drop-in centers. Then they had to deal with becoming Internet cafes. Now they have to face being unable to lend books.

    The future of libraries is in question. If you don't have to go there to borrow books, what are they for?

    • Libraries are all about maintaining collections and providing a catalog that allows you to find things in addition to allowing their customers to borrow books.

      A hodgepodge of internet crap is not equivalent to a library.

      • by ShakaUVM (157947)

        >>A hodgepodge of internet crap is not equivalent to a library.

        I really wish more people would realize that.

        Only a tiny fraction of humanity's knowledge is available or accessible on the internet. I'm tired of people who can't find some reference on Wikipedia and then resoundingly claim that said fact can't be true.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday December 25, 2011 @06:48PM (#38490640)

    I'm a librarian (in Germany, though the issues here are basically the same), and I think the publishers do have a point. Two points, to be precise:

    * A digital copy of a book can be borrowed by a library customer without them having to leave their home. No need to actually get to the library, hunt for the book and then having to get it back 4 weeks later. It's all happening online. That makes borrowing digital books from library a million times easier and more comfortable, and thus make libraries far more popular again.
    * A digital copy of a book needs to be bought once, and then you'll own it for all eternity. That is, in theory, true for a physical copy of a book as well, but in practice a library has to constantly (re)buy books it already owns, whether the physical copy is starting to get old and worn or because books are being stolen/not returned, etc.

    It is not unrealistic to assume that these two points combined might result in financial losses for the publishers, and a solution for this might have to be found. The suggested 26 uses per digital copy would mean that popular titles would have to be renewed roughly every 2 years (assuming a standard borrowing time of 4 weeks). Currently, the rule of thumb is that a (physical) book should be renewed once it is older than 5 years at the latest. Not all titles are borrowed out constantly, though, so it's entirely possible that the costs for the library would not rise even with the 26-uses-per-copy rule.

    • The publishers might make less money. Cry me a river. Carrying limitations of physical goods to the digital world is pure idiocy.

      Also, your given standard assumes that nobody returns a book early. Most libraries I've used only allow you to check out a certain number of books at once, so an avid reader could return many of those books well before the due date. I have no idea how the breakdown of such readers is, but it seems like the kind of thing where something like the 80-20 rule applies (80% of ch
      • by Rich0 (548339)

        The publishers might make less money. Cry me a river.

        So, I could care less about the publisher making money per-se. What I do care about is the ability of the author and editors to make money, since they add the value to the book in the first place. There is also value added from some publishing jobs even in the electronic world (formatting, hosting, etc), though it is relatively little.

        We do need to reign in what we're spending on non-value-added functions (like being an executive at a big publishing house), and getting rid of the middle-men. On the other

    • by stephanruby (542433) on Sunday December 25, 2011 @07:35PM (#38490852)

      One additional point that hasn't been mentioned yet is that the price of an ebook usually has lower printing, inventory, and distribution costs than an actual physical book, a fact which is not usually reflected in its price. And sometimes, the ebook version can be the only copy available if the book is out of print in the real world.

      And there is also the possibility that some ebooks help drive the sales of their physical counterparts sometimes. Now, I'm not saying that this happens all the time, but in the case of very high quality books, having the electronic version of it is often not enough, and having a good electronic version can often drive one to track down a copy of the real physical book in question.

    • by future assassin (639396) on Sunday December 25, 2011 @07:37PM (#38490866) Homepage

      This would be like car manufacturers bitching about rental companies maintaining their own fleet for too long because the regular maintenance keeps the cars from falling apart too fast and keep the rental companies from buying new ones more often.

      • by ceoyoyo (59147)

        It's more like car manufacturers bitching because rental companies somehow discovered how to make their cars last forever with no maintenance required at all, and also how to instantly deliver a car to a customer's location, and get it back again, for free. If renting a car were that easy (and extremely cheap), who'd buy one?

  • by jrminter (1123885) on Sunday December 25, 2011 @06:50PM (#38490646)

    We have a local clothier with the motto, "an informed consumer is our best customer." I think this applies to publishing.

    We are witnessing a paradigm shift in the book publishing industry that rivals the previous one in music publishing. There are some hopeful signs. I think the market will produce more. Consider the changes in the Amazon Kindle service. It has grown rapidly such that now their two largest sellers are Kindle editions. Note that we can now view our content on multiple devices, view sample chapters before purchasing, and rent books. We do this after reading reviews. We see similar encouraging moves from O'Reilly such as providing DRM-free electronic copies of purchased content. Dealing with lending of resources by libraries is the next challenge. No publisher will ever release content if the public can get the content free from a small number of libraries. The parent is correct - that is not a sustainable business model. Safari Books Online is one possible model. It is still a bit pricey for my budget.

    As customers, we need to vote with our purchases. Reward vendors who provide good content at fair prices with more purchases. Use the review system to say that we think content is over-priced. At the same time, we need to have realistic expectations. We are paying for infrastructure. Storage for electronic books is not free to the publisher but is likely much less expensive than warehousing paper products. Bandwidth to distribute them and all the infrastructure for secure payment is not free, but is likely less expensive than a distribution channel for paper. Editors, graphics designers, and those who convert the author's electronic input into the proper format for the final document creation software provide valuable services. So do those who market the electronic titles to the distributors. Nobody works for free. That said, we consumers want to share in the cost savings that come from the transition from paper to digital. I think the changes in the music industry suggest that we will have vendors that can thrive when they provide value to their customers. The key will be to find a subscription service that is affordable to the consumer and makes it worthwhile for the publishers to produce and distribute the content.

  • by John Hasler (414242) on Sunday December 25, 2011 @07:29PM (#38490820) Homepage

    So why does your business model need to be sustained?

  • by hawguy (1600213) on Sunday December 25, 2011 @07:29PM (#38490822)

    They just need to make eBooks cheap enough to make it not worth a trip to the library to borrow a free eBook (I don't know if you actually do have to go to the library to borrow an eBook, but maybe you should, causing some friction to the process).

    If a eBook costs $10, then it might be worth it for me to go to the library to check it out for free.

    Lower the price to $3, and then it's not worth the trip for me. Lower it to $1 and I'll likely buy books just to try out an author, rather than staying with my normal safe choices of authors I know or recommendations.

    I've bought a lot of content from Smashwords (usually paying between $0.99 and $4.99 for an eBook). I've bought very few eBooks from Amazon - it's hard to justify paying more for an eBook than it costs to have a paper book (often used, sometimes new) mailed to me.

    • by ceoyoyo (59147)

      "to make it not worth a trip to the library to borrow a free eBook"

      Uh, yeah, that's what they're saying. You DON'T have to go to the library to borrow an eBook, and they're saying that they can't make ebooks cheap enough to compete with "click a button on your couch and get it for free." They kind of have a point. Having people have to physically go to the library to borrow an ebook would probably make publishers very happy.

    • We've borrowed eBooks for our Kindle from our library. Here's the process:

      1) Log into your library's website.
      2) Find the book you want to borrow.
      3) Click Borrow and get sent to Amazon's site where it is added into your Kindle account.
      4) Your Kindle syncs up and your book is available.

      The entire process takes under 5 minutes (depending on how long you spend searching) and you don't need to leave your house. When the book expires, it simply vanishes from your account. (Though bookmarks, notes, the page you

  • by Joe_Dragon (2206452) on Sunday December 25, 2011 @07:33PM (#38490844)

    for some time now and some how that works will there also be a digital movie and tv show push as well from the Library as well?

    • Not audio, but text files on CDs. Library already has had audio books for decades; previously on Tape, now on CDs. Using CDs would put it into the traditional role and require some physical interaction and wear.

      Sue the publishers for not providing CD versions of books; or when they try to prevent a library from scanning a physical book to CD.

  • by devent (1627873) on Monday December 26, 2011 @01:23AM (#38492272) Homepage

    And in the third corner are the consumers, who just want to read the damn books and just go to the next Torrent site, don't care about copyright anymore because the greedy cooperations have made a farce out of copyright. We just download a 200MBytes Torrent with about 100 e-books and don't give a crap.

    You know how to increase competition and profits? Just limit the copyright term back to the good old 7 years (+7 years extension). That would finally open the market, break up the monopolies we have now, and bring the entertainment industry much more profits overall.

    I really can't understand how your American people are good with it that you grand one company an unlimited monopol-right to a good. Aren't you all for pro-markets, pro-competition and anti-regulation of markets?

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