Independently Published Books and Unlimited Use eBooks
The era of library eBook lending is much closer to its end than its beginning. Of course, libraries will continue to loan eBooks in the short term, and I suppose if a winner need be declared of the library “eBook lending era” of the past two decades, it would certainly be OverDrive. But who cares about winners and losers? eBook lending always created an awkward artificial constraint on the distribution of information, ensuring it would only last as long as commercial pressures made it the only viable option.
A new phase of library eBooks is just starting, and it can go any direction libraries choose. These new and emerging opportunities are less profitable, more risky, and harder for entrenched market leaders to pursue aggressively—creating even more opportunity for an organization like DPLA to lead the way.
I am not alone in this belief that the traditional approach to library eBook lending is looking into the rear view mirror of history and that a larger eBook vision is waiting to be achieved by libraries. The new vision will not include restricting eBook access to one user at a time, nor will it include financially punitive approaches like pay-per-download. Organizations like Minitex, Califa, and RAILS are giving us a glimpse of this future today with perpetually owned, fixed-price, geolocated collections of unlimited use eBooks licensed from forward-thinking independent publishers (I will write more about this in my next blog post, but these libraries are showing the vision of Readers First is working in an amazingly effective way).
As libraries embark on implementing this grand vision, they should be taking note of Amazon’s successes in this space. Amazon understands that authors are better partners in driving innovation than large publishers. As WIRED magazine has pointed out in its article The Kindle Changed the Book Business. Can It Change Books?