Libraries and publishers, a very tenuous relationship. Both institutions are vital in this book market, especially with the number of booksellers decreasing and Amazon becoming a larger book retailer, but lacking a physical space. You would think with these downfall, both libraries and publishers would be working together. Unfortunately, that is not the case. Libraries are considered the bottom of the totem pole in publishers’ eyes so they receive very little help and publicity from the publishing industry. Strange, right? Libraries are like a free marketing and promotion tool that publishers can use. So why aren’t mainstream publishers taking advantage of this opportunity?
One opinion: e-books. Publishers were never to thrill about them in the first place. Even though they are cheaper to produce, publishers don’t receive a higher return of profit compared to the return they receive from print books. When e-books raised in popularity, libraries didn’t see them as an imposition but as an opportunity. With e-books, libraries can expand literacy, library-use, and update
with the current technology all at the same time. So when libraries wanted to start to utilize e-lending, it had publishers running scared, especially when they were thinking about their bottom line. It terrified them so much, publishers put so many restrictions on their e-books given to libraries.
I am unsure if they still do this but HarperCollins places a cap on how many times a library can lend out the ebook before purchasing a new license. So after the library reaches its max, they have to purchase it again. Random House increased their pricing plan for ebooks, especially for bestsellers. Penguin (now called Penguin Random House) and Simon & Schuster have just now allowed their eBook lending program to expand to libraries nationwide, but that doesn’t mean their weren’t any battles and complications along the way. In the beginning, Simon & Schuster only limited to New York libraries and made libraries put a “buy now” button on their ebooks. All these limitations and hassle can deter readers. And when the lack of choice is removed, most will find other alternatives, usually illegal. In our case, that would mean pirated ebooks, which makes both publishers and libraries in the long run.
Another opinion for all this animosity: money. And I’m not talking about the effect of library lending of ebooks on print book sales. Someone told me that, being as I am aspiring writer, I shouldn’t really support libraries or use them because borrowing books takes away from book sales and in return takes away income from the published author. Keep in mind that this comes from an ignorant person who has never stepped foot in a library. I can’t speak for authors but all I can say is I write because I love to write. It would be great if authors were compensated greatly but getting paid handsomely is the last thing on mind. I have never heard of an author attacking libraries for taking away from their income (that’s Amazon). And if some publishers really feel that way, then maybe they should really look hard at what’s important. I understand you are a business and businesses need to make money but although widely spread, books are still a luxury, a luxury that not everyone can afford. Wouldn’t be useful to partner with an institution that provides easier access to your materials and providing publicity at the same time?
At first, I was going to call this discussion “Libraries vs. Publishers” but honestly, I think this animosity has to come to an end. If both libraries and bookstores are being threatened with extinction, how else will publishers get their books out their to the public? Publishers need libraries just as much as libraries need publishers. I just don’t think they are ready to admit that yet.