what does eminem have to do with libraries?

hello dear readers

i know what you’re thinking. it’s sunday and your dear blogger has had one glass of wine too many. that very well may true, but that is beside the point. the last few days i have been wringing my hands and gnashing my teeth because i couldn’t think of anything to blog about. sure, apple came out with an iPad 2 (check out that snazzy smart cover!!) and the motorola xoom android tablet is out. dedicated e-readers have basically taken a back seat to these new-fangled “tablets.” i mean why be stuck with a piece of equipment to just read on when i can have one that surfs the web, gets my email AND lets me play angry birds all…i…want!!

as far as the naked library was concerned, it was snoooooooozerville. schools were still experimenting, consumers wanted lower e-book prices, i already told you about overdrive and their 26 checkout limit on e-books through libraries, plus there was a new edition of angry birds i had to get.

but, lo and behold, in the midst of tons of chaff came one small stalk of wheat. and i, dear reader, dove in and retrieved it for you. hence the title of this blog.

now, i know you know who eminem is. i’m just linking to it for consistency. so what could eminem possibly have done to warrant inclusion in the annals of this blog? well, he filed a lawsuit against his record label, universal, for more money. (thanx, techdirt). YES, this is news. now, wait…before you doze off, let me explain.

the lawsuit he filed against his record company involved something that should be of interest to every library in the united states of america that is loaning e-books. DIGITAL ROYALTIES. the basis of the lawsuit stated, and i quote, “…that music sales generate a much lower rate of royalties than music licenses (for use in TV shows, commercials, etc.)—and since sales of iTunes songs are considered licenses (except whenever it’s most convenient for the record labels to claim they’re “sales”), Eminem felt he should be getting a bigger cut of the pie.”

WHAT? notice i put the word “licenses” in bold.

when i gave a presentation at the charleston conference back in november of 2011 on whether to lend e-reading devices or not, one of my key considerations for libraries to think about is that e-books are not a physical property. when you purchase an e-book, what you are really purchasing is a “license” to “view” the “electronic” version of that book. you don’t own the book any more than you own the story. it’s the equivalent of going to the movies.

apparently, the music industry was trying to slip through an intellectual property loophole of some kind of selling music in a physical format such as CDs and vinyl (huh?) vs. selling you, average consumer, the right to listen to this music.


what does this have to do with libraries and e-books you’re still asking? i don’t know. let’s replace the characters in this scenario. let’s replace eminem with dan brown and let’s replace universal with farrar straus and giroux (i just like their name) and let’s replace iTunes with google books. let’s say that dan and fsg come to an agreement about royalties for book sales. so physical books sales go through the roof at barnes & noble, borders, costco, walmart, and every indie bookstore you can think of. but those sales don’t come close to the e-books that are being downloaded on kindles and nooks and sony readers and iPads and ‘droids and available through google books …you get my drift.

artists get a lower royalty on music “sales” vs. music “licenses” (when you use music in a commercial or on broadway or little league or high school drama performances). so if dan brown’s book is downloaded to your kindle (nook,iPad,droid,etc) did you buy the book like the chick/dude at costco? or are you “watching” it like your daughter’s performance in oklahoma at genius high?

should dan expect a higher royalty cut from your kindle version than your neighbor’s costco copy? and if the courts say yes, what does that mean in terms of pricing of e-books? right now, consumers are complaining when e-books cost more than $9.99 (the artificial price point created, basically, by amazon). this is why when an e-book on amazon is priced above $9.99, amazon places the “this price was set by the publisher” disclaimer so you won’t pour your haterade on amazon.

i just thought this was a very interesting turn of events. soooo…

happy reading, no matter what the format…for now.

ps – here’s teleread’s take on the eminem ruling.

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