just sit right back and you’ll hear a tale…

…a tale of a fateful trip. that started from the publishers and then wound up in court. with a tip o’ the hat to gilligan’s island and one of the BEST tv show theme songs EVER,

hello, dear readers!

welcome to another edition of a naked library, where we ponder various and sundry topics, mostly related to libraries, always related to books (i think) and sometimes even mildly amusing.

today’s blog posting is sponsored by the letters ‘e’ as in e-book, ‘l’ as in library and ‘g’ as in greed. well, the last one, maybe, we’ll see what you think.

several stories in the news recently, and not so recently, have talked about e-book pricing with publishers conspiring with apple against consumers, and lawsuits and lawyers and courts and even the DOJ (that’s the department of justice. yes, THAT DOJ). it’s enough to wish for perry mason and a courtroom confession with nary a minute left in that hour drama.

a little background music, maestro, please.

the charge: that apple (the company, not the fruit) conspired with six book publishers to RAISE consumer e-book prices in order to fight amazon, which usually charged $9.99 per e-book. confused? i was also confused until i realized what they were trying to do. in essence, the “agency model,” agency being the publishers, would be a price range of between $12 and $14. this is the price the publishers would REQUIRE vendors to sell the titles for. so amazon (or anyone else for that matter) would be FORCED to charge what the publishers required in order to sell the book. if they didn’t agree, they would not have the right to sell that e-book. crazy, right? well, there’s been a settlement, the DOJ wins, apple and some publishers lose, promises broken, contracts broken, appeals promised.  the “dear author” blog explains this and the settlement a lot better than i can here. i think maybe the decisive blow was this quote from steve jobs, related by his biographer, walter isaacson, “We told the publishers, ‘We’ll go to the agency model, where you set the price, and we get our 30 percent.” “And, yes, the customer pays a little more, but that’s what you want anyway.”

so, what does that have to do with libraries, you’re asking?? EVERYTHING!!!! because there is a whole ‘nother side to this e-book pricing thing and it involves the same publishers, the same consumers (you and i), libraries and one other character in this cast…the middle man.

who is the middle man, you ask? gee, you ask a lot of questions. in this case, companies like overdrive and 3M.

see exhibit a: a report provided by the douglas county libraries of douglas county, colorado and specifically their director, James LaRue. Mr LaRue wanted to point out the large discrepancy between consumer e-book pricing and library e-book pricing. i found this interesting article on publishers weekly. here’s the scoop.

now, the technologically savvy readers that i know you are, you have, undoubtedly, bought e-books to read on your kindle, or nook, or iphone, or ipad, or kobo, or laptop. you get my drift. so, you also know that you probably didn’t spend more than twelve bucks or so on that book (not counting academic texts-that’s a horse of a different color). as a matter of fact, i get a little haughty when i look at buying an e-book and it’s more than $9.99. amazon has, indeed, spoiled me.

but LOOK at the pricing for libraries using overdrive or 3M. i don’t know about you, but i don’t think the 50 shades of grey trilogy would have been a bestseller if people had to pony up NINETY bucks for the privilege.

secondly, look at the items that AREN’T available. after the DOJ episode, it makes me wonder why some of these very popular titles (the hunger games!!!)  aren’t being provided in e-book format to libraries. i checked the amazon website and the hunger games trilogy, is, indeed, available in kindle format. and overdrive provides e-books in kindle format, so what gives?

whoa, whoa, whoa, wait, hold the phones, hit the brakes!! what about us, the publisher?? corporations are people, my friend! you libraries have been snookering us for years and years. you and your noble premise of free for all, and thomas jefferson and all that malarkey. you libraries buy ONE or TWO copies of a book and think you’re entitled to the world. do you know how much more we would make if every time you loaned one of our titles, we even got half the retail price? or 25%? sheesh. and what about those book sales?? libraries raking in even more money. some may say pennies, we see lost profits! way more people will download a book because it’s easy and convenient. who wants to get in their car or on the bus and go to the library?? how 20th century is that? we give and we give and we give and yet…

…and yet, and yet, and yet…

who’s right? (cue up old timey soap opera music here)

  • should libraries be able to buy a book once and share it over and over, forever and ever, amen?
  • should patrons expect their library to provide e-books no matter the cost to the library?
  • should libraries bet the farm on providing e-books regardless of how unwieldy the distribution or outrageous the cost?
  • should patrons contribute financially, maybe a couple of bucks, to get the electronic version of a book they want?
  • should libraries try to work out deals with publishers directly? but who will be responsible for the distribution mechanism that is now overdrive and 3M? the publisher? the library?
  • will martha ever get those collars starched properly? will ted finally admit he hates martha’s beef brisket? will martha finally admit she hates making ted’s favorite beef brisket? and starching his collars?

these and other questions may or may not be answered in the very near future. until then…

happy reading, no matter the format!

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