Author Topic: The End of Libraries  (Read 99 times)

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Re: The End of Libraries
« on: January 03, 2012, 12:15:31 pm »
An Open Letter to All Living Authors (VII):

I would like to address some of my favorite people today in this, Part VII of The End of Libraries, and give you my take on what is happening in the eBook lending world, a brave new world that is as significant to the history of the printed page as the invention of movable type.

I read 93 books in 2011—78 in their entirety and at least the first 50 pages of 15 others. Midway through the year, while attending a library conference, I won both a Kindle and an iPad 2! What luck, hey?

Knowing that my public library had eBooks to loan, and being a borrower of books rather than a buyer (I can’t afford to buy 93 books a year!), I spent time and effort (too much!) learning the Overdrive interface and checked out my first eBook, When the Killing’s Done, by T.C. Boyle. The experience of reading that book on my iPad made me a dedicated eBook reader. From then on, I didn’t care if I ever held a “real” book in my hands again.

I quickly realized how fortunate I had been to find a Boyle at my library. A subsequent search for something to check out revealed nothing of interest. I maintain a list of books I want to read; it is six pages long at the moment. I checked the first 50 titles on this list in my library’s eBook collection (which it shares with 150 other libraries in my state) and found exactly none of them in the catalog. And most of the titles that were there had long waiting lists.

Desperate for eBook reading matter, and eager to see if the Kindle experience was as great as the iPad, I broke down and bought Desolation, by Yasmina Reza, one of the books on my six-page list. Though for me the iPad reading experience is superior to the Kindle (except in terms of weight), I would still prefer a Kindle edition over hard copy.

There followed a month or two of a dry spell, during which I continued to read books wastefully printed on processed dead trees and badgered my state library consortium to spend more on eBooks.

Eager to convert my wife to eBooks, I finally again broke down and purchased for the iPad the enhanced version of Rin Tin Tin by Susan Orlean. Its many pages of color photos and ten embedded videos(!) gave me a taste of the delights coming our way as eBooks mature and take on features we cannot even imagine today.

Then came the first rumblings of KOLL—Amazon’s Kindle Owner’s Lending Library—and I began to write this series on The End of Libraries. Once KOLL was announced, and since my company has an Amazon Prime membership, I immediately borrowed my first “free” book from the Lending Library, What It Is Like to Go to War, by Karl Marlantes. Karl will get a piece of a $500,000 pot from Amazon for that loan, as will all the other authors whose books are loaned during December 2011, KOLL’s first month.

KOLL began with 5,000 titles and by the end of December it had almost 70,000, the vast majority apparently coming from authors in Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) program, in which authors can self-publish their books. In order to be part of KOLL, KDP authors had to commit to a 90-day participation in the lending program and agree to give Amazon exclusive sales rights during that period to the books enrolled in KOLL. Obviously thousands of you thought it was worth the commitment. Why? I think it is because you have become aware of an exciting new fact of literary life that also occurred to me while watching the eBook world and writing this series over the past six weeks: eBooks are for lending, and anyone who can come up with a scheme to adequately compensate authors for those loans will have built the better mousetrap, and the world will beat a path to their door.

Amazon is on its way to doing that, all by itself. Monopolies are inherently undesirable, and this one also threatens the continued existence of a vital national resource: our public library network.

You are going to make a lot more money lending AND selling your books in the future than you make just selling them today. You are going to pressure your publishers to get on board with eBook lending and, if they drag their feet, you will do whatever you need to do to find your way to this enhanced revenue generator. As you do, I ask you to read the first six parts of this series (and any future parts: follow us on Twitter for announcements), consider the ill effects of monopoly and the end of public libraries, and get on board with a movement to bring an adequate eBook lending model to public libraries. I suggest one such model—the American Public Library Enterprise, or AmPLE—in Part II. Public libraries serve all 330 million Americans, not the scant few million who may be Amazon Prime customers and eligible for one KOLL checkout in each calendar month. The revenues you stand to gain which today are sitting on the table are enormous, and our public library network stands ready to bring them to you.

How to proceed? Get together with your fellow writers. Get talking. Don’t fret, the way your publisher is fretting (if you have one). A reading renaissance is at hand, knocking on our doors, ready to bring your works to the masses and masses of money to you. Don’t let this take forever, and don’t let Amazon kill libraries by bringing to a few of us what should belong to the whole world.

Believe in Yourself
Because the rest of us think you're an idiot.


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