Ebooks in Libraries – #BEA2013

Before I give you my two cents on this particular session, here are links to two articles that describe the session pretty well:

Panelists included:

  • Ginger Clark, Moderator – Literary Agent, Curtis Brown LTD
  • Jack Perry, Owner, 38enso Inc.
  • Maureen Sullivan, President, American Library Association (ALA)
  • Paul Aiken, Executive Director, Authors Guild
  • Steve Potash, President and CEO, Overdrive
  • Carolyn Reidy, president and CEO of Simon & Schuster

I have to admit – I didn’t really take notes for this session (but probably should have). Mostly, I just sat, listening in amazement as someone on the publisher side of things would say something silly, and then Mareen and Steve would correct that person. Then during Q&A time, the moderator would blow off questions by answering them herself, then quickly moving on to another question. It was that kind of session.

The thing that got to me the most was this: Carolyn Reidy, CEO of a huge publishing house, sounded like someone who was attempting to talk knowledgeably about ebooks in libraries … but hadn’t ever actually used a library card to download an ebook (which was kinda funny, since she was sitting right next to Steve Potash of Overdrive).

At one point, Carolyn basically said the danger of ebooks in libraries is that a customer can sit at home and download every book they ever wanted … huh? She and Paul Aiken seemed to think that’s how the library ebook check-out process works.

That’s simply wrong, of course. Steve and Maureen corrected them. As did a few people in the audience.

Carolyn also said that her publishing house was doing the ebook pilot project because … no research has ever been done about ebooks in libraries. Again, huh? Someone please introduce Carolyn to Pew Internet and their major research project on … um … ebooks in libraries. And of course, Steve mentioned that he has 10 years of data (Overdrive’s been in the ebook business for at least that long).

I heard a similar thing at last year’s Book Expo conference, too. Executives at more than one major publishing house think libraries give ebooks away to anyone who wants them, willy-nilly, and we let them keep the ebooks forever.

And … these people aren’t stupid – they are running large, successful publishing houses.

So – here’s my question. Where is the disconnect, and how can we fix this?


ebook photo by shiftstigma

  • Andromeda Yelton

    The disconnect is we don’t *talk* to each other. Few librarians go to BEA, few publishers come to ALA (outside the exhibit hall), and when we do we pretty much *definitely* don’t have beer together.

    It’s been really illuminating for me having a colleague who comes from the publishing world — someone I talk to regularly, about all sorts of things, not just in a highly artificial setting like a panel or exhibit hall. We have some very different basic assumptions, and there’s a sometimes-challenging but extremely productive dialogue in sorting through that. And the result of the different assumptions and the almost complete lack of mutual experience is we make these crazy, wrong assumptions about one another, and then interpret each others’ actions through these wrong (and sometimes, on both sides, fearful) lenses. And it just spirals.

    It’s all about the beer diplomacy. I’ve been heartened to see Maureen Sullivan engaging on this front, but it’ll take a lot more of us.

  • http://www.davidleeking.com davidleeking

    All very true, Andromeda – thanks! You’re right – Maureen does this. I wonder how we can continue getting those types of meetings to happen? I’ll have to think about that one!

  • Kara

    Organize a beer summit for the parties to meet. My thought is that the two parties write their primary “organizational” (for lack of a better word) goal down on a piece of paper and exchange goals and see if any commonality towards goals exists. Whatever commonality exists, head in that direction. Post the goals for all to see, invite the attendees to identify potential areas of commonality in the goal(s) statement, if not immediately obvious. If none exists, the parties will unfortunately continue to work at cross purposes.

    Just as a side note, as a doctoral student, I can tell you the e-book has been both a blessing and a curse from a resource for research perspective.

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