Wednesday, February 13, 2013

One eBook to Prove Them All

I've not written much about it here, but over the past year I've been participating in the American Library Association's "Digital Content Working Group". DCWG is broken up into smaller groups focusing on specific areas. I've been working on "Business Models". At ALA's Midwinter meeting, DCWG sponsored a jam-packed symposium.

The DCWG's meetings at ALA's mid-winter and annual conferences are open for anyone to attend, and they've been covered by the library press. Our recent meeting in Seattle was covered by Library Journal's Matt Enis, and he highlighted an idea that came out of our subgroup, the "One eBook" program:
The American Library Association’s Digital Content and Libraries Working Group (DCWG) has begun exploring an idea that could help publishers better understand the powerful impact that libraries can have for their authors and their bottom line.
I've finally had a chance to write this up for American Libraries' E-Content Blog:

There’s a lot of data suggesting that exposure to books in libraries increases sales for those books. There’s also a lot of data that suggests that many publishers believe the opposite—namely, that the availability of books in libraries depresses sales, and that if libraries improve the ebook lending process, making it easier for library users to substitute loans for sales, then ebook sales will be hurt even more. 
That word “suggests” is the problem. We don’t have controlled experiments that have really measured the broad effect of the library lending of ebooks on ebook sales. ALA’s Digital Content and Libraries Working Group has been examining the situation, and we had an idea. What if libraries all around the country promoted a single ebook for a month? What if that ebook’s publisher offered a special deal so that for that one month, libraries could lend that ebook to as many patrons in their communities as possible without decimating their acquisition budgets? Once the month was over, that specially promoted library ebook deal would end. What do you think would happen?
There are a lot of details to work out of course, but we've had a lot of positive reactions. It's the practical and technical details I'm thinking about right now. For example, how can we make such a program available to as many libraries as possible, regardless of whether they are currently offering ebooks? How can we make the ebooks work on all sorts of platforms? How do we make the one-ebook ebooks expire after a month?

As if I didn't have enough to do...

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