26 September 2013



LUV's Digital Future

The Green Mountain Library Consortium Board met two weeks ago for one of our bimonthly
meetings and decided that we wanted to better communicate what we are and what we are trying to do, so that Vermont can move forward with the evolution of the incredible resource we offer in our digital lending library (DLL), ListenUp!Vermont, that reached almost 10,000 unique Vermont patrons last year and more than 20,000 unique Vermont patrons since its inception.

GMLC is a group of volunteers . And while we currently have enough volunteers to maintain the status quo, if we are to grow, we need to ask more of you to volunteer to help.

Building the DLL seems simple enough, just buy the content that folks want, right? Unfortunately, we also need to speak and act urgently and poignantly at this juncture on behalf of digital lending, so that libraries have a digital future. Publishers, though readers at heart, need favorable profit margins, and currently they are skeptical that teaming with libraries is the correct model for maximum sales. They're wondering if models like Oyster, a book repository similar to Netflix, might be better. Rules have been created that have changed the nature of DLL's content purchasing and lending. Here are some of the rules that DLLs are being subjected to by publishers:

  1. HarperCollins makes all of its eBooks and digital audio books available to libraries. However, as of February 2011, the publisher instituted a policy that each title must be repurchased after the 26th time it is checked out.

  1. Macmillan - Some eContent is available to libraries from this publisher. Macmillan sells digital audio titles to libraries and a selection of eBooks from their Minotaur imprint (crime fiction). However, each title must be repurchased after 24 months or 52 check-outs, whichever comes first. Popular Macmillan titles not available as eBooks through libraries are Killing Kennedy by Bill O'Reilly, The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides, and Thinking Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahnmen.

  1. Penguin Group USA - Some eContent is available to some libraries from this publisher. In February 2012, Penguin stopped selling eBooks and digital audio books to libraries. Titles that were already purchased are still available in our digital collection. In June 2012 Penguin launched a pilot to sell eBooks to the New York Public Library and Brooklyn Public Library. The titles are acquired for one year and are not available for purchase until six months after publication. The program has expanded, but Penguin titles are still not available through Overdrive. Penguin sells some digital audio titles to libraries. Popular digitally unavailable Penguin titles include The Thief by Clive Cussler, Chasing Midnight by Randy Wayne White and Cat's Claw by Susan Wittig Albert.

    * Yesterday Overdrive announced a contract to allow for distribution of Penguin titles.  The use will follow the same rules that NYPL and BPL are under. 

  1. Hatchette Publishers - Some eContent is available to libraries from this publisher. Hachette sells digital audio books and older eBook titles to libraries. New eBook titles are not available for library purchase.

Publishers create these rules for two reasons. They believe digital lending is so easy that people will stop buying books and they are afraid of digital books becoming viral the way music did on Napster. Our problem is that with these rules it becomes difficult to create a robust collection that holds our readers' attention. We can't get many of the newest books because publishers aren't making them available to DLLs for a year or two after publication. This means that the patron may have already purchased a hard bound copy or even gotten their own digital copy by the time the publisher decides to release it to DLLs. That's right, individuals can purchase digital copies, they just aren't available for DLLs. Or we must buy the book several times across its lifetime giving digital library books a very high cost. The worst case scenario is that the book just isn't available at all to DLLs. Ever! Quite simply, publishers are currently making it hard for DLLs to exist. Our job is to figure out how we can create a relationship that will allow for this amazing technology and robust collections to exist in the coming years.

How do we gain the trust of publishers? How can DLLs move forward, so that we don't become dinosaurs, merely repositories of only hard bound books? We need to assuage their fears. Let's stay optimistic. Look how well LUV is doing. Our collection is growing steadily. Usage is way up and as more patrons get reading devices the number of checkouts will surely continue to increase. We need to transparently show them what digital lending is doing to our overall circulation numbers. This is the crux of how this discussion will play out, so let's get the data and report back to them. We will find that either the publishers' fears are unsubstantiated or that their fears were correct. If libraries get a plethora of new readers and circulate hundreds of more books then we will need to find monies to compensate the publishers with. If the only change in circulation statistics is that a percentage of the hard bound checkouts goes to digital checkouts, than maybe the rules the publishers have created could be done away with.

Over the next couple of years we will see many new models for accessing digital books. Please help establish a firm foothold for DLLs. Let's be savvy enough to begin this discussion and figure out our place in the digital book world. Let' work with publishers, not against them. Publishers are people that love words. They are forever searching for books that change lives and inspire our students and ourselves. Let's work with authors, their worlds are our bread and butter. Digital lending is an awe inspiring technology that makes reading easy and natural. Let's find a way for our DLL to continue to thrive.

Please reach out to publishers, let them know your circulation statistics, both hard copy and digital lending. Let's figure out what's fair and move forward. The DLL is here. Our readers are catching on to digital lending and LUV is ready to grow and evolve.

The GMLC can use all the help we can get. Please be in touch with me if you can volunteer some time.

Thank you,

Sincerely,

Owen McDermott, GMLC Board




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