I had an interesting e-mail chat with librarylis, one of MetaFilter’s many excellent librarians, about the problems of libraries, with which she is infinitely more familiar than I, and she recommended “Reality Checks, by Andrew Richard Albanese. Albanese summarizes the discussions at a recent Media Tools of Change (TOC) conference and then provides “ten reality checks—broad observations about the web, libraries, and publishers, where there is value to be found or added, where there is danger, and, of course, where users are going.” I can’t summarize it, so I’ll just give you a snippet to whet your appetite:
Certainly, publishers are right to want their own footprint on the web. Oxford University Press’s Scholarship Online (OSO), essentially an all-inclusive database of its book content, is an example of how that can be done right in-house. There’s no shortage of vendors to help, either. Ebrary, for example, has proven itself a durable, nimble service, with a powerful, easy-to-use platform that integrates digital book content with all digital collections—a key point, librarians say. Ingram’s MyiLibrary and Lightning Source, meanwhile, are surging fulfillment and POD services—virtual warehouses for publishers—that allow publishers to squeeze money forever from their greatest asset: the backlist.
The problem with both Random House and HarperCollins, however, is that they are more interested in driving web users back to physical books than driving a new market. Only now are they “experimenting” with selling chapters online or giving away content—and those experiments seem rigged to fail. Random House, for example, is selling chapters of Chip and Dan Heath’s Made To Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die for $2.99 each—a good choice but a curious price point, given the physical book is available online for under $10. HarperCollins is offering free downloads of some titles—including a new novel by Paulo Coelho—but those editions are only available for one month, and readers can’t download them to their computers or print them.
Limiting online activities to the marketing of physical books avoids any real engagement with the future….
Thanks for the thought-provoking read, lis!