Friday, August 24, 2012

Suppose we win?

So here's a thought experiment. Suppose today the Executive Director of the American Library Association gets a series of calls from the CEOs of all the Big Six. "Wow, what were we thinking?" they say. "We've been looking over the research, and it's clear that libraries HELP publishers sell ebooks in all kinds of ways. Instead of trying to lock you out of the market or heaping new restrictions on you, from now on, you get things a week BEFORE street date. We have no better friend and ally than the public library when it comes to the promotion of reading!"

Oh, and another thing. "We realized we were wrong about both pricing and ownership, too. We'll give you a solid 45% discount, and you get to keep and hold your copies. What a pleasure doing business with you!"

In this scenario of total victory, what do we get? Here's my take: not enough.

Do our patrons mostly want Big Six offerings? Look at the bestseller list for the answer. But then look a little deeper. We are in a period when alternatives to those publishers are beginning to flourish. Making their harbinger appearances are the works of self-published and independently published authors.

The best outcome is NOT that the Big Six, a tiny segment of today's publishing activity, get a further lock on library resources. Simply selling us yet another format of titles we already have further erodes our purchasing power.

At this moment, amidst the greatest explosion of writing in the history of mankind, we need solutions that look considerably better than the status quo.

Here's what I want to know: What else is out there?

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