Mr. Andrew Albanese of Publisher’s Weekly has written an informative piece about Tor’s change in library e-book sales. ReadersFirst is grateful to Mr. Albanese for a careful and fair exploration [https://www.publishersweekly.com/pw/by-topic/industry-news/libraries/article/77532-tor-scales-back-library-e-book-lending-as-part-of-test.html]
The following views are not advanced nor endorsed by Mr. Albanese, nor do they necessarily represent the views of the ReadersFirst Working Group. They are one librarian’s thoughts only.
I am deeply concerned and far from optimistic about a number of ramifications of Macmillan’s response to Publisher’s Weekly:
I am grateful that Tor/Macmillan softened its statement to say "We have been seeing an adverse impact on our e-book sales over a period of time . . . and are using this test to determine if library e-book lending is one of the contributing factors." Nevertheless, Tor/Macmillan have apparently chosen not to reconsider its “test” but rather to continue with an action that has no supporting evidence. Using us in a “test” shows an outright disregard for libraries that suggests we have been altogether too optimistic in thinking our relations with publishers are improving. While I earnestly hope that libraries and library patrons will express concern to Tor/Macmillan and to take action if Tor will not respond, I now have little hope that Tor will engage with us.
Libraries have reason to fear that Macmillan, in spite of having no plans “at the moment” to add other divisions, may expand this content widowing. And is Macmillan alone? Or will other large publishers join in, responding not to the effect of library e-book sales but to changes in the market far beyond the influence of libraries? I am willing to wager that we shall see more such changes, perhaps much before many might expect.
Mr. Albanese would certain agree on one point, for he makes it himself: a communication void does seem to be reemerging between libraries and publishers. The Digital Content Working Group (DCWG) did not fit into ALA”s long-term structure, but the need for such a group and regular meetings now seems more vital than ever.
Time will tell if these concerns are the misguided cries of a digital content Chicken Little. It is all to easy, however, to foresee an future with libraries squeezed out of the e-book market. I encourage libraries and librarians to get engaged, regain the energy that helped bring us more content years ago, and work for business models that will be fair but allow us to grow e-books beyond a boutique collection. The circulation of physical materials is generally on the decline across the county, while digital content has continued to grow. Without action on our part, will that growth continue?
Michael Blackwell, Communication and Advocacy Work Stream, ReadersFirst
Director, St. Mary’s County Library