Archive for the ‘Rants and Raves’ Category

The mark of any good conference is how much conversation goes on about it after it is over. Last week in San Francisco, the Internet Archive hosted a conference that this year they called “Books in Browsers“. This was the second such conference held by the Internet Archive. Last year, I don’t think it had a name, but the overall effect was similar – it was nearly impossible to stop thinking about it or talking about it. On Twitter, the hash tag #BIB10 is still very active, and the mailing list Read 2.0 (also hosted by Peter Brantley of the Internet Archive) has enough fodder to keep it buzzing for the next 6 months.

There are some great accounts written about the meat of the conference by Kassia KrozserPatrick Brown, and Jeff Kaplan (and a special thanks to Eric Rumsey for pulling it all together). I encourage you all to read them.

However, the big take-away for me was about innovation in general. Leaving the conference (both years), I had a feeling similar to the one I had as a kid leaving the Year 2000 exhibit at the 1964 World’s Fair in New York. Believable fantasy was made into reality (or at least a prototype). Not everything I saw in 1964 is with us today, but some of those innovations are, and some of them took a long, hard road to get here.

For example, the video phone. It was a huge hit at the Worlds Fair, and AT&T went and built it, but the market wasn’t ready, and it failed miserably. But today, how many of us use Skype to communicate with close family over long distances? When you add in the eras of video conferencing and online meetings, you can see how this concept of communicating on multiple levels was way ahead of it’s time in 1964. But, the vision put us on a road to where we are today.

Back to #BIB10 – Many of the presentations gave me the same feeling. Some of them were BIG ideas, and others were very practical. Bob Stein’s much debated social reading platform was one of the big ideas, as was Brian O’Leary’s Unified Field Theory of Publishing. (Please allow me one quick aside – How cool is it that Bob Stein, a hero-innovator in electronic publishing is back creating controversial debate about reading?). Some ideas were innovative on a much more tangible level like Joseph Pearson’s Monocle software platform that is (it seems to Joseph’s surprise) powering several reading programs, or Kevin Franco’s transmedia demonstration. These were only some of the presentations, and I’m only citing them here for the purposes of making a point.

The good news: This all relates to the world of reading, writing, publishing, and experiencing the power of the written word.

I could write a tome on the examples of innovation I witnessed, but below are some tenants I came away with. What would you add to this list?

1. Innovation is often not a brand new idea, but one that expands upon an already given belief. (Social Reading)

2. Innovation is often a solution to the problems caused by limits of another technology. (Pandamian, Monocle, IBIS Reader)

3. Truly great innovations are often so ubiquitous that we take them for granted. (Goodreads, OLPC)

4. Broad based excitement about an innovation has a shelf life, after which the excitement is kept alive by only a few. (OPDS)

5. Innovations become great ideas only after they achieve success in their market. (Kobo).

6. Anyone can be an innovator, anyone willing to follow through on the execution of an idea. (Richard Nash)

7. Lack of mass market acceptance does not kill the innovation, it just puts it into obscurity. (Bob Stein and the original Voyager work)

8. Innovation is often not new, it’s just something happening outside our sphere of being. (Voyager Japan)

9. Innovation often isn’t sexy, but paves the way for the movement of larger ideas. (EPUB, HTML5)

10. Innovation often requires doing things for the sake of doing them, and deferring the idea of ROI. (FrancoMedia)

11. Sometimes innovation isn’t tangible, but a concept whose time has come. (Brian O’Leary’s unified field theory, Dominique Raccah‘s immersion vs. extraction reading talk)

12. Sometimes the greatest innovators are the ones who pull all the rest of them together! (Brewster, Peter)


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Graphic Novels Need Marketing Lurve Too!

Oh time, you do have some major frequent flier miles, do you not?

Seems like only yesterday I was at ABA’S Winter Institute, but in fact, it was last month. In the whirlwind of activity that is the publishing conference circuit of late, I have fallen behind on posting my posties. And, that’s a shame – because I have some good stuff for you guys.

To go back a bit – last month I was privileged to take part in Wi5 in San Jose. It was awesome. A really grand group of indie booksellers gathered together to tackle the challenges and opportunities of book selling in the 21st century. I have a few overall reflections on the event that I will share posthaste (no, I will – I will), but first  I wanted to share something that came out of Wi5, but is not necessarily related to Wi5. It’s about graphic novels.

Graphic novels have been consistently increasing in popularity for years. Break out successes such as Persepolis, Watchmen, and Stitches have continued to put the graphic novel in front of mainstream audiences (in other words, they’re not just for comic stores anymore).  But, publishers don’t seem to have caught on to this. And, that’s what this post is about. Yes, this post originated due to a panel on the subject of Graphic Novels at Wi5, but the subject itself goes beyond Wi5 to a bigger issue of the need for publishers to work with their valued intermediaries (such as indie book sellers, librarians, etc) to help get the right books to the right readers.

At this point, I will shut my pie-hole and let some indie book sellers take it from here. Enjoy:

Dan Kusunoki (on left) from Skylight Books

Dan Kusunoki from Skylight Books: My name is Dan Kusunoki. I am the assistant manager and Graphic novel/ Manga monger at Skylight Books.  I was part of the Graphic Novel panel moderated by John Shableski of Diamond Comics.

The Winter Institute was an eye opening experience for me because of one main thing:

The realization that publishers carry graphic novels but don’t market them.

The need for them is clear. The panel had a full house with booksellers coming to me and Gina from Malaprops afterward asking a myriad of questions that just one panel could not cover.  I was even giving side meetings with booksellers during the author reception and couldn’t get a copy of The Passage (Darn it!) but I was happy to see so many wanting to sell graphic novels.

However, during the rep “speed dating” session, It dawned on me that none of the reps were pushing any graphic novels. So as an experiment, I asked a simple question: ” Does your Publisher carry any graphic novels?”

Have you read the graphic novel version of the book of the movie, yet?

One actually said that there is a graphic novel adaptation of a book called “SHUTTER ISLAND” ?!?
Here is a potential crossover sale with the novel when the movie comes out, AND NOBODY IS TALKING ABOUT IT!

Oh sure, they’ll mention Stephanie Meyer’s manga in passing, but what about already existing titles that publishers either are sitting on  because they don’t know how to market them or, don’t realize they have them…

Graphic novels have been around for over 20 years and manga since World War II… And yet the courtship between graphic novels and booksellers is happening right now.

Graphic novel readers are a voracious and literary lot that are loyal to booksellers who curate and carry them.

Comics publishers still work on an ever changing collectors market and rarely backlist while Book publishers rely on backlist heavily.

This is a perfect opportunity for both publishers to reinvigorate not only the book seller market but also the ever shifting collectors comics market… These two parallel tracks  need to finally converge… A sort of symbiosis of sorts. Lets make it easier for booksellers to sell your graphic novels!!!

We need more panels for not only booksellers, but for reps as well as publishers so that we can be on the same page and make a helluva lotta money on these funny books. They will not go away. They are a fast growing market.

It’s time to really take graphic novels seriously–before the pulse ends.

If anyone has any questions on how to sell, market and curate graphic novels in their store, feel free to email me, or my partner in crime, Darren Clavadetscher, and we will be happy to help you out. The more we spread the word the better off Booksellers will be.

Thank you for your time.

Now can someone send me a galley of The Passage?

Emily Pullen from Skylight Books:

Emily Pullen from Skylight Books

Here is my 2cents (rather than Dan’s $2) worth:

Booksellers have clearly expressed an interest in Graphic Novels — every panel that the ABA has planned on the topic has been a huge success. And clearly booksellers are interested because they’ve recognized the ravenous consumer desire for graphic novels. My sense is that general trade publishers have also recognized this desire, but they aren’t putting their marketing dollars behind it and I can’t imagine why.

Maybe it has to do with the relatively recent invasion of graphic novels into general bookstores. Maybe publishers are limiting their perception of graphic novels as something that can “capture reluctant young readers” — something that is “for the kids.” Maybe it has to do with the fact that we as a culture are still learning how to talk about graphics — I sense that many publishers look at it as a format, and we really need to be looking at it as a medium unto itself.

Dan is a guru — I’m a relatively new convert. But, too, I can’t imagine why publishers wouldn’t be pushing these books more with the independent bookstore market.

-Emily Pullen
Ordering Manager
Skylight Books

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Harlequin: Taking Heat for Taking Risks?

So, news flash – the world of the traditional publishing is in chaos. The high advance/giant print run model is no longer viable, and publishers have gotten the message: change course or go out of business.

We’re all aware of this, right? I mean – not only is there a never-ending stream of articles, blog posts, and radio and television segments clamoring to tell us all about the dying industry, there’s even a blossoming mini-industry of conferences devoted to the topic – a mini-industry that appears to be quite a bit healthier than publishing itself.

Given that even the casual reader/author/consumer can’t throw a rock without running into a headline declaring the death of the traditional publishing model, I’m really perplexed at the smackdown (largely from agents, authors and aspiring authors) that Harlequin got after announcing it was going to try something different with the addition of a self publishing (aka: subsidy publishing) offering: Harlequin Horizons.

The SmartBitchesTrashyBooks blog had a great post yesterday that sums up what Harlequin’s new service is intended to be all about. Let me excerpt it for you here (but go over and read it, and read all of their posts – they write good stuff over there):

Thinking about self-publishing a book? Wondering what a publishing house really has to offer you, if you’re digitally savvy and know your XML from your epub, and already know marketing and promotion are on your shoulders?

To hell with apps: say it with me now. There’s a Harlequin for that.

Sound good? I think so. But, apparently not everyone agrees that this is a good service for Harlequin to be offering. Cries of  “author exploitation” and “reader confusion” are flooding the blogosphere. And, I don’t get it.  As a reader, it’s kind of a moot point. All disclaimers are in place, and if confusing the reader is really an issue, we’re already in trouble since there are a lot of self-published books out there doing their best to confuse us. Um, in spite of ourselves, somehow, we feeble-minded readers have still managed to find quality books (and on rare occasion we’ve even located a winning read amongst the so-called slush pile of self-published books).

I direct you to the comments of Michael Hyatt (CEO of Thomas Nelson, a well-respected publisher that is also experimenting with the offering of subsidy publishing services through their WestBow Press arm), over at agent Rachelle Gardner’s blog:

Personally, I think this is much to do about nothing. Shelf space is still at a premium. Self-published authors will not have easy access to that, any more than someone who produces a YouTube video will get their creation into a theater. I don’t think we need to worry that bookstore shelves will be flooded with substandard books.

However, if someone has a specific platform, why should the gatekeepers (me, Rachelle, and retail buyers) keep them from getting into print. Self-publishing, vanity publishing, subsidy publishing are all simply options. They aren’t right for everyone. But who should determine that? Agents? Traditional Publishers? The RWA?

The economy is changing. Technology is changing. Publishing business models are changing. We are only going to see more of this.

As a person whose professional interests lay in the continuing survival (and thereby, evolution) of storytelling in all its forms and formats – having a publisher like Harlequin (or Thomas Nelson) explore new business models that can potentially keep them financially viable, while also providing aspiring authors some options seems pretty smart. So, hearing that the Romance Writers Association, the Science Fiction Writers Association,  and the Mystery Writers Association have taken very strong positions against Harlequin’s announcement of Harlequin Horizons kind of leaves me dumbfounded. What are they so angry about (or should I say, what are they so afraid of)?

For these organizations to argue that they are looking out for the best interests of their constituency by denouncing a publisher who is exploring new publishing models is ridiculous. Are their members really so naive and lacking in business savvy that they can not be trusted to navigate and weigh all their publishing options? And, if they truly believe that their member authors really are incapable of understanding various publishing options,  shouldn’t the RWA, SFWA, and MWA be offering more information and education about the options — wouldn’t that be of more service to their constituency than across-the-board condemnation of new models?

Just how do these organizations plan on serving their author memberships when book publishers have gone completely out of business due to that pesky broken business model? Remember back in paragraph one of this post where we were talking about how the traditional publishing model is broken?  Well, I’ve been working on this post for about an hour now, and I just checked the Internets to be sure, but yup – that traditional publishing model is still broken.  So, unless the leadership and/or membership of the RWA, SFWA, and MWA have come up with their own solution to the broken publishing model, they might want to be a bit more open-minded about their definitions of publishing.

Aspiring authors, in particular, would be wise to consider their publishing goals and explore ALL their publishing options, as the first-time, unknown author is the least likely to reap any benefit from the broken model of traditional publishing. Who benefits from pushing the traditional, broken model of publishing? Pretty much no one – except maybe the writers associations who, it could be argued, are much guiltier of preying upon authors than are those publishers who offer options to the endangered traditional publishing contract. Consider this, the RWA and other writers’ associations refuse to acknowledge that publishing is changing and that the traditional model doesn’t work. They maintain the status quo in regard to their educational offerings, conferences and author support (all of these predicated on a broken publishing model) while continuing to take membership dues and conference registration fees. Not exactly providing a great service if you ask me.

Do I have any qualms or see any danger with WestBow or Harlequin Horizons? Actually, yes, I do.  I think there’s a big risk to the Thomas Nelson and Harlequin brands there — not because they are offering subsidy publishing and editorial services, but because they are outsourcing those services to Author Solutions. Why is this an issue? Quality control. Any author who publishes with WestBow or Horizons is, in actuality, publishing with Author Solutions. Harlequin and Thomas Nelson have no little or no control over what happens once that author gets turned over to ASI, so Harlequin and Thomas Nelson may be risking the reputation of their brand. If Author Solutions screws up (and this can and will happen in any number of ways – customer service, production, accounting, etc.) it’s not Author Solutions that is going to take the hit, it’s Harlequin and Thomas Nelson.

So, who is really at risk? Not authors or readers– whom I’d like to believe are capable of making decisions about how and what they publish and read, but the publishers who are trying out new models. Of course, they’re at even more risk if they don’t try anything at all, and I, for one am impressed that they are not just talking about the broken publishing model, but are trying to find solutions.  It’s sad that Harlequin’s history of author advocacy, smart business decisions, and leadership in the publishing world aren’t enough for authors (or agents) to trust them as they explore and introduce these new models.

Of course, this is just my opinion. What do you guys think? I’m all ears!!!



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Two of my non-professional book interests collided last week sort of unexpectedly.

#1: I had the opportunity last weekend to attend a seminar held by Daniel Traister, Curator of the Annenberg Rare Book and Manuscript Library at the University of Pennsylvania (my alma mater). The session was titled, “What Good is an Old Book in the Age of Google?”

#2: I ran the Scholastic Book Fair at my kids’ elementary school, not for the first time. One of the biggest aspects of the job (besides steering kids away from $5 pens!) is of course helping them select books that are a. appropriate and b. they can afford.

Here’s where the collision fits in.

During the Penn session, the attendees were treated to a glimpse of two editions of the Nuremberg Chronicle, printed in 1493, a phenomenal specimen. The book has a rich history in art and literature and much has been written about it….but what struck me was Professor Traister’s reminder that the book was never intended to be read. It was intended to be owned. It’s large, unwieldy, heavy, not particularly well-written, and the material isn’t all that exciting. But if you could afford to display it in your house? Well, then…

Fast forward 516 years to present day, where the same principles are applied (loosely) on a small scale at my book fair. Magic Tree House: $4.99 paperback. Displayed next to $11.99 hardcover of the newest book. Jan Brett’s Gingerbread Friends: hardcover, $17.99. Softcover school edition, also available, with fold-out insert: $4.99.

I understand the economics of publishing: hardcovers are more profitable. But where is the value to the consumer? How can I, in good conscience, direct any child to purchase the same product in different binding for 3 times more when the reading experience will be exactly the same (maybe better for the softcover if you consider the fold-out insert)? We didn’t. We directed kids away from the $17+ hardcovers and to the softcover editions, where they could spend the same amount of money and walk away with triple the number of books to love and enjoy.

It’s not that the $17.99 by itself is too much (that’s another debate). It’s the additional cost for the hardcover when the content is the same. Particularly–and why don’t more people say this?–when there are just too many quality books available out there.

Certain formats will always demand to be owned rather than consumed, it’s true (see this video from HarperStudio about the Art of Bookmaking). But I’d like to suggest that for most books this simply isn’t the case, especially as ebooks continue to push prices lower and there is a larger gap between the hardcover and “other format” prices. Timing, too: as the time between hardcover, paperback and ebook releases shorten, there is a greater incentive for consumers to just wait it out until the less expensive version is available. Particularly when–and why don’t more people say this!–there are just too many quality books available out there.

In many ways, the pricing model for books was established over 500 years ago, when the physical format of the book clearly denoted its worth and purpose. Though many publishers continue to experiment with formats and release schedules, now seems to be the time for publishers to veer dramatically away from the traditional process to consider at the manuscript stage: What format provides the best value for the consumer? Is it useful content, format-agnostic? Maybe best as a website or iphone app or ebook, then. Is it for entertainment and a one-time use? Perhaps the hardcover version is eliminated, or published after the paperback, as a “collector’s edition” the way DVD collections of TV shows are (ie, when the book’s saleability warrants the hardcover edition.)

Although price is set by the publisher (or retailer), value is of course determined by the consumer. It’s anecdotal, but what I hear from regular old consumers, at book fairs, shopping for birthday gifts, on the playground, is that book pricing is confusing, too expensive and even a little manipulative. In a frugal economy with an abundance of options for information consumption and entertainment, where consumers can compare prices nearly anywhere, are we getting it right for our readers?

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pretty book


Is it just me, or have you noticed that there are some bookish types who like to pit electronic against paper as if it’s an either/or proposition? And have you also noticed that more often than not, discussions about utilizing new publishing technologies, quickly become polarizing arguments where one must supposedly choose: paper or plastic? Consider, for example, the Green Apple Bookstore videos poking fun at the Kindle — funny? Yes. silly? Yes. But, many a truth is said in jest, and a lot of people seem to think digital means the demise of the paper book.

I just want to say, for the record that: e- does not stand for “evil.”

Nor does it stand for “enemy.”

For anyone intent on finding enemies of the book, they need look no further than the traditional publishing model which goes something like this: Over-saturate market with hundreds of thousands of titles printed in paper, a few of which will be blockbusters, the rest of which will be returned to publishers. Repeat (until the money runs out).

You know that place where there are lots and lots of unsold, unread paper books, and lots and lots of out-of-work book industry folks? We’re so there.


or Plastic?

So, why demonize digital when digital appears to be a really viable part of the solution? And why suggest that any one format will ever be the solution? The way I see it, the only real solution is to have many solutions all working simultaneously to make available a diversity of content, a diversity of distribution alternatives, a diversity of formats and pricing, and even a diversity of features. Oh, and paper books are a part of this many-solution solution.

This same many-solution solution is a solution where publishers print POD if conditions call for it; gigantic print runs should that make sense; and lovely gorgeous full color hardbound books with gilded edges if that’s what the market demands — Yup, all of these options are part of the solution.

Paper is fabulous. Lots of people love it. Some swear by it. Heck, some of my best friends even sell paper (@permanentpaper).

Other readers love reading on plastic, and will have it no other way. Though, even they can not agree with one another on the best format or delivery mechanism for their electronic literature.

Many of us like to read different ways at different times. Sometimes we find it most pleasurable to read paper books– all manner of paper books: board books, pop-up books, mass market, hard cover, picture books, trade paper, (why, I’ve been known to read cereal boxes and I don’t see those going e- any time soon) — and sometimes we like to read ebooks – we will read them in a car, we will read them at the bar. We will read them on a Kindle, on a nook, on our computers, on our iphones, on our Play Stations — no doubt someone somewhere right this second is reading an ebook on their television.

And that’s okay. You see, one need not eschew the hand bound letter press book in order to enjoy a digitally delivered novella via their iphone. Theoretically, we can have it all.

Consider Follow the Reader’s sponsor, NetGalley. NetGalley allows professional readers and industry folks to read the book in digital form, prior to its paper debut, thus saving the costs – both financial and envirornmental, that would otherwise be spent on printed ARCs, galleys, and BLADs. For those reviewers who prefer the printed version of an ARC, publishers can offer that via NetGalley,  as well. In this case, the e-option can work beautifully alongside the printed paper book. Everyone goes home a winner. And that’s just one example where a digital version of a book is not necessarily a substitute for a finished paper book, but offers an alternative solution for the reader’s specific needs or preferences.

So, stop worrying about the death of paper books. Digital doesn’t mean the end of paper. It just means more opportunities for more readers to read “books” in the ways that are best suited to them.  And, by the way, I know I’m far from alone in believing the form of a book should fit its purpose and/or a reader’s preferences, and that there’s room for all kinds of books to live together peacefully.

Because, a book by any other name is just as sweet.

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hotlinksCharlotte and I spend a lot of time reading about reading (and publishing, and book selling, and pretty much anything to do with books and bookishness). We also spend a lot of time on Twitter, and some of the things we come across there run the gamut from brilliant to hilarious, and often both at the same time. Point being,  we realized we simply MUST start sharing some of our online finds with you guys on a regular basis.

Hence – we’ve decided to officially  make Fridays around here,  “Follow the Reader Fridays: Featuring Hot Links and ‘Overheard on Twitter.'” That’s right – we’re curating some bookish link love and a whole lot of twitter just for you, dear readers! It’s going to be fun. Feel free to send us any cool links you’d like us to share, and retweet us with any fabulous tweets you’d like to see in this space. (This week is a little Thursday and Friday-heavy, since we just decided to do this on Thursday.)

So, with no further ado, here’s the first installment of “Follow the Reader Fridays!”

Follow the Reader Fridays: Hot Links

Macmillan issues new boilerplate contract – digital royalties lower than other big houses

BookGlutton Partners with O’Reilly for Bookstore

Fictionaut’s Jurgen Fauth on Morning Media talking about future of the literary journal

Come enjoy the Texas Book Festival this weekend downtown Austin

Free first chapter (pdf) of Masha Hamilton’s 31 Hours (I guess that’s like 1 free hour?) from Unbridled

Mark your calendars: November 11th – NYC’rs can hear about reading in a digital age with Lisa Holton and other bookish visionaries

Twitter tips compiled by Alice Pope, editor of Children’s Writer’s and Illustrator’s Market

5 Steps to Beginning a Social Media Strategy

Nominate Library World’s Movers and Shakers!

Android’s (the wireless phone – not the robot from the future)  impact on ereading

New eBook Delivery system from Libre Digital – format/device not an issue

Evolve or Die: Why Reinvent Independent Bookstores?

Read This AND That: BethAnne Patrick talks “The Children’s Book” vs. “Possession”

BookSwim Proposes: A Book Used for a Proposal Book

Halloweenie Bonus: Two Terrifyingly Booo-kish Hot Links:

10/31 Eddie Munster on Sound Authors Radio

Three Hauntingly Unforgettable Literary Houses

overheardtwitterOverheard on Twitter this Week:

@kirkbiglione: I’m full of questions today. For example, when I stop reading my Vook, do I need a Vookmark?

@glecharles: #pbv Friedman on enhanced ebooks: “I’m not interested in disrupting the reading experience; it’s sacrosanct.”

on the other hand –
@CdnPress_Arts: Kate Pullinger, Eoin Colfer say ebooks + e-readers should embrace multimedia http://bit.ly/1aq6kc

@colleenlindsay: You’ll frequently get rejections or requests for partials from me at 3:00 AM. Queries are a great way to deal with insomnia. #AllAboutAgents

@rachellegardner: Contrary to popular myth… most agents actually love writers, books and publishing. #AllAboutAgents

@jtribble: Poisoned Pen now using NetGalley: RT @NetGalley: As of today, publishers can choose 2 offer protected (DRM) OR open (DRM-free) galleys

@bookavore: Someone thought we were a bar. To be fair, the window full of books definitely makes it seem like a good place to get sloshed.

@bookavore: We’re considering a new section: The Island of Misfit Books. Yea or nay?

@susanmpls: Books R like bras. some lift you up. some offer support. some make you feel good. some R pretty. some R recced by ur doctor.

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The recent announcement about the partnership between Sony and Overdrive in the support of supplying eBook distribution for libraries has me wondering if we are on the brink of a huge power shift in publishing.

In traditional publishing models, publishers have viewed the library market as significant, but very small compared to retail outlets.  The library model is (of course) that they buy once, and lend it out for free to their patrons.  Patrons were generally a local geographic community. Publishers have never worried about retail sales being cannibalized by library borrowings.

But, now we have the eBook world, growing very rapidly, being supported by hardware and download technologies that make it easy for readers do download  and read eBooks.  Sales of eBooks in the past 2 quarters are higher than they were in the previous year before that.

Publishers are seeing this shift, and while many don’t believe that eBooks are cannibalizing print book retail sales, others are not so sure.  Amazon, with its retail power is forcing the price of eBooks into a range under $10 – and traditional publishers are already wringing their hands saying that their businesses are unsustainable at that price level.

But what happens to publisher revenues if it is as easy for a reader to go online, and download an eBook for free from their library, as it is to go on Amazon.com or barnesandnoble.com and pay $10 for it?

Where is the value to the reader to pay money for an experience you can have for free?  The way Amazon works, you can’t lend your copy of an eBook to anyone else anyway.  Since few if any people will ever see your eBook collection, do you need to keep them around after you have read them anyway?  Sometimes, perhaps, but not always.   And so what, if the book is unreadable in 60 days you probably finished it anyway? Certainly there is value if these conditions of free are not acceptable to the reader, but, for many titles, they well may be.

Additionally, library patrons no longer have geographic boundaries.  Going online, it’s just as easy for me to join a public library in California as it is in Massachusetts.

The rise of eBooks may mark a new, more powerful, era for libraries, and will probably cause a massive consolidation among them.  However, publishers will need to contend with library sales cannibalizing retail sales.  And as eBook procurement becomes easier for the reader, eBook reading will eventually cannibalize print reading.  Print books will become souvenirs of a reading experience, and may be some source of revenue, but only a pittance compared to the current print models.

I’m afraid this bodes significant challenges for all publishers, but most especially the big ones, whose massive infrastructures need to be supported.  Smaller, more nimble publishers who see themselves as author services companies, will be the only ones who can create business models that are sustainable.

The real question is: will this be good or bad for the reader?

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