During a late panel on Monday, part of the International Digital Publishing Forum (IDPF) Digital Book 2011 conference held alongside BookExpo America, Peter Brantley of the Internet Archive (IA) spoke about the organization’s Open Library project—and a potential future “Library Option” that could provide a model for publishers to make ebooks more easily lendable.
The “Lending of Digital Books” panel—which also featured OverDrive marketing associate Dan Stasiewski—was largely geared toward introducing publishers to library ebook lending, and, as such, was mostly old hat to those in the library world. LJ readers, for example, will be familiar with the Open Library’s unique license-free ebook lending model. He even showed the Open Library page for Amanda Hocking’s Torn, noting that she and other authors, such as mystery writer J.A. Konrath, explicitly gave their consent to be part of the Open Library. (Hocking’s ebooks, as previously mentioned in LJ Insider, are currently only lendable via the Open Library.)
But there was at least one new wrinkle: IA, Brantley said, was thinking about giving publishers a “Library Option” for their ebooks—a sort of subscription plan in which a publisher would “automatically route [the Open Library] a copy of ebooks that are coming out.” IA, he said, “could compensate them on a regular basis for those titles.”
Such an automatic model could be a fast and easy way to give the public access to lendable ebooks, while also compensating publishers in a systematic way. One stumbling block, however, is that many larger publishers are averse to the Open Library’s license-free model, in which IA buys ebooks from publishers outright before lending them. Still, many small independent publishers could take them up on it.
It’s another example of how IA is thinking outside the ebook lending box—and an idea worth watching.