In my last two columns I explored what I called the “mess of ebooks” and explained what I want from library ebooks. In this column I want to discuss a possible future that could be good for libraries and for publishers. Right now everything is in flux. Publishers are understandably wary of selling Digital Rights Management (DRM)-free ebooks to libraries, and the patron driven acquisition (PDA) model some libraries want might not be sustainable for publishers. Libraries are struggling to buy books at all. The library ebook market is in a state of flux. There’s opportunity in chaos, though, and the opportunity here is to create a future that’s good for everyone, from publishers to library users.
SELF-e is the partnership between Library Journal and Charleston, SC’s BiblioLabs. BiblioLab’s product, Biblioboard, is a platform that seeks to bring (among other things), self-published works into the library ecosystem. I spoke recently with Hallie Rich, Cuyahoga County Public Library’s Communications and External Relations Director, about the library’s pilot project with the platform.
Simon & Schuster (S & S) last week announced that it will no longer require libraries to offer a “buy it now” option with the publisher’s ebook titles. In theory, these buy it now links enable patrons to avoid long holds lists while ensuring that a small percentage of their purchases went to their library, rather than to an online retailer such as Amazon. However, many libraries and municipalities have policies in place prohibiting this type of arrangement, and others simply find the library-as-retailer concept objectionable or even unethical.
As part of University Press week, November 9–15, the American Association of University Presses broadcast an online panel on Collaboration in Scholarly Publishing via Google Hangouts. Moderated by Jennifer Howard, a senior reporter at the Chronicle of Higher Education, the panel featured Peter Dougherty, director of Princeton University Press; Barbara Kline Pope, AAUP president and the executive director for The National Academies Press; and Ron Chrisman, director of the University of North Texas Press.
Amazon and Hachette Book Group have ended the pricing dispute that the two have been waging since spring of 2014. On November 13 they jointly announced a multiyear agreement for ebook and print sales. The new terms will go into effect in early 2015, but Hachette has said that even before that time Amazon will restore its previous supply of Hachette titles and make them available for pre-order, as well as including them in promotions on the site.
Serialized writing has a long history, and can be hugely popular. It is said that American fans of Charles Dickens, eager to get the latest chapter of “The Old Curiosity Shop,” lined up at the docks of New York, shouting out to the crew of a ship that had not yet come to port, “Is little Nell dead?”
On October 20–21, scholarly nonprofit organization ITHAKA held its annual Sustainable Scholarship conference at New York City’s Wyndham Hotel. The event’s theme, “At the Starting Line,” echoed the concerns of many libraries, publishers, and institutions about the demands for change driven by today’s information marketplace.
In three post–Labor Day memos to Penguin Random House (PRH) staff, CEO Markus Dohle detailed the formation of the Penguin Publishing Group, consolidating all Penguin adult trade publishing (Penguin Adult and Berkley/NAL) under one roof. He named Madeline McIntosh, U.S. president and COO of PRH, to head the new entity and said that longtime Penguin president Susan Petersen Kennedy would be leaving at the end of the year.