Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Libraries: Friends or Foes?

An article from today's Inside Higher Education on the relationship between libraries, publishers, and books - particularly e-books.

An interesting read. The article contains a link to a blog posting from Karen Schneider which can be found here that specifically addresses the issue of publishers dictating use to libraries. Again, very interesting stuff.

Certainly, there are parts of the publishing industry that considers libraries as bad for business - specifically, the business of making money from individuals. I don't get this at all. While there are some people out there who will buy anything written by their favorite author, I believe they are a minority compared to the people want to try a book out first, then decide whether they want to keep it permanently. Not surprisingly, a number of those people go to libraries, whether they be public or academic, in order to find those "try it out first" materials. In some cases, people will like something so much that they will go ahead and buy a copy, whether electronically or in print. In others, they decide to spend their money on something else - maybe another book, maybe something entirely different.

So while we may discourage some purchasing (more properly, we give someone the choice as to whether or not to purchase), we probably actually encourage others to purchase who might not have otherwise. That leaves out the folks who would not purchase under any circumstances. It also ignores the fact that libraries are often buying 1 - or 2, or 5, or 10 - copies (in the case of some larger public libraries) of some books to begin with.

So who exactly are we the enemies of? I don't think we are really anyone's enemies, except viewed through one particular prism. Am I missing something?

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