Vendors (and publishers) are missing it.
I was excited to talk to some ebook content and management vendors like Baker & Taylor 360/Blio, MackinVIA, FollettShelf, and Overdrive at PSLA this weekend, but I’m disappointed with the options they offer. (Granted, I haven’t researched Mackin thoroughly so for now they are excepted.) If I’m going to spend my budget money responsibly, I want to purchase digital content that can be transferred (with our without the DRM) to a different management platform. I am NOT willing to spend thousands of dollars on an Overdrive license AND pay exorbitant ebook prices in addition when I can’t move those ebooks to, say, Baker and Taylor’s 360/Blio platform. I would have to re-purchase the same content at the same exorbitant prices. That isn’t a responsible use of taxpayer money. So, therefore, I cannot in good conscience spend money on an ebook platform in their current pricing model. There are other viable models that authors, publishers or the vendors should be looking into. My favorite is Unglue.It.
An excellent business idea for someone techie….design an independent ebook managment platform that can handle ANY content from ANY publisher, no matter how it’s purchased. I would gladly buy direct from Capstone, Creative, Enslow, etc. but I have nowhere to easily house, search, and manage this content. It is hosted on multiple different websites. When one website goes down, my library services become unavailable and less reliable. I shouldn’t have to depend on so many outside websites to provide a single service. Either my catalog or an independent platform should be able to host everything in one place.
Now this independent platform would charge a REASONABLE annual maintenance fee. And I think most librarians would be willing to pay for it. There’s no reason to charge too much because this service won’t be dealing with publishers, DRM, or any of the other nonsense in the ebook world. They would only be managing the content, not selling it.
The vendors’ current products are half-way there. They offer the management, and some of them for a reasonable price, but the key is that they lock you into buying digital content ONLY from them. What happens when they decide to raise prices? Or what if their tech support isn’t up to scratch? As a librarian, you have no other purchasing option. It would be like using Follett Destiny circulation software and being REQUIRED to buy books from Follett only. Like I said, it’s definitely not a good use of taxpayer money to support a monopoly.
In short, the vendors are getting in the way. I can purchase content (in print or digitally) directly from the publisher with the MARC records, so why do I need a vendors? In prior years, they offered us discounts. For e-content, that’s no longer the case. So why are we bowing to their (publisher or vendor) demands? We are in control of the dollars. We decide where to spend them. As librarians, I think it’s time we voted with our budget dollars (no matter how few they may be). We need to clearly and calmly explain what we need in order to spend our dwindling budgets on e-content. Otherwise, we will be sabotaging ourselves and mismanaging the money districts and taxpayers trust us to spend efficiently and responsibly.
Here’s a reasonable list of what readers and libraries need. I don’t think it’s asking a lot. I know that the vendors are blaming the publishers. I’m calling bull on that point. Vendors can influence publishers, just like librarians. Librarians have a lot to offer publishers, whether they want to admit it or not, and I would love for vendors to help educate publishers about those perks.
P.S. – I’m looking for a blog post by a librarian blogger who outlined how checking out books from the library eventually leads to readers buying books. If you know that post, please leave it in the comments.