Need Library E-Books to Feed Your New Gadget? Here’s the Answer, is an thought provoking article by David Rothman posted in TeleRead a few weeks ago. In it he advocates “a well-stocked national digital library system—in fact, two of them—one public, one academic.”
Obviously the number of ebook “gadgets” is growing and Mr. Rothman notes that people are increasingly using them, but he bemoans the lack of ebook availability especially for those with limited expendable income. Among the positive effects, he notes that increasing access to ebooks will improve family literacy and children’s academic achievements.
However, he points out that “publishing is a conservative industry” and he thinks that the “current business models for book publishers deserve reexamination” if any progress is to be made. He may be onto something if the figures he quotes are correct. It appears that “of the $2,700 that the average American household spends annually on entertainment… just $118 goes for books and other reading.” One would think that such depressing news would have publishers eagerly seeking new business models.
As part of the solution Mr Rothman suggests that former Congressman Tom Allen (president and CEO at the Association of American Publishers and an ex-Rhodes Scholar, as well as a Harvard Law graduate) should try and “convince publishers to spend a little less time on copyright fights with libraries, and a lot more time working with them toward well-funded national digital libraries, with, of course, fair compensation for writers, publishers and other professional content creators and in short “inspire the creation of a publisher-library complex.”
Admittedly, publishers will have legitimate questions as to how they can make a viable profit within such an arrangement but that is not a reason for discarding Mr. Rothman’s proposal outright. Its at least worth exploring. But don’t take our word for it. Checkout the article yourself.