EBooks and Libraries Forge New Business Models

Watching the digital culture straddle traditional culture has me fascinated with the question of lending digital books in public libraries. Lately, I’ve been thinking this eBook debate is a microcosm of a larger phenomenon: one where established and beloved fields like publishing, art, music and libraries are facing a tsunami of change which thrusts new business models into being.

New E-Book Deals Pop onto the Scene
Earlier this week, Smashwords announced a deal with Califa, the California public library consortium, agreeing to sell up to 10,000 books for lending by California libraries. The biggest advocates for the deal turned out to be the authors. Of those surveyed, 82 percent believed that library access would help them sell more books; almost one quarter were willing to give their book to the library for free. Also, Penguin announced its own experiment with Brooklyn Public Library.

Mutuality matters: Lending e-Books Will Lead to Sales
For years, librarians have understood anecdotally that lending books leads to sales. A new study from Pew confirms it. Increasingly, I’m seeing mutuality as essential to successful e-business. Consider the success of Etsy, Bandcamp or Behance networks, where everyone wins. Similarly, all the players in the publishing food chain are beginning to respect their mutual stake in bridging an alliance.

The Bigger Picture
The eBook development makes you appreciate the tremendous power of the book despite a changing world. Books help people make transitions. They express human situations in ways that teach and inspire. Experience tells us that what we are what we read.

For years, I’ve watched and wondered what would be the force that would undergird the chatty, celebrity-centric cacophony of social technologies to make the experience more substantial. I’m entranced by the idea that two of the oldest fields – publishing and libraries – may be laying some stones to get us across the river into a realm that is more literate, more inspired, and frankly, just more worth our collective time.