I noticed today on Galley Cat a notice that the web business Overdrive reports a 76% increase in downloads by library patrons. Overdrive makes available 50,000 books and 10,000 e-books to owners of iPods, Zune, or other electronic devices.

My question is: why would anyone spend money on an electronic book (or a print book) if they can download it for free without the customary waiting period that affects people who want to check out the latest releases in the library?

Leaving aside the authors for a moment, what do publishers think of this? Is this possible for music also?

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You can already check out music CDs from libraries. But I doubt the RIAA would let downloads happen. Then again, it seems libraries get a free ride over individuals.
The whole concept of ownership is changing. With internet connections now available 24/7 from pretty much anywhere, I can now listen to whatever music I want without ever downloading, or owning, any of it. Or, of course, I can listen to just about any radio station in the world (which actually suits me better).

I guess the library downloads have lifespans of a couple of weeks and publishers are still hoping that people will want to own their own books - either e-books or paper books. They're likely wrong about this.

This is still early days. My guess is we'll be moving from owning the content to renting access to it - as I do with the music through my internet connection. People are wiling to pay for internet connections (the way they're willing to pay for cable TV, even though TV used to be "free"). What still needs to be worked out is how some of the money from the internet connection will get to the content creators, the way cable TV providers pay for their content.

Much like cable TV it'll likely be a combination of ad revenue and fees.
I think they'll try to do the whole renting access thing, but I don't think it will work. I sure hope it doesn't. There is a trend forming in the video game industry with downloadable content(DLC). This is stuff added to a game after its released. Most of this you have to pay for, though some of it is free.

The criticism of this is that the companies are releasing a game that isn't finished yet and then adding DLC later which you have to pay for. Gamers are saying, just put the DLC in there to begin with. It's another way to nickel and dime us.

I don't like the idea of renting access, though I do take comfort in the fact that if it is released digitally, there is always a way around the locks. This has been proven time and again with copy protection software. It's always cracked, and it always will be. I don't think too many people are going to like the idea of not owning what they pay for.
We'll see. People complained about paying for cable TV, too, but they all do it. Sure, there are still some hold-outs like me, but we're getting old. I never thought people would pay for radio, but there's satellite radio. I also never thought people would lease cars and when that was first introduced a lot of people agreed with me, but then the offers became so good people did it.

It all depends how it's sold. We've really become a "no down payment, have it today," society. Say you had a choice between a couple hundred bucks for a portable muic player and you had to buy the music (or acquire it for free, but you know that's not actually how it's being offered) OR, you get a free music player and you can listen to every piece of music ever recorded for only $19.95 a month! (which, I guess is satellite radio, and people are buying it). People's preferences change pretty quickly when something looks like a better deal.

So, if a publisher offered me a free e-reader and every book in their catalogue (backlist and future books) for $9.95 a month (yeah, I know it'll probably be more like $25.00 and I'll have to sign up for at least three years ;) I might take it. This would probably work well with genre publishing. The thing is, if I cancel my contract, I lose access to those books the same way if I cancel cable TV I lose access to those channels.

there are lots of posssible ways this could go. The thing is, if not enough people are buying books they (we) become too small a market force to actually get it the wat we want and we have to setttle for getting it the way it's offered.
It strikes me that authors do not need the print publishers in order to sell a book electronically. This will mean retaining electronic rights in the future.
It might be tough. The profit margin on e-books will be higher so publishers will want to retain those rights - especially if they feel the demand for the books is related to how well they promoted the hardcover and paperback editions (did you laugh there when I said, "promoted?").

What I think will become a factor is web-presence, kind of the online version of co-op tables and other bookstore presence. Still a tough one.
Well, the deal is struck individually per title (or sometimes two) before publication and promotion (haha!). It's a matter of negotiation. I suggest that, if times move drastically away from print versions, agents will negotiate differently because they plan to sell the two deals separately. Authors may also insist on retaining electronic rights in order to manage those themselves. Not sure I'd want the hassles, but it may pay well since the entire purchase goes to the author without middlemen.
If you're releasing your work online, there's no need for a publisher. Why have a middleman when you don't need one? If an author can get noticed online, then the author can go through self-publishing means to get the physical book out as well.

I guess it's that getting noticed part that is tricky.
My understanding was that the ebooks were treated the same as print books as far as loans from the library. You check out (download) the file , which has a set expiration date. Once that date has passed, you can no longer open the file, and the library is free to check it out to the next person. It's been a while since the last time I heard about it, but I'm assuming it's still that way.
That's slightly reassuring. Hope you're right.
All that means is it will take longer for 1,000 people to read your book without paying for it.
I suppose there's still the question of how much the library pays for it. Here in Toronto the library buys books depending on how many holds are on the book - they buy one copy for every six holds.

So, if the library kept track of how many times an e-book was downloaded and 'bought' that many copies (at a very reduced rate from paper copies) that could work. More popular books would cost a little more, but less popular books could still be made available.

Also, in Canada, we have something called the Public Lending Right which is administered by the Canada Council (sort of our National Endowment for the Arts, I guess) and pays writers a little something for books in libraries.

I haven't done the math, but my guess is I get about a buck for everyone who's read my books from the library and that seems fair to me.


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