Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Penguin's Polar Suppression

What did Penguin Publishing Group expect when they announced that they would not be selling to digital distributors? What a polarizing decision.  It's no wonder they backed down a bit.   Do they believe that by denying the digital format that people will marching down to their library to check out the print version?  Digital readers will just choose a different book that is available as digital users are generally married to their device.

Our digital library holds Penguin titles and they include hot best sellers, Pulitzer Prize titles, ChickLit, and more. They are successfully loaned to owners of Nooks, iPads, generic readers, and generic MP3 players, placed on hold, and sometimes sit idle. Most of our titles were purchased 2010, long before the Kindle format accommodations with Overdrive. Overdrive is caught in the middle of this because they are the biggest player--as a purveyor of digital content trying to equip libraries with a great solution for the masses.

We can look at history get a hint of how this will play out. It was only a dozen years ago that we had the same issue with music files, DVD's and the birth of digital piracy. Billions of files were transferred and the software pirates often sold their software to corporations who then developed legitimate products. Teens such as Norwegian Jon (dubbed DVD Jon) became wealthy. He makes a great claim when asked about "piracy":

"As far as I'm concerned, it has nothing to do with me," he says. "I support fair use, which means that when you actually legally acquire content, you should have the right to use that content on any of your devices, using any application." [Grossman, L. (2010). The Men Who Stole the World. Time, 176(23), 54. ]
As Steven Abrams put it at the NYS SLMS conference this past summer, "reconciliation has to be reached. Publishers have to be able to turn a profit, and users have to be able to use products they purchase. If publishers are circumvented, then where will the money come from to support development and publication?" He warns that if the publishers don’t make money, they will start to embed advertising within the book, and who wants that? Hyperlinks to a setting could lead to a travel advertisement for example.

We are not holding polar opposite views. The producers and the consumers need to both be comfortable with the solution. The music industry has worked this out to everyone’s benefit. It’s hard to believe that the print industry will boycott this need, as they will lose their market share. Someone else will rise to the occasion and will publish books. Where there are crooks, there will be a way to circumvent any law or DRM system that is implemented. Perhaps the current DRM model has flaws, but I still have faith in Americans and believe that most people are not into “stealing” access from the public library. They know they can just wait in line and read the book eventually.

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