Thursday, January 19, 2012

Thirteen Reasons Why --you should care about eBook lockdown

Please convey my condolences to the Penguin marketing staff or CEO who made this awful lockdown decision-- not to allow newer titles to be sold to Overdrive customers. You may not have heard, but Penguin has just joined a growing group of Fortune 100 Companies who are pulling their title availability from online libraries.  What a shame.  Rather than retaining the availability of books for devices on public and school digital libraries, they are fortifying their financial walls.  

I understand the financial concern, although I don’t agree with this.  Penguin's Digital Marketing Director, Anna Rafferty, claims they are in the gambling business and gave a speech recently which touted how they reach out to the YA market to understand what book will be a hit.  They use the teens who hang-out on their online site to: test the market, figure out what will sell, publish it--then lock out the public?

Penguin, as the publisher of recent hits such as Thirteen Reasons Why (Razonbill) gives us reason to worry.  Other major publishers are brewing similar decisions and now is the time to express our concern.  Here are thirteen reasons you should care:
  • This is one step close to supporting the American unofficial caste system. We live in a nation of Haves and Have-nots. The Haves will be able to purchase your titles via other booksellers. The have-nots will have to enjoy this in print (if they have a car to drive to the library—if they even have a library). The market we (schools who have digital libraries) predominately serve are the in-betweeners. Those with limited devices, or have school-owned devices provided to them. They do not have money to purchase these titles directly.
  • To quote from Anna Rafferty’s speech below, they “are a global billion dollar business now,” and worry about your bottom line--being “in the gambling business.”   However, doesn't that support the position of all the Wall Street Occupiers?  Conglomerates are growing greedy on the backs of all the regular people and libraries.  how much is enough...To quote Rockefeller,"just a little bit more."
  • If we lock down etitles, one publisher at a time, what will be left? --perhaps poor quality, self-published books?
  • Steven Abrahms claimed in a paper posted at the SLJ eBook Summit,  that somehow both the publishers and consumers have to come to realize that both interests have to be protected.  I claim that via DRM, the interests of the publishers and authors are protected.   This decision makes it appear that publishers are becoming anti-library.  The publishers must want more books purchased, rather than loaned. After all the years, of keeping publishers in business, they don't want libraries.
  • If the DRM that is in place, via a digital library model such as Overdrive, is considered inadequate, then what will work?  Therefore we can speculate that publishers are not as concerned about DRM as they are about loss of revenue. 
  • If books migrate to digital dominance (as some say will happen), then without the ability to checkout digital books, what role will the library play?
  • Students want these books--in digital form.  So, why would the publishers decide to lock them down.
  • The publishers are defining the market, rather than the consumer.  This could become the de-facto standard. 
  • To quote Penguin's Digital Marketing director, "They read loads online. They spent all of their time online. None of this is a surprise, I’m sure."  Therefore, if they are locking libraries out of the online market, does that mean they want to sequester that to themselves, as opposed to libraries? -- Since, that is where the teens are?
  • This is a decision over money, not digital rights.
  • Money decisions which impact the common good of man, will only benefit stockholders in the long term. 
  • We live in a free market economy, and this is locking vendors out of the free market.
  • This is another nail in the library's coffin.  As we seek to redefine what the library is for the 21st Century, we have reason to worry when publishers don't want to sell to libraries.
May I suggest we boycott one of Penguin's titles to show our dismay?  Let's not purchase  Thirteen Reasons Why AT ALL.   Nada -- no print, no digital.   Let's show them the impact that a bad decision could have. 

Other online curators for digital libraries such as myself, have a set budget (thousands annually) to spend. It is a shame that Penguin titles won’t be in that bundle. I will have to use that money to purchase Random House, Scholastic, McMillan and other publishers’ titles for our patrons. Penguin has hurt their own our own bottom line many times over. It’s not like we digital librarians won’t spend this money. I will spend it, but now it can’t be on new Penguin titles.

We will sail out this storm as publishers get their act together and realize that this is a growing behemoth market. By stepping outside the food chain, they may go hungry. The music industry fought this initially, only to realize that they had to sell online to everyone. In turn their market share eventually grew huge. I would ask you to reconsider your decision. You are apt to lose your “relationship with [your] target market,” Anna. Sorry… but some of that market won’t be able to read your books at all.  There are my Thirteen Reasons Why you should reverse this decision.

Here is an email to which you can express your objection to this decision:

Digital Marketing Director Anna Rafferty knows that consumers want more active engagement with the brands they love. At the Redesigning Business Summit 2010 she outlined how Penguin books is working to meet this demand.
Read the transcript  from Anna Rafferty, Digital Marketing Director, Penguin

"Hello, morning everybody. I’m going to talk about working for Penguin Books. I hope you’re all very familiar with Penguin, but just in case you’re not, we’re a global billion-dollar business now. We’re a trade publisher and we’re part of the Pearson Group....

But one of the things that did strike me was that I’m very lucky. Because even though I do work for a group that is part of a FTSE 100 company, risk taking is part of the DNA of trade publishing, because actually we’re a gambling business, and in the 150 books that we publish every month, maybe 20 will really work, and you don’t know, necessarily, which ones they’re going to be until it happens...."

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