Ebook Strategies for Librarians and Publishers

June 30, 2014

E-Content Quarterly Editor Mirela Roncevic on Sunday served as moderator for a panel of librarians and publishers who discussed “Leading with Ebooks: New Strategies for Librarians and Publishers.” The event was sponsored by Total BooX, an ebook provider that offers a pay-as-you-read model, and it was dedicated to the late Ernie DiMattia, an early adopter of Total BooX and the long-time director of the Ferguson Library in Stamford, Connecticut, who died on June 26.

Roncevic opened the discussion by explaining the difference between managing and leading. “In the past decade,” Roncevic said, “libraries and publishers have been managing ebook technology. Leading involves creating instead of building, expanding not limiting, originating new models, challenging the status quo, and inspiring not discouraging users. We must watch the horizon, not the bottom line.”

Yoav Lorch, founder of Total BooX, echoed that sentiment. “We must focus on enabling reading,” he said. “We should allow simultaneous views, make all ebooks available to users and libraries, remove expiration dates, and increase the number of ebooks available on devices. None of these limitations exist in the Total BooX model. It’s unbelievable to me that this is still acceptable elsewhere.”

Michael Rockliff, from Workman Publishing, observed that publishers can enhance their ebooks by collecting data on what portions of a book people are reading the most. “Cookbooks, for example,” he said, “If readers are spending the most time on recipes that are gluten-free, we can react to that demand.” Elizabeth Joseph, coordinator of adult services at the Ferguson Library, said that information would be valuable to libraries too. “We need to know what key chapters and passages spoke to people,” she said. “That’s key data for the next time we purchase a book.”

James LaRue, former director of Douglas County (Colo.) Libraries, said that part of the answer might be “not spending any more money on ebooks released by the Big Five publishers.” He added that there are many independent publishers who are more amenable to flexible library sales models. “Although the ebook market is still chaotic, the biggest mistake is not making ebooks available to libraries in a sensible way. Right now they are asking us to pay in advance for a long tail that may never materialize.”

Lorch said that Total BooX is amenable to working with the Big Five publishers, although they have so far declined their help. “Maybe one day,” he said. “Give us the books, we will find you the readers.”

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