Digital Book World 2019, held September 10–12 in Nashville, Tennessee, closed with conversations about the future of libraries with David Burleigh, director of brand marketing and communication at Rakuten OverDrive, and Mary Ghikas, executive director of the American Library Association (ALA).
On September 12, Burleigh discussed the robust ebook and audiobook lending ecosystem. Rakuten Overdrive began servicing libraries in 2003, before publishers were fully on board with selling to the market. Fast forward 16 years, and Burleigh said one of the best things libraries do for publishers and authors is to offer discoverability. For every borrower who checks out an ebook, another borrower is exposed to that title, he says, even if they don’t ultimately add it to their queue. In an age where digital impressions are a key metric but one often ignored in favor of engagement, this is a significant advantage libraries offer publishers, he said.
Burleigh said research bears out the idea that the more flexible the terms offered by the publisher to libraries, the more their books will be borrowed and discovered. Ghikas agreed with the sentiment when she took the stage to finish out the focus on libraries.
Ghikas began by defining libraries as centers of content–including events, influence, individuals, communities, and, of course, books. A community that has a good library is a better community, she said: “Libraries are a regenerative force.”
Ghikas discussed ALA’s petition campaign to encourage Macmillan to reconsider its embargo on new ebook titles for libraries, and talked about the Libraries Transform Book Pick, the new collaboration between ALA, OverDrive, and Booklist that shows what is possible when publishers and distributors join forces to create buzz and readership for new ebook titles.
Discussing whether the library market is a cost benefit or loss for publishers, Ghikas evoked the idea of supply and demand. She said one of libraries’ most valuable services is creating a new generation of readers, without which the publishers would likely cease to exist. As long as there are audiences for books and libraries continue to promote literacy, she said, the question answers itself.