I went on a bit of a rant the other night on twitter. I saw a tweet that was in essence shaming people for wanting an e-book pay site similar to Netflix. The person pointed out that *gasp* there are libraries, they have been around a long time, and *gasp again* they have e-books now. That sounds good in theory, however, in reality it’s just not true. Not all libraries have e-book collections. Rural cities and counties do not have the same amount of funds that large metropolitan areas have, trust me I speak from experience. So why are people shaming others for WANTING to PAY for books?!
One point I brought up was that e-books are not free for libraries. They still have to purchase them, and after so many check outs they have to re-purchase them. I talked to a person who works for a library to get some more information so that I am not giving you guys wrong or false information. This person actually does a lot of the purchasing for the library where they work. Keep in mind that this is from one library and things can greatly vary library to library.
E-books that libraries purchase are not cheap, in fact, they tend to be quite a bit more expensive than what we, a regular consumer, would pay for one. First, most libraries use a provider similar to Overdrive (mine uses overdrive to supply their ebooks). You sign in with your library account and you are limited to checking out only the books that your library has purchased licenses of. Now the price of those e-books depends on the contract between the publisher and the supplier (Overdrive). Libraries don’t outright purchase an e-book. They purchase a license to an e-book, and that license comes with a limit on how many times the book can be checked out or it can come with a year or two license. Again this is dependent on the publisher and the supplier and varies between publishers. Some licenses only have 26 check outs and then the library has to re-purchase, some have 52 before they have to re-purchase. The license is # of check outs per copy. So if they have 2 copies, that means 2 people can check it out at a time, and each gets a total of 26 check outs before needing renewed. As for the price of the e-book they can range from mid-teens on up to $60 a license.
I did ask if having multiple file formats of a book, ie Kindle, epub, mobi, etc increased the price of the license verse just having one format. Some of the books that my library has they have in many different formats so I was curious if that increased the price. The person I talked to wasn’t sure offhand if it did and said they would check and get back to me. I will edit this post with that information.
Four or five years ago I lived in a very small town with about 100 people in it. The town business part was literally a four block square, the library was county funded and looked to have been built and added on to an old house. They had a decent sized collection for the size of the town but they didn’t have all the newest books, nor were they able to purchase them. And they did not have an e-book collection and that was not something, at the time, they were planning to add anytime soon. I now live closer to Kansas City and there are two different library systems in the area. The one I go two has a huge library collection, they have over 20 different branches, and the e-book collection is HUGE. They are really good at buying new e-books and physical books, especially ones people request.
One person that replied to my twitter rant pointed out that she lived in an area where her local library system didn’t have an e-book collection, she said she was from a small town. While gathering information for this post I came to thee realization that the rural city that my brother and cousin live in does not have a public library. So they don’t even have access to physical copies of books let alone access to an e-book catalog. A pay service similar to “Netflix for books” would greatly benefit my cousin and her three sons, and many people like them.
Also an “Netflix for books” would benefit people with agoraphobia, anxiety, and many other disabilities. They could browse and check out books from the comfort of their own home without causing themselves any problems, or having to rely on something to drive them to the library. And if this service happened to include an option to have physical copies mailed out like Netflix does with DVDs, so much the better.
A big concern people have is with authors being paid. Trust me I agree, it’s a HUGE issue I have with Kindle Unlimited, I don’t like the iffy way authors seem to be paid through that service. They have a good idea, they’re not doing so good on the author payout. But if there was a service set up like Netflix, that made contracts with the publisher and negotiated through them for access to their files, there is very little doubt in my mind that authors would be paid their fair amount of money. However, I’d still like to see this service offered to Indie authors as well. Their books are not offered through Overdrive, so my library cannot purchase them, and I cannot recommend that they do purchase them. And I would love to see them get as much use from a service like this as people who go the traditional publishing route.
There are potential flaws in the make of the system, but I really hate seeing people shame, make fun of, and generally be rude to people who want to PAY for books. They could go the pirating route, instead they are ASKING for a pay option to check out books. I could see huge benefits to a “Netflix for books” that included Indie authors in their service as well as traditionally published books. I could see this being a big hit and doing really well. Just some things to think about and consider before you tell someone to ‘go to the library’.