In the last few days, I have noticed some new initiatives mentioned in the press about how publishers are finally beginning to take ebooks more seriously. The first article was "Publishers Make a Plan: A 'One Stop' Book Site" http://www.nytimes.com/2011/05/07/books/publishers-plan-a-joint-one-stop-book-site.html which discusses Bookish.com and that:
"The site intends to provide information for all things literary: suggestions on what books to buy, reviews of books, excerpts from books and news about authors. Visitors will also be able to buy books directly from the site or from other retailers and write recommendations and reviews for other readers." The idea is to make a "one-stop shopping" site for books on the web.They have some major publishers signed on, plus AOL and Huffington Post, and compare it to imdb, RottenTomatoes, and Netflix. (what strange words we deal with anymore!)
"There's a frustration with book consumers that there's no one-stop shopping when it comes to information about books and authors," said Carolyn Reidy, the president and chief executive of Simon & Schuster. "We need to try to recreate the discovery of new books that currently happens in the physical environment, but which we don't believe is currently happening online."
The second article is for a site that already exists "Publishers Navigate The 'Open Road' Of E-Books"
http://www.npr.org/2011/05/10/136144912/publishers-navigate-the-open-road-of-e-books, which talks about Open Road Media http://www.openroadmedia.com/ , which concentrates on the very lucrative back lists. The founder says,
"My feeling was if we could make those books accessible — if we could bring those books back to the attention of the consumer — we would sell those books."also:
"Open Road backs its titles with aggressive multi-platform marketing campaigns, making creative use of the web, social media and video. The company produces short documentaries to promote its authors. Kaylie Jones was impressed by the quality of these films as well as their marketing potential."The site is really impressive--very welcoming, easy to use, and the videos excellent.
When I see these kinds of initiatives, I can't help but think how our library catalogs will fit in. With these kinds of options, why will people choose our libraries? These sites appear to be essentially advertising sites that have their main purpose to let people know that specific ebooks exist, and to bring them to the correct places to buy them. Why would these people then go to a library site? So that they could get the same book for free--if they think about it. (In this regard, this article is highly enlightening! "The Library Card As A Pop-Culture Fiend's Ticket To Geek Paradise" http://www.npr.org/blogs/monkeysee/2011/04/11/135314291/the-library-card-as-a-pop-culture-fiends-ticket-to-geek-paradise)
But I don't know if the publishers would like the readers to know this, e.g. I can't imagine that the "one-stop shopping" site above would include libraries, that is, places where people can get the books for free. So it truly would be "one-stop shopping" instead of "one-stop searching". For example, Coleridge's edition of Byron's poetry can be bought as an ebook from amazon, e.g. v.1 http://www.amazon.com/Byrons-Poetical-Works-Vol-ebook/dp/B0015BWI9Y/ref=sr_1_6?ie=UTF8&m=A3KSZ402CI2EG1&s=digital-text&qid=1305022122&sr=1-6. But people can get the entire set for free from Project Gutenberg http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/search.html/?default_prefix=author_id&sort_order=downloads&query=1708 and can easily be made into a pdf which can be viewed on a Kindle. Plus, of course, there are scans in different places.
In my opinion, if we try to "compete" with such projects, we will be fated to lose because they are businesses, but cooperation may prove very difficult because we have different concerns. I remain fully convinced that people will continue to want and appreciate what libraries can give them but this is a new environment for everyone.