Monday, January 16, 2012

Libraries and e-books (and the Anime Industry)

(Long entry)

Thanks to LIS News I have been kept quite updated with the current trends of publishing companies not wanting their e-books to go to libraries.  Their thought is, "We'll lose money."  But looking at the comments on the various reports and articles, people have quite a few points on how that is not going to happen AND how they could profit more from it.

I can't help but think it as a similar situation to the Anime Industry in the US.  For those who do not know I am a bit of an anime "nerd."  Recently, one of the biggest anime companies in Japan who has a lot of presense here in the US, Bandai Entertainment, is pulling out of the US because of the massive amount of piracy from the anime fanbase here.

How Pirating Went Mainstream

This article is extremely harsh on the fanbase.  Anime came to the states in the first place due to pirating.  There was never any interest until people began to pirate, AND SELL copies of Dragon Ball Z, Gundam, and many other shows.  When the industry in japan heard about this, instead of throwing lawsuits they made deals with TV companies, got voice actors, and mainstreamed it.  They made it available, LEGALLY and with good quality.

So why is there piracy?  Well for one, people are always going to like free stuff and not care.  Secondly, it takes months, even years for an anime to come from Japan to the US.  People want their anime as it comes out, not months or years after.  The most pirated stuff is the most recent stuff to come out.  I know this because I've done it.  It's the reason I find sites to read Manga on for free.  THEY HAVE THE TRANSLATIONS AS SOON AS THE MANGA COMES OUT.  Maybe it takes a few days but the fansubbers have the product available in our language YEARS before that particular comic will even come out in the US.  It is the same for anime.  This is the biggest problem.

So what does this have to do with e-books and libraries?  Libraries aren't pirates...except the publishers are treating them as such.  Their mistrust and fear of losing revenue comes from complicated copy write laws that may or may not be being infringed upon in libraries already.  I'm not that informed about the debate itself, but I do know it is an issue librarians worry and debate about all the time.

In short though, the publishers are afraid that if they allow e-book loaning, the public will never buy the book, and quite frankly you can look at pirating for why they have these fears (in my own personal opinion).  Here is the article that first caught my attention:

Publishers vs. Libraries: an E-book Tug of War

Thank you New York Times for covering that.  HarperCollins solution, to give libraries 26 loans on a single e-book, might be a step in the right direction for working WITH the publishing industry, but 26 loans is not enough for large public libraries.  One could argue it is a sort of gateway, a way to gain the publisher's trust and be able to provide our patrons with e-books, but most big name publishers are still refusing to allow e-book rentals.  Smaller companies however, are using this method the way they should: by promoting their business and gaining public interest in their work.

Here's a link to a blog post I read.

Why a Shift to E-books Imperils Libraries

I feel this blog is a bit extreme on the issue, but they make some good points and offer some potential solutions.

Also, this article is rather interesting in that they predict how the shift will go if big publishers keep refusing to lend e-books.

If Libraries Didn't Exist, Would Publishers be Trying to Kill Book Lending

I think they are right.  We'll see a rather large industry shift.  When you refuse to allow free access to your product, then no one knows about it, no one cares, and they go to where they can get stuff for free.

Going back to the Anime Industry, Bandai, instead of trying to work around piracy or find a way to capitalize on it, gave up.  Now all of their material will be pirated to the US and in the end they suffer.  Another anime producer in the US, Funimation, has found a new and improved way to fight piracy.  Offer free streaming of quality anime on their website:


With the revenue from ads, easy access to purchasing the anime, AND timely translation, they have revolutionized how the Anime Industry should be functioning in the US.  I would not be surprised in the least to see them grow immensely, even take over anime titles from Bandai in the future.  These people have good business sense.  Give the public a taste, and make them want more.

For the publishing industry, the library is that taste.  Can you imagine how high Kindle sales will go if people find they can borrow e-books at the library?  Why not slip an ad in the library e-book to make it less attractive to steal and increase revenue (I know, that brings up a whole new argument, but it's just a suggestion from a business prospective)?  There are many things the publishing industry can do, but for the most part they refuse to innovate.  Very few are trying to make headway with libraries, and it makes me very sad to see how obstinate they are on their stance.

As bad as it may sound, my only hope is that the ones who refuse to cooperate go under and make way for new and more innovative companies.  The world is going digital and global, people.  There is a right way to do it and a wrong way.  We need to be careful.


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