Publishers are expecting libraries to treat ebook lending like physical items: buy one, lend one.
Software publishers started out with the same “X users requires X licensed-copies,” but that evolved into a policy cognizant of the customer’s need to make maximal use of its resources and so X concurrent-users became the norm.
I suppose the technical requirements of a similar ebook-lending policy would be too daunting to effect.
But still, that buy-one/lend-one practice is galling. It just forces libraries to spend money on books that aren’t being lent efficiently, stifling the adoption of ebooks where they’re needed the most.
So I have a suggestion for libraries — ask your patrons to buy ebooks in the library’s name.
If I buy an ebook of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, then it’s glued to me. Love it or hate it, I can’t give it to the library for others to read.
So why doesn’t the library set up a program for donors: “Buy it in our name and we’ll lend it to you first.”
Hey, I’m going to spend the money on the ebook already; I still get to read it when I buy it; and this way I’m able to donate it to the library (which I am otherwise prevented from doing). The library gets sorely needed ebooks for lending, and more readers are exposed to the book earlier. (Surely that can’t be bad for authors or publishers.)
A sensible business model won’t penalize either party in such situations, but let’s face it, we’re still very far from discovering what works for writers, illustrators, publishers, bookstores, libraries and readers (the human kind). So this is nothing more than a (in my opinion, much-needed) stop-gap for libraries. But I think we should settle for some breathing space until the new paradigm begins to take shape.