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E-book battles: Fighting for public library access to e-books helps publishers

Publishers wary of public libraries accessing digital copies

Published: Sunday, Jan. 6 2013 9:45 p.m. MST

Burleigh says publishers need to realize how important it is to have e-books available through the library "for the sheer discovery."

As Hancock at the Salt Lake City Public Library puts it, "library users are also book buyers."

Showrooms for the future

Bookstores used to be the mainstay of book discovery. People would go to a bookstore and browse the shelves and displays. That environment has been changing with hundreds of bookstores and even book chains closing — such as Borders and Waldenbooks.

But libraries still serve the same function as a source for book discovery. As the survey says, the public library is the primary source of book discovery for 57 percent of the people who check out e-books

"Libraries are where people discover new books and new authors," Burleigh says. "Libraries will discover a new important role as a new showroom for materials, both physically and digitally."

Eric Ikenouye, manager of the browsing library and welcome desk at the Salt Lake City Public Library says libraries are a marketing tool for publishers.

"We provide them with free publicity," he says.

Burleigh at Overdrive says library patrons are also a highly desirable audience. The survey said 48 percent of people who check out e-books make $75,000 a year or more. Seventy-four percent have a college degree or higher.

"From a publisher's standpoint, this is a valuable audience," Burleigh says

King says publishers are beginning to realize that as bookstores disappear, publishers need to have other places to display their products besides Wal-Mart. Libraries are in every town.

King says publishers are also going through many other upheavals.

"They are still figuring out their own business practices," he says. "Publishers are where the music industry was about 10 years ago. And so they are still figuring out that stuff and they have these libraries hanging on their coattails saying, 'Hey! What about me?' And I don't think they are thinking about those things, they are looking at their central business and thinking, 'How do we survive?' "

King is confident that things will get worked out over time.

"But it is going to be a process," he says.

EMAIL: mdegroote@desnews.com

Twitter: @degroote

Facebook: facebook.com/madegroote

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