The Danger of Libraries
Have you heard about the new Kindle lending library? Now anyone who owns a Kindle will have access to hundreds of books for free. It sounds like the process is still being ironed out, but for the time being there are a lot of books that you can download and read digital copies of at no cost now, including new releases. At the touch of a button, your book could instantly be sent and read by any number of people at zero cost. Good for the consumer, but is it good for you as an author? (See Rachelle Gardner’s post on the lending library for more details about the program and its implications here).
The book industry is changing so fast that it can be overwhelming for authors to think through these implications for their own work. To help think through this issue, I want you to try to imagine something that now seems impossible: imagine that libraries have not been invented yet. There are no libraries and no real concept of them. When you want a book, you just buy it at a store or online without the option of picking up a copy at your local library.
Now, imagine that instead of this Kindle lending library, another announcement has been made. For the first time in the world’s history, libraries are about to be introduced around the world . . .
A dangerous idea has taken hold in our nation and will soon be sweeping across the world. For the first time ever, private and public institutions are cutting out the authors, publishers, and the entire book industry and conspiring to give away books for free. Soon to be established in every city in the United States, these “libraries” will be vast book depositories where anyone, literally anyone, can check out the books and read them at their leisure for free. Not worried about it yet? Consider the implications . . .
1. Authors will not recieve any royalties on books checked out. Indeed, there are no royalties to be made . . . they are giving them away for free.
2. Book sales will dramatically decline. Who will pay for a book when you can get it for free just down the block in your own city? Would you?
3. The death of the book industry is on the horizon. Giving away books and content is a poor business model, and this will put thousand of people out of work. Great would-be authors will never be discovered because no one will be able to afford to write any longer.
Shocking, but true. Unless we fight this together, libraries will eventually take hold and destroy everything we love about reading and books. Fight it – libraries are dangerous.
It is easy to get caught up in the rhetoric and to be apprehensive of new technology. There are many implications of the Kindle lending library that will not be known for years, but it is certainly not a sign of the coming apocalypse of the book industry. Remember that books have been available for free to consumers for hundreds of years; this is just a new way of delivering them. The problem is not that too many people will read books for free, the problem is that too many people don’t read at all. As a publisher and a reader, I say anything that encourages more people to be readers is great. We all need more of them.