9 Reasons Publishers Should Stop Acting Like Libraries Are The Enemy

1. Libraries let people read your books.

I know, I know, you think that if it weren’t for libraries more people would buy your books, I have bad news for you, if it weren’t for libraries people would read less not buy more books. There is no guarantee that the people who read a library copy could, or would, choose to buy your book. Let’s face it no one who is willing spend  4 months  on the waiting list for their favorite author is going to buy that hardback copy and probably not the trade paperback or paperback either (have you seen the price of mass market paperbacks lately?). Instead of seeing that library book as money out of your pocket consider it another book sold that wouldn’t have been and more importantly consider it the gateway drug to your author.  Millions of people discover their new favorite author through their local library.

2.  Libraries introduce people to your books

For children we are a magical place where they can check out 20 or 50 books a week and take them home to read or for parents to read those books. We do story times and other educational and fun programs for children instilling a life long love of reading. This wouldn’t happen anywhere else. Without this introduction to books at an early age you would not have so many adult customers.

As adults its called Readers Advisory. It’s that thing we do when someone comes to us and says they’d like something to read. For the record we do it better than Amazon, because we’re real people who listen and read too, not some formula. Let’s face it you need readers advisory because people ( especially in this economy) aren’t willing to gamble money on a new author.

3. We celebrate books and authors everyday, all year long.

Book clubs, displays and more!  We throw these huge parties celebrating your books and your authors at our libraries. We encourage others to read your books, buying multiple copies, and then we sit around talking about them for hours. We create displays to promote your books helping more people discover them. All of this leads to sales.

4. Archives

We keep copies of your older books that the bookstores have sold at discount prices or gotten rid of. We will buy additional copies when the ones we have get old or lost or stolen.

5. Publicity

Yes we’ve already covered readers advisory, book clubs and story times but what about, newsletters, new books, returned books. We also do huge city-wide read-a-longs in our communities, invite authors for readings and signings. With the predicted death of physical bookstores you’re really going to need a place to host those authors signings, especially in the smaller towns.

6. We WANT to buy your books.

In the day and age when you are so worried about piracy, we are offering to pay and we are offering a reasonable method for people to read your books without piracy. We’ve even agreed to your ridiculous anti-piracy methods that make the process cumbersome and frustrating for everyone.

7. We love books too.

Sure not for the same reasons you do, but we want there to be a future for books too.

8. Who else is going to pay those ridiculously high database and journal prices?

Not the general public or the students. The library can barely afford them, you’re raking us over the coals here guys.

9. Library users are your best customers. 

Yep, its true. A recent study by Library Journal and Bowker PubTrack Consumer reports

Our data show that over 50% of all library users report purchasing books by an author they were introduced to in the library,” Miller noted. “This debunks the myth that when a library buys a book the publisher loses future sales. Instead, it confirms that the public library does not only incubate and support literacy, as is well understood in our culture, but it is an active partner with the publishing industry in building the book market, not to mention the burgeoning e-book market.

Don’t forget the white paper released by OverDrive on How eBook Catalogs at Public Libraries Drive Publishers’ Book Sales and Profits

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39 thoughts on “9 Reasons Publishers Should Stop Acting Like Libraries Are The Enemy

  1. The majority of the books I purchase are by authors I’m already familiar with. It’s very rare that I buy a book written by an author I haven’t read before. I don’t want to spend money on something I may not like.

    Instead, if I see an interesting book at the store and I’m not familiar with the author, I head to the library to check out one of their books. Only after I’m sure I like their writing will I purchase their books for my personal collection. If I really like the author, it’s not unusual for me to buy every one of their books I can get my hands on.


  2. Your argument would be more credible if you didn’t use the word ridiculous (twice) to describe your “opponent”‘s policies and prices!


    1. Katherine,

      Your comment would be more credible (it could hardly be less) if you weren’t such a douchebag who thinks a repeated adjective makes the nine stated reasons less credible. Have a nice day.


  3. I particularly like reason #2. It’s very interesting to consider early literacy efforts as a literal investment later on in life.

    Fortunately, I was introduced to libraries early on and was one of the kids who checked out 50 books per week. Now I’m a librarian and I still use libraries a good deal–but I also purchase a ton of books. I still want “my” copy of favorite titles and works by favorite authors, acquisition is a very human behavior.

    Publishers, subsidize your perceived library “loss” as a marketing line item and get over it.


  4. Excellent! The only thing I would add is that publishers are particularly unwilling to play nicely with libraries regarding ebooks. Us libraryfolk are well aware of this, but other readers of this post may not be aware of publishers’ shenanigans in this regard.


    1. Martha you’re correct. I’ve been contemplating a post encouraging libraries to provide publisher contact information to patrons when patrons complain about unavailable ebook titles. All done politely and civilly of course, maybe I should include a script?


      1. I’m amused by reading all of the replies to your posts. We are such pickypants librarians! 😉

        (Yes, I just made up that word and I’m sticking with it)


      2. Yes, please give me contact information. I will use it. I am furious to the point of self-combustion over the e-book problems. They use computers to create the books. The e-book is a “gimmie” they get for almost no effort in the process. It should be half the price of a paper copy and they’d STILL make a ton of money. Libraries should never, never, never have to re-buy an electronic copy because the publishers insist they have to “wear out” like paper ones. That said, they must only lend as many as they bought (for that half-of-paper price.) Grrr.
        Yes, a script would be nice. Keep me uh, civil.

        Thanks for the vent.


  5. The last sentence in point one could use a little tweaking, “Millions of people discover tried new favorite author thought their local library.” I’m assuming you meant “Millions of people discover/tried and found their new favorite author through their local library.” or something like that.

    Very nice article and I too am an early reader who devoured books from the library that I could not nor could my parents have afforded for me as a kid but I have since bought my favorites and will continue to repurchase them for my nieces and nephews.


    1. Thanks Kelly it should be “Millions of people discover their new favorite author through their local library.” Corrected.
      Note-to-self: do not write blog posts drafts on the iPad, it makes you look dumber than usual.


  6. I feel like such a loser when I explain to our new eBook patrons about the reality of the publishers withholding borrowing privileges. It sounds like an excuse, not a reason. Bobbi, I’d really appreciate something I could hand out to them!


    1. I agree Jan we need to carefully word our response to patrons so that it sounds like a calm rational explanation rather than a excuse or that we are playing a blame-game. I’ll try to get something put together in the next couple of weeks.


  7. The whole thing reminds me how parts of the music industry wants to squeeze more money out of radio stations so they can continue to play music on the radio. It’s not like radio is doing anything for the music industry at all by introducing all the new music to all those people. ಠ_ಠ

    Libraries are like radio stations for books.


  8. Well publishers can ask themselves one question: do they want people reading books they got in the library or from a torrent site?

    Because I assure you that the pirates seem to care more about getting author’s works out there than the legitimate publishers do.

    I’ve had several patrons come in asking for a e-book only for me to have to tell them about the delay between physical availability and electronic. Later several said that their sons/kids/etc. just downloaded it for them.

    Publishers not only need to look at radio but they need to take a lesson from Prohibition.


    1. James I’ve been thinking about this in terms of Prohibition too! Maybe it’s that recent Ken Burns special or perhaps because I see pirating as a new form of supply and demand. Like it or not the current model isn’t working and making tougher laws and cracking down on little old ladies who got a Kindle for Christmas isn’t going to change that.


  9. Excellent post. Thank you. I’d add two more things.
    – As Michael says above: Libraries continue to ‘market’ publishers backlist titles. Something publishers almost never do themselves, because they’re not willing to spend money to push older titles.
    – Libraries introduce young people to books. Children don’t typically have disposable income to spend on books. Don’t you want them to buy books once they *do* have that disposable income? We need to get people reading while they’re young, and libraries are critical to the formula.

    And: What Dee says w/r/t authors whose work is unfamiliar to a reader. It’s tough enough to get people to spend the *time* to read something they might not like. Expecting them to pay for it too is to risk adding insult to injury.


  10. True True True and we love the facts to back it up in #9!

    We’re in the middle of researching as story on how more libraries can work with independent booksellers (and vice versa) to buy books locally and foster even more camaraderie between bookstores and libraries…

    We bookmarked this article, it’s a gem!!


  11. I agree with almost all 9 reasons, libraries do not have the funding or backing that they have had many years ago. My local library has pretty much started spamming my email every other day with book sales and other tactics to try and get people in the door something I have never seen done before. Just like teachers in Amercia today, I think they are seriously underpaid, and underfunded as well…


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