The Public Library as Publisher
March 26, 2012
In economically trying times, many publishers are hesitant to cooperate with libraries when it comes to eBook lending. A big part of the problem is the lack of a clear way of thinking about electronic content. Who owns it? How many times should it be used before libraries are charged for it again (as they would be for a bound copy)? How can the information contained in a volume be preserved for future generations? The result is a collection that leaves much to be desired. But what can we do about it?
In a recent article, Peter Brantley suggests that communities consider how their public libraries might themselves take on the role of ePublisher. In addition to facilitating meaningful discussion and engaging citizens from every walk of life, our libraries could work to disseminate material created within their walls. Profits could be used to fund a diverse range of collections and programs. If enough revenue was generated from such a venture, staff could be hired to oversee the publishing arm of the institution.
Such an enterprise could attract the attention of writers whose primary motivation is a love for what they do, but those who found themselves dependent on their craft might also require a larger percentage from the sale of their works than the library was capable of giving. Perhaps, though, the public library could supplement current eBooks with community-generated content. Communal storytelling is a cornerstone of many societies. It has the potential to draw more people into the library. Consider a book club in which the works being discussed were created from the wealth of knowledge contained within the library itself. Could such an endeavor bring our community closer together?
The difficulty, of course, is taking that first step. PressBooks is a good place to start. This service provides a template for publishing online, and it's free for individuals and small publishers. In a blog for Digital Book World, Nate Hill suggests that interested writers might even contribute unfinished content in a designated area on the library's website. Other library users would then determine what was published and what wasn't. If this dream became a reality, those works published would theoretically be those deemed best by the community at large.
What do you think? We'd love to hear from you!
North Independence Branch