In this week’s Self-Publishing News, ALLi News Editor Dan Holloway takes a look at the Internet Archive’s controversial new National Emergency Library.
Starting this week, ALLi is going to publish a summary of the questions and answers from its weekly #IndieAuthorChat Twitter chat on the ALLi blog. This will be published on the Tuesday after the chat. And a reminder that ALLi has created a resource that seeks to answer any questions you may have about Covid-19, from concerns about the impact on events to ideas and news about how the services we rely on are responding.
Internet Archive’s National Emergency Library – and How to Opt Out
Libraries have been at the heart of the news for many months. The past couple of weeks have been no exception as we reported last week. But now the dispute between authors and publishers on one side and lenders on the other focuses on one particular library. On March 24th, the Internet Archive launched what it called the National Emergency Library. As we reported last week, writers and publishers have been up in arms, claiming a level of overreach that amounts to piracy. The story has made news outside of the book world.
The Internet Archive has issued a response to the criticisms. Before going into the details, if you are concerned and want to opt out of the action of the Internet Archive, you can find information on how to do that here. The Internet Archive response focuses on several features. First, that it believes digitizing its print books constitutes fair use as established by legal precedent. Second, that these are not fully functioning ebooks — they are photographs of physical books — a make-do as it were, to get people through a time when it estimates 650 million books (many of which are not available digitally) are shuttered away in closed libraries, rather than a replacement. Third, that it is recognized as a genuine library. And, fourth, that these are time-limited loans for 2 weeks only. Writers, of course, will make their own minds up about the expressed solidarity from Internet Archive over the low and vulnerable level of earnings.
The Scale of the Problem
It’s clear that the world is in turmoil. Latest figures show the extent of that problem. Print sales were down 13.5% in March. That is a massive drop despite the early indications that people were buying more print books. In the next sections I will look the perilous situation of print and the hope of digital. Meanwhile, events are still being shaken up. As expected, publishers have started to withdraw from the over-optimistically rescheduled BookExpo. Other events are getting more comfortable with digital incarnations. Bologna Children’s Book Fair has moved to an online rights fair in May. And the International Booker Prize has announced its shortlist digitally.
Are books essential? For many of us this has been a metaphysical question (with an obvious answer) for many years. In the past weeks, it has become a very practical question with a very contested answer. It began with Amazon prioritizing warehousing space for essential items (not including books). It continued when James Daunt initially argued that bookstores were essential retailers, but quickly backpedalled, both in the UK where he owns Waterstones, and in the US with Barnes and Noble. Barnes and Noble currently offer a click and collect service from many of its shuttered US stores, with pick up from the pavement outside.
This week, the question of how essential print books are moved beyond being one about bookstores. We reported recently that Ingram Spark would carry on running its print on demand service. But this week, the distribution giant Gardners has flip-flopped. It started by announcing that it would be closing its warehousing and distribution for books. Then two days later it announced it would be reopening. As concern has centred on the safety of its staff, it is clear that this may not be a permanent decision. Which means that, Amazon aside, there may end up being very few ways for people to buy print books, increasing the already huge pressure on bookstores trying to survive through online business. This is one reason publishers are starting to encourage people to buy through Bookshop.org, which gives a cut of online sales to your local bookseller. I want to end this item with one of the more positive stories, from the bookselling community in New Zealand, who have just launched a #bookswillbeback campaign.
Digital sales are, unsurprisingly, not suffering to the same extent. Digital sales will be further helped by increasing awareness of research from here in Oxford which shows that digital screens aren’t the boogiemen we often accuse them of being. Instead, as researcher Andrew Przybilski points out in the New York Times, screen time can play an essential positive role in these times.
And Storytel continue their advance, with a 45% Q1 revenue increase. For indies the business news at least seems very much to be not as gloomy as for the rest of the industry.Internet Archive's national Emergency Library sparks piracy claims and top #selfpub news stories for #indieauthors, in one quick read, by #ALLi News Editor Dan Holloway @agnieszkasshoes #digitaleconomy #publishingopenup Click To Tweet
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