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The writing on the wall for: Booksellers, libraries, newspapers?

May 21, 2010 Leave a comment

1. Finally, somebody does the math. According to the Wall Street Journal, under the new pricing model for e-books “championed” by Apple when it released the iPad, in which digital booksellers receive 30 percent of an e-book’s price, the booksellers get rid of their loss leaders. However, the fact remains that 30 percent of $12.99 is $3.90. So, the WSJ article says:

But for Barnes & Noble, the model can’t hide a brutal reality: $3.90 is a fraction of the $12.50 it now earns on a full-priced hardcover priced at $25.

Now I’m no math whiz, but as more people embrace e-reading, the $3.90s will never catch up to the $12.50s. It’s imperative that the book superstore find a new business model, and quickly. Books won’t join VHS tapes anytime soon, but obsolescence has its way of creeping up on you. Better to be prepared.

2. Speaking of books, here’s an interesting article from the Mercury News about Stanford’s foray into “the bookless library.” Stanford is conducting the experiment with its physics and engineering libraries first. Its reasons: It’s running out of room for physical books, and the availability of technical information online.

3. And now, for newspapers. The Atlantic’s How to Save the News is a fascinating, in-depth look at the newspaper industry’s troubles, Google’s role in all of it, and what can be done to fight the fact that print newspaper ads still pay the bills (sort of) while online ad prices have yet to catch up. The article’s overall tone: Online’s the future; publishers need to keep trying new ideas to make money; and information won’t be free forever. Apparently, Google executives think it’s inevitable that people will start paying for information. For the newspaper industry’s sake, I hope the brilliant minds at Google are correct. But I doubt most consumers hope the same thing.

Libraries without books: What is this world coming to?

February 12, 2010 Leave a comment

In the age of the Kindle and the Nook and the upcoming iPad, and a world in which there are Facebook groups called “People Who Like to Read the Newspaper on Paper,” the New York Times recently posted a written debate titled “Do School Libraries Need Books?” The lightning rod for the discussion: a boarding school in Massachusetts that last fall decided to give away most of its books and turn its library into a digital center.

After reading all five viewpoints — from two educators, two authors and a library director — plus the multitude of comments this topic generated, here’s what I came away with:

  • Libraries need to be updated. This is true. But in the please-digitize-microfiche kind of way. Cushing Academy, the aforementioned school, is right in saying that research is done differently now — libraries need to keep up with the times. Getting rid of all physical books may seem bold, but it’s ridiculous. Sure, most students turn to the Internet to do research for a term paper, but when they have to read “Anna Karenina” for class, they pick up the book. And that makes sense. Update libraries, yes. Have the digital tools complement the physical ones. But take away the books and they’re no longer libraries. Read more…