eBookNewser caught up with Tim Coates, the founder of the website Bilbary.com, a recommendation engine for eBooks that is in development, to discuss how to get books in the hands of readers in the digital era.
EBN: What are the challenges associated with getting equal access to books in an eBook era?
TC: Obviously eBooks are only available to people who have eReaders and who like using them. On the other hand print books have proved to be one of the most enduring and universal technologies. So for eBooks to be widely used there are a number of issues that have to improve. The eReaders need to be cheaper and become almost disposable. There has to be ten times more material available. Conversion from print to eBook has to become more efficient and inventive. The catalog of eBook publications needs to cover the whole range of in copyright and out of copyright editions. Rights percentages have to be resolved. The price to the customer has to reflect the price of production and distribution and not be related to the price of print books.
EBN: How can publishers and authors make eBooks accessible to all?
TC: Libraries have always offered no risk, no cost reading. That is why, even now, two thirds of reading is of books from libraries not books from bookstores. Publishers need to see that reading and buying books are not the same thing at all. At present they only concentrate on what is sold in stores, but that is a tiny part of what interests their customers. This is the big challenge. People are only marginally interested in what publishers publish this year. What they are really interested in is what has been published over 50 years and more.
EBN: How do eBooks have an effect on libraries?
TC: Most reading is from public libraries. If the public continues using eReaders in the way that they are now, then public libraries need to be able to offer eReading. There are huge problems of all kinds. But budgets are too small to sustain both print buying and ebook buying. Publishers and authors don’t want to allow unlimited free use of books. The industry must keep working at this. The divide between publishers and librarians is far too wide.