News

Daunt: library e-lending "disruptive" to high street

Waterstones m.d. James Daunt has warned that e-lending in libraries will put further pressure on bricks-and-mortar booksellers when the model takes off.

Speaking at a round-table discussion at the Financial Times’ London headquarters held on Wednesday (9th May) to launch the FT/Goldman Sachs Business Book of the Year Award, Daunt said library e–lending would provide tough competition to booksellers over e-book sales.

“Libraries who will soon start loaning e-books to users will be a disruptive force,” Daunt said. “If you can download a book for free and read it, why would you want to own it?”
Alan Samson, publisher of Weidenfeld & Nicolson; Helen Kogan, m.d. of Kogan Page; Tim Godfray, c.e.o. of the Booksellers Association; FT editor Lionel Barber; and Viking editorial director Joel Rickett were among the participants discussing the impact of the digital revolution on industry business models.

Daunt said: “We are facing quite an unprecedented, serious challenge. We have had it extremely easy for quite some time as retailers, with lack of attention to the basic discipline of retailing. Financially there is the opportunity to run ourselves dramatically better.”

However, he warned that bookshop numbers would inevitably continue to fall. “We have already closed shops and I think there will be further rationalisation in future, on both sides of the world,” he said.

However, when asked if he will continue to sustain Waterstones’ portfolio, Daunt responded: “I seriously hope so. I expect to do so, not that it is not without its challenges.”
 

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“If you can download a book for free and read it, why would you want to own it?”

If you can borrow a book for free and read it why would you want to own it?

Keep Up Mr Daunt! At least be consistent and criticise all library lending. As its obviously our nefarious purchase of paperbacks that has signalled the demise of the high st bookshop.....

Wasn't this what was said when libraries were first opened? Isn't it illogical to accept that dead tree books can be borrowed but object to the same action in relation to ebooks?

Aren't people who BORROW books also likely to be the people who BUY them?

Surely the best way of encouraging people to buy books is to encourage the reading habit in the first place?

Yes, Mr Daunt, which is why publishers are making it as difficult as possible for libraries to get a heads-up in this. Your question is rhetorical; it should have been: "How obstructive can the book trade be so the average library card holder just goes out and buy the ebook instead?"
In my experience, public library readers full into two types: time rich, money poor and money rich, independent minded. To hook in readers in the first case, libraries can loan the e-reading devices; in the second, maintain patrons by loaning niche and specialist e-titles, and original non-fiction, as they always have done.
Lending stats aside, library spaces also have a huge community value to their neighbourhood and are fiercely defended by those who use them. I predict that the bigest obstruction set in place by the book trade,i.e. to only permit e-books loans from the site of the library, will be good for libraries.

Another silly comment from Mr Daunt.

Well, I for one shall not be downloading and reading books. I do not like e-books. I have made a number of attempts but they are useless to me. I cannot mark pages with strips of paper, I cannot highlight important points, I cannot keep them permanently for reference. They may be ok for the light reader, but I cannot see them being of any use to the serious reader and the academic reader. I have discovered some treasures in secondhand bookshops and jumble sales. Plus a large number of us cannot reader them because of eyesight problems. And they take so much longer to read. I can whizz through a real book because I have learned how to read fast. No thanks : I shall stick to the printed version. And yes, I am well-aquainted with the wheel thank you very much, and I always use my computers - whether desk-top PC, lap-top or palm-top.

James is of course perfectly correct .

The difference now is that the purchase of an E book and the free loan of an E book are very similar in that neither have a physical entity to place on a shelf . Therefore why bother with ownership [at a cost] rather than a "time out" loan service for free?
This is why I can not understand why the library service is bleating on about its death , when infact with some focus and creativity we may well be entering the greatest period of library loans ever but at a greatly reduced cost .
Infact a centralised remote national E book library is only a step away , and no need to worry about opening hours and the book stack .
Julian Rivers.

Julian,

Librarians are 'bleating' on about the death of the library because they're going to lose their jobs, their 'livelihoods', if the cuts to the service continue.

This being said, I fully agree with your assertion that the 'ebook' lending service, whenever it finally gets the traction to become mainstream, will lead to some of the highest lending figures libraries have ever seen - with a centralised and low-cost service being the obvious choice for managing the new lending practices. "Low-cost and popular" is a phrase local and national government will not be able to resist and the physical library will disappear to be replaced by an efficient downloading service, which will need at most a tenth of the current workforce employed in libraries.

Great for budgets, not so much for jobs. The joys of efficiency in a recession.

So, with a low base cost, free public service allowing people to 'rent' out books on their eReaders (of which around a third of the UK's adults now possess), all accessible if you have an internet connection (and Google), making it easy to rent books from the comfort of your own home (rather than actually having to go to a library and actually take out the book, David) no wonder Daunt thinks ebook lending will be 'disruptive' to the retail market of ebooks. It's almost a "hudurrr" moment and a bit obvious really - would be more interesting to hear how Daunt & Co will counter it...

Someother Bookseller , I did say "Library Service bleating on about its death" , I didn't mean individuals.
How many of the endless conferences and reports have been about the technological opportunities for success in the future? No, they have been bleating on about closures , understandable but a lost cause and a lost opportunity for massive and exciting change, such as one central computer loaning E books nationally .

If my personal experiences of local library services are anything to go by it will be a while before e-books take off in libraries. The staff don't know how they work, so can't advise borrowers, and in its infinite wisdom my local council signed an agreement for a significant amount of money to get eBooks that can't be read on Kindles. As the majority of eBook readers use a Kindle this just seems ridiculous but is likely to be the situation in most public libraries without significant central investment in the adoption of new technologies.

Julian,

I was agreeing with you, but thought the word bleating was undeserving and I was merely quoting you.

scb, why does the 'councils buying incompatible ebooks for the most prolific reader in the country' not surprise me?

“If you can download a book for free and read it, why would you want to own it?”

If you can borrow a book for free and read it why would you want to own it?

Keep Up Mr Daunt! At least be consistent and criticise all library lending. As its obviously our nefarious purchase of paperbacks that has signalled the demise of the high st bookshop.....

Wasn't this what was said when libraries were first opened? Isn't it illogical to accept that dead tree books can be borrowed but object to the same action in relation to ebooks?

Aren't people who BORROW books also likely to be the people who BUY them?

Surely the best way of encouraging people to buy books is to encourage the reading habit in the first place?

Yes, Mr Daunt, which is why publishers are making it as difficult as possible for libraries to get a heads-up in this. Your question is rhetorical; it should have been: "How obstructive can the book trade be so the average library card holder just goes out and buy the ebook instead?"
In my experience, public library readers full into two types: time rich, money poor and money rich, independent minded. To hook in readers in the first case, libraries can loan the e-reading devices; in the second, maintain patrons by loaning niche and specialist e-titles, and original non-fiction, as they always have done.
Lending stats aside, library spaces also have a huge community value to their neighbourhood and are fiercely defended by those who use them. I predict that the bigest obstruction set in place by the book trade,i.e. to only permit e-books loans from the site of the library, will be good for libraries.

Another silly comment from Mr Daunt.

Well, I for one shall not be downloading and reading books. I do not like e-books. I have made a number of attempts but they are useless to me. I cannot mark pages with strips of paper, I cannot highlight important points, I cannot keep them permanently for reference. They may be ok for the light reader, but I cannot see them being of any use to the serious reader and the academic reader. I have discovered some treasures in secondhand bookshops and jumble sales. Plus a large number of us cannot reader them because of eyesight problems. And they take so much longer to read. I can whizz through a real book because I have learned how to read fast. No thanks : I shall stick to the printed version. And yes, I am well-aquainted with the wheel thank you very much, and I always use my computers - whether desk-top PC, lap-top or palm-top.

James is of course perfectly correct .

The difference now is that the purchase of an E book and the free loan of an E book are very similar in that neither have a physical entity to place on a shelf . Therefore why bother with ownership [at a cost] rather than a "time out" loan service for free?
This is why I can not understand why the library service is bleating on about its death , when infact with some focus and creativity we may well be entering the greatest period of library loans ever but at a greatly reduced cost .
Infact a centralised remote national E book library is only a step away , and no need to worry about opening hours and the book stack .
Julian Rivers.

Julian,

Librarians are 'bleating' on about the death of the library because they're going to lose their jobs, their 'livelihoods', if the cuts to the service continue.

This being said, I fully agree with your assertion that the 'ebook' lending service, whenever it finally gets the traction to become mainstream, will lead to some of the highest lending figures libraries have ever seen - with a centralised and low-cost service being the obvious choice for managing the new lending practices. "Low-cost and popular" is a phrase local and national government will not be able to resist and the physical library will disappear to be replaced by an efficient downloading service, which will need at most a tenth of the current workforce employed in libraries.

Great for budgets, not so much for jobs. The joys of efficiency in a recession.

So, with a low base cost, free public service allowing people to 'rent' out books on their eReaders (of which around a third of the UK's adults now possess), all accessible if you have an internet connection (and Google), making it easy to rent books from the comfort of your own home (rather than actually having to go to a library and actually take out the book, David) no wonder Daunt thinks ebook lending will be 'disruptive' to the retail market of ebooks. It's almost a "hudurrr" moment and a bit obvious really - would be more interesting to hear how Daunt & Co will counter it...

Someother Bookseller , I did say "Library Service bleating on about its death" , I didn't mean individuals.
How many of the endless conferences and reports have been about the technological opportunities for success in the future? No, they have been bleating on about closures , understandable but a lost cause and a lost opportunity for massive and exciting change, such as one central computer loaning E books nationally .

If my personal experiences of local library services are anything to go by it will be a while before e-books take off in libraries. The staff don't know how they work, so can't advise borrowers, and in its infinite wisdom my local council signed an agreement for a significant amount of money to get eBooks that can't be read on Kindles. As the majority of eBook readers use a Kindle this just seems ridiculous but is likely to be the situation in most public libraries without significant central investment in the adoption of new technologies.

Julian,

I was agreeing with you, but thought the word bleating was undeserving and I was merely quoting you.

scb, why does the 'councils buying incompatible ebooks for the most prolific reader in the country' not surprise me?