Saturday, June 16, 2007

Christian Publishers Just Don't Get It

One of the events at this year's Association of Christian Librarians' Conference was a publisher's forum with representatives of Kregel, Zondervan, Baker, and Eerdmans speaking as panelists. It became very clear to the librarians that although the publishers stated that our libraries were very important to them that when push comes to shove, they just don't understand the digital revolution in libraries and are doing nothing to serve our needs. A few of them have a few downloadable books available, but these seem to be marketed to individuals rather than to libraries because they require different platforms. Libraries are more interested in having electronic books available which can be read in a web browser by their patrons and which require no additional software installation beyond Adobe PDF which is usually already available. They aren't interested in software which requires special readers or devices in order to read them. These publishers seemed very much mired in the print world of the 1960s and early 1970s rather than in the 21st century. I believe that if these publishers don't quickly get into the 21st century, that they are going to cause their own demise. Several of them kept making an excuse about "being fair to the authors" in regards to royalties; however, if publishers such as Oxford University Press are doing it, there is no excuse why those models cannot be studied and an acceptable one established. There is also one other thing that was disturbing to many of the librarians in attendance. It was clear that the publishers didn't understand how books are used by academics. They did not seem to appreciate the fact that many persons use only portions of books in electronic formats. Do they not realize that the same thing has been going on for years in academia? If a researcher is seeking information, they may only use one chapter or a few pages that they've located using the index in the back of the book. Most researchers do look at the context to determine if there is additional information relevant to their work as they utilize the information. They don't really take it completely out of context which is what the publishers seemed to think happened if the entire book was not read. It is hoped that the four publishers present and other publishers in the Christian book industry will move into the 21st century before they are replaced by publishers who publish electronically and will print on demand as needed. The model is already out there. An few upstarts could come along and revolutionize Christian publishing if those not already in the industry don't take the lead.

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