Why Libraries are Important to the Publishing Industry

When people think of local libraries, they are often thinking of the Carnegie libraries: an endeavor taken on by Andrew Carnegie, a man who lived the rags-to-riches American Dream.


Carnegie agreed to build and furnish libraries for any city, as long as they maintained and staffed the library themselves and provided a site for construction. These libraries were unique because Carnegie strongly believed in bringing information and knowledge to everyone for free. It became a national phenomenon because books were more easily accessible, resulting in many people reading for fun.


A total of about 2,500 libraries were built, most of them located in the United States. The rest were spread across Britain, Ireland, Canada, Australia, and other countries. The libraries that he provided moved past just circulating printed information and became social centers where schools could have a classroom off-campus for students. They also served as places for other community organizations, such as the Red Cross, to hold meetings.


Most cities are expected to have a library, a place for students to do work after school, and a place where people can go to gain access to a different medium of information, like the Internet.


Recently, there has been dissent between libraries and publishers as they have tried to figure out how to collaborate over information dispersal using e-books. The conflict, according to a recent conference hosted by Publishers Weekly, was centered around issues like:

  • How much should e-books be priced when sold to libraries?
  • How would libraries lending out e-books compete with consumer sales?
  • What restrictions could publishers place on libraries about distributing e-books after the sale?

David Vinjamuri,  a moderator at the conference, thought that the relationship between libraries and publishers was important in helping publishers establish new authors and promote the long-term sales of books. Space is becoming less available and more precious as newer, renowned authors of modern and contemporary novels join the ranks of long-established authors on the shelves of public libraries, making it so that libraries have to decide which books occupy the shelves and which books need to be cycled out.


With brick-and-mortar bookstore locations closing down, and the end of Borders, presenting consumers with a visual book to tempt their wallets is becoming harder. People who are willing to spend money on books are experiencing less exposure to newer novels and publishers are making less money on fewer authors.


Libraries are vital because they help people discover books. They teach people to love books by having a ready supply available for those who might be wavering over whether or not investing in a book is worth it. Rather than worrying that selling e-books to libraries at market price and leaving them within restrictions will lead to a drop in sales, publishers should think of e-books in libraries as the gateway to long-term sales for lifelong customers.


–Michelle Nguyen