How Publishers Can Benefit from Deeper Library Partnerships
What was the pervasive theme of IDPF DigiCon this year? Digital publishing, of course. Data, obviously. But also, libraries. Likely because DigiCon was hosted in Chicago this year, home of the American Library Association, library professionals had a seat on multiple panels throughout the conference and shared their perspectives on issues like book discovery, digital reading, and education. One panel in particular put libraries at the center of the discussion and challenged publishers to rethink the library’s role in audience development and marketing strategies.
“Publishers need to stop thinking of libraries as customers but as people who can help them develop new business opportunities,” said Mitchell Davis, chief business officer at Bibliolabs, during the panel “The Future of Ebook Discovery: The Power of Partnerships, Big Data, and Innovation.”
During this session panelists emphasized that by providing greater and more immediate access to print and digital titles to library patrons, publishers can actually drive greater books sales and connect with new readers. The publisher-library partnership isn’t about giving away content for free, but introducing that content to new readers at scale. “Publishers need to get past the fear that libraries are a threat to their bottom line,” said Lauren Klouda, marketing manager of print & digital at the Independent Publishers Group. Panel moderator Keith Michael Fiels, executive director of the American Library Association, added, “Excluding perhaps the Big 5, the vast majority of publishers would not be profitable if not for libraries.”
Trusted Source of Discovery
One of the benefits libraries can offer publishers is their reputation within communities. Few institutions are as trusted as libraries, said Klouda, and that trust can be leveraged to introduce library patrons to new authors and titles. Veronda J. Pitchford, director of membership development & resource sharing at Reaching Across Illinois Library System (RAILS) agreed, saying, “I believe that we have the opportunity to introduce the general public to unique content that they may not have access to otherwise. . . but we need [publisher] partners to demonstrate that and take it to a more strategic level.”
Access to Consumer Data
Libraries can also be sources of invaluable data, as they collect both patron demographic data and detailed book check-out data. “A relationship may develop where libraries are sharing check-out data of publishers’ books with those specific publishers,” said David Ziembiec, western district sales manager and data analytics at Gale Cengage. He said that libraries could provide check-out data as well as detailed demographic information about their patrons. “It bridges the divide between the product that you sell and the end user,” said Ziembiec. Andrew Medlar, assistant chief of technology, content, and innovation at Chicago Public Library added that libraries will continue to maintain their patrons’ privacy, but they need to become more comfortable sharing data with publishers.
Panelists saw multiple uses for this type of data. Klouda said that libraries and publishers could engage in more regular conversations about what’s trending and point to titles that are worth investing greater marketing dollars. “Giving libraries a chance to give us feedback would be invaluable,” she said. Pitchford added that marketing initiatives for more niche titles could be initiated at the library level. “Libraries know what people need and read in their communities,” said Pitchford. If there is a title about a local historical figure or event, it could be promoted to the community’s most avid readers at the library.
Fiels concluded the session saying that to develop more lifelong readers, publishers and libraries must work together. After all, these institutions are not competing with one another, but rather with other forms of media entertainment like video games, television, and movies, all of which are more accessible to consumers than ever before. “We all share a commitment to reading as a fundamental good,” said Fiels. “It’s difficult to envision a post-reading world.”