John Farrell - 3 July - Forbes
I spoke recently with Tim Coates, a veteran bookseller and the founder of Bilbary, a new Web-based consumer e-book library and retail bookstore, to ask him what made his company different from other e-book providers.
“We work with public libraries, which distinguishes us from what some of the larger more commercial operations are doing,” he told me in a Skype interview. “The origin lies with work that I’ve done over many years with public libraries–and the statistic that more reading takes place even nowadays of books which have come from the public library service than come from the bookstores.”
Well over 2 billion books are read from the collections in public libraries every year, according to Coates, while the number of books read from those bought in bookstores is 1 to 1.2 billion.
“What that means is that in terms of the population having access to books, the public libraries still make up an enormous part of reading,” he said. “And in a sense if you’re a publisher you don’t really see that in your day to day working routine.”
A publisher doesn’t see what he’s sold to libraries because it goes off through a wholesale network, Coates stated. ”He doesn’t see what is circulated, or what author has become popular through the libraries. He never sees the circulation figures. And this is true of printed books, of course.”
Coates moved his company into the world of e-books, where so much of the content can be accessible and available to people at a much lower cost than printed books. The problem to be tackled, he realized, was how to get the big publishers to agree to lending of e-books. “The public libraries need to be playing a very important part in my view,” he said.
“It isn’t just about money. It’s about providing people access to the great wash of literature, both what is current and what has been around. When you go into a really good book store, and you find something from the ’30s or ’40s and ’50s, it’s making that all available using this new technology. That’s what excites me about e-books. In my heart, I’m more akin to being a librarian than someone driven commercially to make a big company.”
Coates has over thirty years experience as a bookseller. “I was in at the start at Waterstone’s in London,” he said. “And the whole idea was by making the bookstore really big, you could accomodate as much of the backlist as you could squeeze on the shelves. And what you were offering and what was attractive, was if someone said there was some Czech novel from the 1960s that was really interesting, then you should have it there.”
But those days are long gone. “Now we’ve got into this odd situation where all the big six trade publishers don’t want to supply libraries with their e-books –and that’s amazing to me. I can understand why they’ve got into that position, but it’s not satisfactory and someone’s got to sort that out.”
Full story at Forbes