In 2011, several major publishing houses and ebook reader producers have had repeated disputes over the publication rights to certain ebooks, some of the big companies even created eco-systems of their own, where only users of devices they produce can access and so on. It was only a matter of time until ebook companies started springing up here and there, each with attractive offers and comprehensive libraries.
Former Waterstones CEO, Tim Coates, founded Bilbary, a company that has the goal to bring publishers and libraries together, to create an alternative ebook lending model and to offer fresh features to their users. A few days ago, Bilbary opened the gates to their Beta version, encompassing content from over 2,300 publishers and managing to begin their journey with approximately 340,000 titles.
In February, Tim Coates stated, in his interview with a GoodEreader representative: ”In all the years that I’ve been involved with books, I’ve never seen a year like last year. Four or five major battles, almost wars, were going on in the industry. I have spent the last ten years working in the public library system, trying to save them because they are at the brink of destruction and closure. It’s a shame, but not entirely unpredictable. They are very different than bookstores because they provide enormous low cost access to reading. Two-thirds of reading is books that come from public libraries, while one-third of reading material comes from bookstores. Therefore, libraries are not just a player in the game, they are the player. People who don’t see that are not conscious of how important libraries are. There’s a gulf between the libraries and publishers and it’s coming from 150 years of tradition.”
At that moment, all books from the Bilbary list were reported to come from all the Big Six publishers, something not yet attainable by public libraries, in terms of ebook lending.
The most important thing that Bilbary did to differentiate itself from public libraries is that they transferred the power back to the publishers. Firstly, the publisher decides if the book gets loaned, he sets the price on ebook sales and he charges a “lending fee”, as well as decides the number of days the ebook is lent. Basically, Bilbary cut out the intermediary and returned decisive rights to the ones who deserve it in the first place, thus allowing publishers to prevent piracy, which is their primary concern over ebook lending after all.
However impressive the Bilbary collection is at the moment, they plan to add another 250,000 titles by late spring to early summer, and by the end of the website launch, they plan to open up the catalogue to out-of-print titles and self-published ebooks.
The new library model seems extremely interesting, for publishers and users alike. Readers have the chance to get in touch with publishers, and writers get the chance to publish their work worry free, in a safe environment that they control. After a few days from launch, Bilbary already promises to have by summer a collection of over 600,000 titles, thus transforming in a small yet powerful competitor to the giant libraries out there. And if not for its size, at least for the fact that it’s neutral and anyone will have access, indifferent of the device they’re using.