Virtual libraries are my 2020 discovery, but publishers don’t make it easy

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Brian Adam
Professional Blogger, V logger, traveler and explorer of new horizons.

With these topics in my fortnightly column it will seem that I spend the day reading, but what is it. I was recently talking about why I read so much on my mobile, and now I want to expand on an idea that I briefly mentioned in that text: that of a discovery called virtual libraries.

I timidly used one for years, but in recent times I have become more and more convinced of its value and how well these platforms have adapted to new times. And that’s despite the publishers of the books, many of whom they do not see with good eyes that they are provided free and let’s not end up buying them.

If you want, you (almost) will not have to pay for a book in your life

I don’t even remember how I discovered the Pozuelo eBook, but the truth is that when I signed up for the physical library of this town, I was quite clear that (at least the physical part) I was going to use it little. It was more of an excuse for my kids to grab a book from time to time and take a walk there.


The point is that I ended up discovering the application, which is free and it is available from no less than 2012 both Android and iOS mobiles. As I was already a user of the physical library (to be one, you must be registered here) I had no problem registering, and soon I was browsing the catalog of electronic books (and audiobooks!) That this platform offers for free for loan.

The catalog is not perfect, but complaining about this is ridiculous because it is impossible that you can read everything that this (or any library) has available. There are some titles you will not find, but the problem with this and any library (virtual or not) is not actually that, but the fact that If the book you are looking for is there, it is likely that someone else is already reading it and there are several people interested in that same title.

That problem ceases to be when one can join the list of users who want to borrow the book. While you wait, you can pick up other book (s) and read them (up to three concurrent loans, in fact, in case you like to jump from one to another) and the library tells you about it and precisely when talking about it, they told how the people in charge Rakuten explained how to pass borrowed books to this reader without too many complications.

The end result of the experience is mind-boggling, and you certainly realize that you could be reading for free your entire life. That is not the corollary of this article beware: I read borrowed books, but I also buy them —I have just bought the ebook version of the latest one from Pérez-Reverte, for example— and will continue to buy others on paper. The important thing, as I said in the previous article, is to enjoy reading, whatever the format.

The resources to read e-books for free They are huge both in Spanish and in other languages, and together with eBook Pozuelo, for example, I became a user of eBiblio recently (after a new visit to the municipal library, where they completed the process in just a couple of days).

This platform is something like the Pozuelo eBook matrix. The application is actually the same, but the catalog changes, so that I have access to more books from two different sources. Other platforms may not have a specific mobile application, but even if the formats with which they work are not so comfortable (there are those that work with HTML without more) it is possible to adapt them thanks to Caliber, that application that any lover of electronic books will surely know and that allows you to generate ebooks in other formats or ePub easily from HTML or PDF.

The publishers (logically) against the loan

The problem I mentioned earlier – having to wait to be able to access the loan as such of that book you wanted to read – is not only the fault of the demand: there may be many users who want to read the same book at the same time, so what? why not generate multiple “copies” of that book to lend? After all, it is an electronic file. What’s the problem?


The problem is that e-books are treated like physical books. Each library pays to have these volumes at its disposal, and is adding or removing books from the catalog as Netflix does with its series and movies.

Libraries “buy” or “rent” these books from publishers, but they do it with very special conditions that make, as we say, they cannot buy or rent more than a certain number.

In the United States, in fact, the “Big Five” of the publishing world (Macmillan, Penguin Random House, Hachette Livre, HarperCollins, and Simon & Schuster) they don’t make it easy for virtual libraries there.

Macmillan indeed created an eight-week embargo for new releases, and each library could only buy one copy of these new releases after that time. Otherwise, said its CEO John Sargent, the rent would end up dooming the sales of these new books.

The reasoning is logical for publishers and authors: they are companies and companies are there to make money. How they do it is another questionAnd if you don’t remember the book pricing fraud scandal that led the United States to sue Apple. The Cupertino company had to pay $ 450 million after being found guilty.


Others like Amazon are also clear that lending books is not going for them. Its internal publisher, the one with which many authors self-publish, does not allow (at least in the United States) libraries to loan these books. Alan Inouye of the American Library Association called this a “permanent embargo.” Of course: if you subscribe to Kindle Unlimited and read them on your Kindle, no problem. It would be more.

The debate and the position of the publishers, although reasonable when you put yourself in their shoes, seems exaggerated. In Wired they also spoke of the limitations of these loan systems imposed by publishers on libraries. Their resources are limited, and every book they can rent comes out on average. for about 40 dollars, something that again hinders your work.

In Spain, as explained in El País years ago, the operation is similar. Systems such as eBiblio, which depend on the Ministry of Culture and Sports, pay publishers for the license to use each title. “You can buy one or thousands of licenses for a book, depending on whether you estimate that the work will have more or less demand. Each license leads, in turn, to an average of 28 possible downloads “.

It is the large publishing houses such as Planeta, Anaya or Larousse that are part of that catalog, with the small ones or the bookstores out of the loop, at least at that time. The idea works: as of December 31, 2019 the catalog consists of 22,684 books and more than 1.7 million books had been loaned to the almost 120,000 users of that platform.

Read The weight in percentage of each business model and its growth percentage in 2019 make it clear that international platforms dominate the market, but what grew the most in 2019, attention, were libraries. Source: Libranda.

Data from Libranda, one of the large digital book distributors, indicated in its “2019 Digital Book Annual Report” —a good X-ray of this segment in Spain and Latin America— as “the weight of digital loans already reaches a 4.3% market share; its growth in value in euros in 2018 was 2.5% “.

The COVID pandemic has driven this activity, and the numbers are expected to rise significantly in 2020. If lucky, libraries may have easier access and better conditions for a service that ultimately benefits everyone. It makes us read and, as has been shown to be the case in the world of video games, not only allows us to read for free: it probably invites us to buy more books too.