January 24, 2006
Trends from the Entertainment Industry -Translate to Libraries?
Aaron Shaffer brought my attention to a very interesting article, called The Long Tail (Wired Magazine, Issue 12.10, October 2004). Most of us believe that the entertainment industry is driven only by the hits, probably due to all the award shows, rankings, etc. The "long tail" is all of the other albums, songs, movies, and books that account for a super large volume of sales if provided to the public. Examples like Amazon, Rhapsody, NetFlix, and eBay show that people are interested in and will buy the non-#1 materials if the resources are available to see reviews, get recommendations, and have easy access.
I think this article has long reaching consequences on libraries. First, what role does copyright have in the development of future library resources and services? I believe the intentions of copyright, that "Congress shall have the power to promote the progress of science and useful arts by securing for limited times to authors and inventors the exclusive right to their respective writings and discoveries" (U.S. Constitution, Article 1, Section 8), is very important. As copyright protection limits are continually increased in length, are will still protecting "progress" or just monetary interests? Someone would argue that economic numbers demonstrate progress, but are we using this measure at the death of future educational, cultural, and scientific discoveries? Just look at the article I shared on the KSL Reference Weblog for an example.
It appears that the "long tail" examples also counteracts the statements by book and journal publishers that open access materials would mean death to their sales. The article showed that increased access, free or very cheap, only boosted sales drastically. As people gained access, they always wanted more and more.
I think in libraries we are seeing a similar fate with Google and other Internet resources. While people are going to Google first for their questions, it results in only more questions and curiosity. The type of questions I see in the library are becoming more complicated in nature and more inquisitive on the user's part.
I think the academic libraries in Ohio have been very lucky with OhioLINK. It has allowed individual libraries more freedom (i.e. money) to maybe focus on what could be considered items that fall into the "long tail." In addition to consortia, libraries need to find the other processes that allow users access to everything and anything. It appears CASE is headed in the right direction with the increasing amount of electronic resources and collections, such as Digital Case.