Overcoming e-book 'stagnation'

With so few Swedish language e-books available, Stockholm Public Libraries developed innovative responses, including working with partners to produce their own e-books.

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In today's online 'prosumer' society anyone can claim the role as a writer, publisher, mediator, reader or curator. We can pick and choose from a variety of self publishing solutions and get our message out in a snap.  A growing number of digital self-publishing tools facilitate editing and publishing, not only of online magazines and blogs, but also e-books, PoD books, e-journals etc. Self publishing is becoming part of the new normal.

The publishing industry response
Digitisation and self-publishing challenges the traditional roles of the publishing industry. The response from most traditional publishers, so far, has been protectionism rather than adaptation to modern business models suited for an online world. Instead of promoting innovation the recipe for survival seems to be DRM and confinement.

The public library response
What is the role of the public library in this new publishing eco system?  Obviously, the responses vary depending on language size and the DRM situation in each country. In the Nordic countries, the e-book market is tiny, and Sweden is no exception.  Very few books have been digitised so far, and the absolute majority of them are fiction books.  The selection of digitised non-fiction titles in Swedish is very small, the result of which is an almost complete dominance of English-language e-titles in the Swedish academic world. Students and researchers still face very few opportunities to enjoy e-reading in their own native language. When early adopters of e-reading devices realise that their favourite books are not available in their native language , they are very likely to opt for English alternatives. This dominance of the English language in the Swedish e-book market, just like in the overall media market, is seen by a growing number of critics as a potential threat to the Swedish language itself.

The Swedish e-book market is growing at a snail's pace. Without proactive and innovative initiatives aiming at boosting the production of Swedish e-books and making them available for library loans, this dystopia will be coming closer.

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