Libraries Cost Publishers $100 Billion Per Year! Ban Them!

from the this-is-fun dept

So a whole bunch of you submitted the story last week about a “study” claiming that unauthorized downloads of books was “costing” the publishing industry $3 billion per year. I avoided the study for a variety of reasons. Mainly, the reason I ignored it was because it was done by a company selling “solutions” to the (non) “problem,” Attributor is a company that has a very long history of putting out totally ridiculous studies like this to try to sell more of its pointless service. And, of course, if you looked at the details of the study, you realized how ridiculous it was — designed solely to generate headlines. So we ignored it.

However… we feel compelled to mention it now because Slashdot points us to an absolutely brilliant response by a blogger who used the same basic methodology to point out that, according to this line of thinking, libraries are costing publishers $100 billion per year:

Hot on the heels of the story in Publisher’s Weekly that “publishers could be losing out on as much $3 billion to online book piracy” comes a sudden realization of a much larger threat to the viability of the book industry. Apparently, over 2 billion books were “loaned” last year by a cabal of organizations found in nearly every American city and town. Using the same advanced projective mathematics used in the study cited by Publishers Weekly, Go To Hellman has computed that publishers could be losing sales opportunities totaling over $100 Billion per year, losses which extend back to at least the year 2000. These lost sales dwarf the online piracy reported yesterday, and indeed, even the global book publishing business itself.

From what we’ve been able to piece together, the book “lending” takes place in “libraries”. On entering one of these dens, patrons may view a dazzling array of books, periodicals, even CDs and DVDs, all available to anyone willing to disclose valuable personal information in exchange for a “card”. But there is an ominous silence pervading these ersatz sanctuaries, enforced by the stern demeanor of staff and the glares of other patrons. Although there’s no admission charge and it doesn’t cost anything to borrow a book, there’s always the threat of an onerous overdue bill for the hapless borrower who forgets to continue the cycle of not paying for copyrighted material.

Good stuff. The blog post goes on to discuss a shifty “meeting” of so-called “librarians” set out to destroy the publishing industry. Satire at its finest. Of course will the mainstream press remember this the next time Attributor puts out some silly report? Probably not…

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Companies: attributor

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Comments on “Libraries Cost Publishers $100 Billion Per Year! Ban Them!”

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Anonymous Coward says:

Re: I will be smiling all the way to the library

“I recently decided to donated a big portion of my personal DVD library. Yes dear Hollywood producers, you are going to loses a few more sales! LOL!”

You do know that the majority of book and media/DVD/CD donations to libraries end up on the library book sale tables in monthly, quarterly or annual sales to the public? It’s highly likely those DVDs you donated never hit the library shelves at all. Even worse, some library systems contract out to slimeball booksellers, giving them first crack at the good stuff for resale, which is why most of the time, you can’t find shit at library book sales anymore.

Anonymous Coward says:

On Libraries

A city I used to live in recently made an executive decision to close a library. The area HOA responsible for donating the land is now suing the city because the land was originally donated to The City on the basis that they would create a Library and staff it for fifty years.

Granted technological progress changes things, I believe that people should live up to their obligations. Folks like Amazon, Wikipedia, Google and others who want to indirectly become the World’s Library should consider their effect on the established world around them.

I know I’m dreaming, and such a suggestion may cause a flame war, but it would be a win-win-win if libraries were given a reason to exist. If content providers made more information available at libraries over Google. A libraries that had expanded search options, and digital versions of all the newspapers and all books to exist.

I know I will butt heads with Mike, but today, there are few reasons to visit a library, and I don’t want to see it bulldozed and turned into a city owned mini-mart.

Chargone (profile) says:

Re: On Libraries

Huh. The city libraries here seem to be doing well (Christchurch, New Zealand, that is). the only one there was even consideration about closing was due to it being too small and too close to another one.

of course, apart from the main central library, all the others are also ‘council service centers’ where people can pay their rates (basically a local utilities and services tax, which covers the libraries themselves, as well as water, general city maintenance, whatever stupid plans the council takes it into their heads to undertake in a given year, and probably some other stuff). most of them provide at least limited internet access now too. it helps that they’re all linked up in one system, as well.

some also offer conference rooms, or contain cafe’s…

they all get plenty of use from people of all ages, too.

i dunno, maybe it’s different in the USA or where ever…

Luci says:

Re: On Libraries

Conference rooms, cafes, audio/video, periodicals, references, fact and fiction, artwork and rare books… Are you so certain there are few reasons to visit a library? Or have you just not been to your’s in a while? It’s hard for me to imagine not having libraries around, let alone having them with so few patrons as to close them up.

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: On Libraries

“I know I’m dreaming, and such a suggestion may cause a flame war, but it would be a win-win-win if libraries were given a reason to exist. If content providers made more information available at libraries over Google. A libraries that had expanded search options, and digital versions of all the newspapers and all books to exist.”


Here in my medium-sized city, the library is thriving and completely relevant. It’s fully connected to the internet, such that I can look through it’s catalog, reserve books, CDs, DVDs, and all sorts of things to be picked up later. Some video & audio can be streamed over the net, even, when copyright allows. In short, it’s hard to imagine doing a better job at leveraging the internet.

It wasn’t always this way — for a time, there was some question about its survival. Then it reinvented itself and is more popular than ever. Yay libraries!

MCR says:

Re: On Libraries

Why can’t Google be your library? Why does the library even need to be at a physical location?

Don’t get me wrong, I loved going to the library as a kid. And I do actually prefer reading a physical book (as opposed to an e-reader). However, if the content can be spread more effectively through digital means, I think it would be counter-productive to limit digital libraries accessible through the internet.

The very idea behind creating public libraries was education and content distribution, paid for by the government (and charity).

T says:

Re: Re: On Libraries

Google can’t be your library because you are less good at finding things than you think you are, and Google is less good at finding things than you think it is.

For leisure reading, sure, Google all you like.

For serious information about serious questions? Google’s no better than the median usefulness of its most popular websites, and given that the web is full of snake-oil salesmen, con artists, distracted spiritualists and self-appointed experts, that’s not much good. Why not get a skilled researcher, with access to information of known high quality, to help you out?

Justin Roberts says:

Purpose of Libraries

People need to bare in mind why we have Libraries in the first place.

It was so those poorer people whom couldn’t afford access to information resources would still be able to, compared to those more wealthy citizens that had no trouble purchasing such material.

Now admittedly we have come a long way from such distinct class issues and differences, but even today many people still can’t afford to by a book, let alone a PC or Laptop to access this wealth of information. If charges are placed on these services, then once again it will be those in the community that can least afford it that will be hurt the most.

Maybe the Administration might want to think about which constituints it wants to look after more – Hollywood / Publishing Industries / Recording Industries, etc, representing people who most likely have never set foot in a Library in their life, and wouldn’t need to, or those who will find their chances of bettering themselves in society cut off if their access to free information is cut off as well.

NullOp says:


This is just the sort of thing that could spiral into some really stupid shit. ‘Studies” such as the one mentioned are potentially harmful to the few good things that exist in American society. All it takes is some bored lawyer or a ill informed, moronic congressperson, take your pick, to blow this up into a real something. The site that started this stupid crap needs to be taken down! NOW!!!

Steve R. (profile) says:

Another Broken Window Fallacy

Maybe the publishers really lost $100 billion. But then the people who borrowed the free books, being very innovative, added $200 billion dollars to the economy based on what they learned in those books. The free market at work.

Just because one sector of the economy “looses” doesn’t mean that our entire economy looses. In fact the economy, overall, is probably stronger because of the free exchange of information.

Lucky Taylor (user link) says:


Is this just idle chatter or are you ready to do something about this? Point the finger inward voters and non-voters:

Conspiracy with the libraries? I should believe that your volume about the state of the U.S. dollar would blow my ear drums.

Take care.

Jeannette S. says:


Mr. Masnick;

You put a lot of background work into your article. How did you obtain all the information? Did you have a place to go to when this article was penned? You seem to be one of the new young computer generation prodigies. Nothing wring with that, as many of us adopted a keyboard and retired our typewriters.

Libraries were originally the result of our country’s efforts to make sure that our young people were given the highest level of education that we as a people could afford. Any member of the community, young or old can go to this location and grow in literary knowledge and experience.

I believe that libraries are necessary for two reasons. First, not every family can afford a computer or the extra expense of the internet. We still have three economic classes and responsible for the education of all. Secondly, the library houses a vast treasure trove of books that cannot be found anywhere else as they do not bring in enough profit for Barnes and Noble, etc. Where else can you go to get titles that have been out of print for eighty years? What about books printed 150 years ago? How titles that are so rare that you need the presence of a librarian to examine them?

I like the library. They are vast treasure troves that have their own place in our society. As for the possible millions in sales that they supposedly deny the retail markets; ever hear of the expression, “You can’t squeeze blood from a turnip?”

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