Yesterday, Tim at LibraryThing posted an essay about the economics of e-book lending from public libraries. He did some research on the cost of lending and came to the conclusion that it probably wouldn’t work. By dividing number of books lent each year by annual library budgets he came to an average “cost per circulation” of 50 cents. Thus:
“Unfortunately, to keep library budgets the same, ebook sellers will need to accept $0.50 for each library loan. That’s not just the publisher’s money. The same $0.50 must compensate the publisher, the author and the ebook seller—all of whose costs were figured into the previous $0.50 calculations. (You can perhaps begin to understand why publishers and authors have never liked libraries, although few will say it openly.)”
I have not checked his math, and I am not sure how and whether publishers will adapt to the new market. But this is an interesting discussion.