The Bookseller has a brief report on a London roundtable in which some publishers and booksellers sounded a warning about library e-book lending. Waterstones m.d. James Daunt said that library e-lending could be disruptive to bricks-and-mortar booksellers. “If you can download a book for free and read it, why would you want to own it?”
Daunt further noted that booksellers have had things “extremely easy” for a long time, and have lost focus on “the basic discipline of retailing.” He suggested that there is an opportunity for booksellers to learn to improve their financial focus and learn to run themselves better. However, he said that the numbers of bookstores will inevitably decline.
Some of the commenters below the article scoff at Daunt’s pessimism over library e-lending, pointing out that it’s been possible to check out the physical book for years and that hasn’t seemed to hurt sales. I would also note that it’s more likely e-book lending will hurt e-book sales rather than physical book sales, since e-book lending shares with e-book buying the instant gratification factor of being able to buy the book without having to leave one’s home. If you were willing to leave your home, it’s more likely checking out the physical book would be the buying threat.