Digitization and the Demand for Physical Works: Evidence from the Google Books Project

28 Pages Posted: 4 Mar 2019 Last revised: 17 Apr 2019

See all articles by Abhishek Nagaraj

Abhishek Nagaraj

UC Berkeley-Haas

Imke Reimers

Northeastern University - Department of Economics

Date Written: April 15, 2019

Abstract

The age of digitization promised to deliver a centralized, digital repository of all knowledge. Copyright holders, however, concerned about reduced demand for physical works, have blocked the realization of this vision. We investigate the effect of digitization on demand for physical works using novel data tracking the timing of the digitization of individual books from Harvard University’s libraries through the Google Books project. Digitization hurt loans within Harvard but increased sales of physical editions by about 35%, especially for less popular works. Rather than cannibalizing demand, digitization might benefit copyright holders through increased discovery of less popular works.

Keywords: digitization, copyright, books

Suggested Citation

Nagaraj, Abhishek and Reimers, Imke, Digitization and the Demand for Physical Works: Evidence from the Google Books Project (April 15, 2019). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3339524 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3339524

Abhishek Nagaraj (Contact Author)

UC Berkeley-Haas ( email )

545 Student Services Building, #1900
2220 Piedmont Avenue
Berkeley, CA 94720
United States

Imke Reimers

Northeastern University - Department of Economics ( email )

301 Lake Hall
Boston, MA 02115
United States

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