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

37 Pages Posted: 4 Mar 2019 Last revised: 1 Jun 2020

See all articles by Abhishek Nagaraj

Abhishek Nagaraj

UC Berkeley-Haas

Imke Reimers

Northeastern University - Department of Economics

Date Written: May 25, 2020

Abstract

The digital era promised to deliver a centralized repository of all pre-existing knowledge through
mass digitization. However, concerns about cannibalizing demand for physical works have led publishers and authors to block the realization of this vision. We investigate the effect of mass 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 for physical works, mass digitization could increase demand for them, while also increasing their diffusion online.

Keywords: digitization, copyright, books

Suggested Citation

Nagaraj, Abhishek and Reimers, Imke, Digitization and the Demand for Physical Works: Evidence from the Google Books Project (May 25, 2020). 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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