The paper aims to demonstrate how a business modeling approach can assist in finding a compromise between public actors (libraries) and private actors (book publishers).
Information was gathered during a cycle of several group workshops with both public and private stakeholders, where conclusions on the structure and components of the most suitable business model were iteratively refined.
Value networks with correctly defined business roles on different organisational layers were constructed for all involved private and public partners. The precise location and role of the Flemish E‐book Platform as a neutral broker between these stakeholders was described in detailed fashion.
The findings could be limited to the local situation of Flanders, where for example each city is forced by decree to invest in a local public library. The relatively small size of the Dutch language area and its associated book publishing industry might contain elements of irreproducability of the findings.
The conclusions of this research played a significant role in the pre‐commercial phase of the platform, since the constructed business model served as input for the procurement of technical modules in the next phase. The advice on the appropriate business roles had a direct impact on the technical functionalities that need to be developed. The decision to not allow the platform to directly interact with end‐users, and to leave customer ownership with libraries or bookstores, is a direct consequence of the conclusions.
This research takes into account the interests of both private and public actors, allowing for a continued role of public value creation for government‐funded libraries in the coming age of digital book distribution.
The paper offers a new methodological toolkit to practitioners from the book publishing industry and the public library sphere to offer a future route to shared value.
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