Head of Library Association Appeals to Publishers to Sell E-Books to Libraries

By Jeremy Greenfield, Editorial Director, Digital Book World, @JDGsaid

Opportunity in America will be under threat if publishers can’t find a way to work with libraries in providing more access to e-books to library patrons, according to the head of the American Library Association.

“Many readers have trouble understanding why a library would not own a copy for an e-book if it were generally available,” said Molly Raphael, president of American Library Association (ALA). “Librarians are frustrated at an inability to acquire what their patrons request.”

Raphael was speaking to an audience of the largest U.S. book publishers at the annual meeting of the Association of American Publishers in New York.

She appealed to publishers to provide more e-books to libraries for lending — both to their bottom line and their sense of fairness and support of democracy.

E-book library lending has been a hot-button topic in the book publishing community with several major publishers discontinuing selling new titles to OverDrive for library lending, the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library challenging established e-book lending paradigms and companies like Random House independently renegotiating its relationship with libraries.

Raphael said that the ALA is currently negotiating with individual publishers in an effort to convince them to provide affordable e-books to libraries. In the case of Random House, the strategy may have backfired, as the company announced soon after its latest meeting with the ALA that it was raising its prices for e-books drastically.

“We care so deeply about providing e-books to our patrons, that’s why we’re having these individual conversations,” Raphael said.

Appealing to publishers’ bottom line, Raphael said that book borrowers were often book buyers, citing a recent study from Library Journal. Libraries are where new books are discovered and librarians often find creative ways to market and promote books and authors, she said.

Appealing to their hearts, she said that limiting access of e-books to library patrons would hamper opportunity in America.

The New York Public Library publicly offered to experiment with publishers in pilot programs for e-book lending. In a speech later in the morning, Dr. Anthony Marx, president and CEO, New York Public Library said that publishers could test various e-book lending programs — across three branches or the whole New York library system.

Write to Jeremy Greenfield

2 thoughts on “Head of Library Association Appeals to Publishers to Sell E-Books to Libraries

  1. Greg

    Libraries regularly purchase new copies of physical books to replace those that have worn out. Instead of charging libraries more for a single copy of an ebook, why not charge them less for a quarterly or semi-annual/annual subscription? This way they can continue to make them available to their patrons for as long as there is demand and budget, and publishers can be assured that there will be a continuing stream of income.

  2. Lantz

    Lets face it, eBooks are only a rental agreement to begin with — so why don’t they rent viewing rights to anyone who wants to read a book. If publishers do not wake up on this, authors will abandon major publishers in masse and donate funds to libraries to be the “filter of quality writing” . They will do it for the good of the community and not for greedy profit.



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