Connecticut Introduces Bill Mandating Publishers Sell Ebooks to Libraries

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A bill has been introduced into the Conn. General Assembly that would mandate publishers sell ebooks to libraries “at the same rates as offered to the general public.”

The entire bill reads:

Referred to Committee on GENERAL LAW
Introduced by:
REP. SEAR, 47th Dist.
AN ACT CONCERNING “E-BOOKS” AND LIBRARIES.

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives in General Assembly convened:

That the general statutes be amended to require publishers of electronic books to offer such books for sale to public and academic libraries at the same rates as offered to the general public.

Statement of Purpose:

To require publishers of electronic books to offer e-books for sale to public and academic libraries at the same rates as offered to the general public.

Government has been famously involved in the ebook business in the U.S. since 2011 when there were rumblings of a Department of Justice investigation into Apple and five of the largest U.S. publishers concerning alleged ebook price-fixing and collusion. In July in the UK, the Labour party called for a task force to investigate library ebook lending.

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11 thoughts on “Connecticut Introduces Bill Mandating Publishers Sell Ebooks to Libraries

    • In response to the above question, libraries already have policies in regard to ebooks. They protect the copyright of the author and treat ebooks the same as print books. They only loan out as many copies as they purchase. Check with your local library to see their policy.

      • Which really did NOT answer his question, unfortunately. If libraries purchase an ebook from an indie publisher directly, do they respect copyright and STOP lending at a reasonable number of lends on that one sale? This is a sore spot between publishers/authors and librarians, I know. Some librarians have the idea that they should have limitless lends on an ebook, but that’s not respectful of the author copyright…nor is it comparable to a print book, because print WILL eventually wear out and need replacement. Personally, I feel this legislation isn’t appropriate UNLESS it addresses those concerns.

        Brenan

  1. Librarians have told me that they have to pay substantially more for movie DVDs than the public. It’s indicative of the sad state of our politics that our politicians are attempting (as here and the DOJ lawsuit against Apple et al) to bully book publishers, most of who operate on low profit margins, and doing nothing about the highly lucrative movie business.

    Yes, we have the best politicians that money can buy.

  2. PBW recently reported that Macmillan has decided to experiment with “selling” ebooks to libraries (more about why I put “selling” in quotation marks in a moment) by making about 1,600 of its Minotaur imprint backlist titles available. The terms: the books cost 2 or 3 times the list price (forgotten which) and are permitted to be made available for 2 years or 52 downloads, whichever comes first. To me that’s not selling — that’s leasing or renting. Hence my use of quotation marks around the word.

    Of course, no one who has an e-reader is actually buying an ebook — at least not from major e-tailers like Amazon or B&N. Unless the buyer takes the trouble of copying the book file from her device to, say, a PC, and then strips off the DRM, all such ebook purchases are provisional and subject to removal (and the purchaser’s account is equally provisional and subject to termination) by the e-tailer. That removals or terminations of this kind don’t happen often doesn’t mean they don’t happen at all. Basically ebooks are sold the same way software has been sold for the last 30 years: the “buyer” is really purchasing a nonexclusive license to access a file indefinitely.

    • eBooks have a lot more in common with software than with print books. One is the fact that ebooks do not wear out and need replaced as print books do. Even moreso because many ebook reading software is backward compatible, so they don’t age out that way either. Librarians are fond of pointing out that SOME print books have made it to 100 lends before they fray. I imagine some do, if the people borrowing are responsible with books. I have nothing against a higher limit than MacMillan is using. If some print books make it to 1o0 lends, I’d meet them halfway and go with 100 instead of unlimited. But there needs to be a limit in place somewhere, because unlimited lending on a product that never wears out is not equitable to a product that eventually does wear out.

      BTW, (to Michael) I don’t know about your local library, but my local library doesn’t just check out DVDs as they do books. You rent those, so they are making money back on them as they don’t with books. I suspect the libraries are paying the same fees Blockbuster, Netflix, Redbox, and others who will make money on rentals of the DVDs do. I don’t really think that one is an equitable comparison. Perhaps they pay that much, but that would be my guess for why they do.

      • Brenna: you make a good point about the perishability of print books versus the immortality of ebooks. Of course, when a library buys a print book it has the choice of deciding when its life is over — after 50 lends, after 100, after 150 — and, if it prefers, can have it rebound if it chooses to extend the book’s useful life. It truly *owns* the book. So my main objection is to the catch-all term *sell*, which I think for ebooks is illegitimate. The publishers aren’t selling them to libraries and, just as important, would prefer not to use a more legitimate verb like “rent” or “lease” because it focuses a little too sharply on the reality — which is that an ebook isn’t just physically immortal but, as long as its copyright is intact, an everlasting source of rental income in a way that a physical book can’t be. So a library that bought something from the bestseller list 15 years ago no longer has to worry about the kind of wear and tear the book experienced during its first year or two on loan. But an ebook from the bestseller list 15 years ago? For the publisher it’s a gift that keeps on giving.

  3. Is it the intent to control the price of the ebooks made available to Libraries, or to force copyright owners to make ebook versions of printed works available to Libraries?

    It appears that the Bill does not require print publishers to create ebook versions, unless they already publish ebook versions and already sell them to the public.

    Copyright law allows copyright owners the right to set the price for their work, and the right to exploit or not exploit all rights (which I infer includes the right to not publish in all media at the discretion of the copyright owner.)

    Surely, the CT government is interfering in a privately negotiated contract and removing the element of “consent” from the deal.

  4. As a librarian, I have my bias, but I wonder how many of the general public are aware that fully half of the titles on the New York Times Bestseller list are not available as ebooks to libraries at ANY price. And others are as much as six to eight times the consumer price. So \Gone Girl\ costs consumers $12.99 and libraries (volume purchasers who get discounts for print) $75. As for \perpetual use,\ the public doesn’t stop checking out a particular book because it wears out. They stop checking it out because they lose interest in it. If we price every book as if were a perennial classic, the public policy implication is that fewer people will have access to books. That means fewer readers who discover authors at a young age, or don’t have the wherewithal to pay cash for everything. Do we want publishers to stay in business? Sure. Do we want libraries to stay in business?

    • I love my local library, and the item I check out most is audio books on DVDs or CDs (as far as I am concerned, they are all scratched shiny discs). I like to listen to a story while I drive from Michigan to California or Florida. Most of the discs are scratched, dirty or otherwise damaged and I cannot hear crucial scenes.
      The library will buy replacements if I complain for the benefit of the next patron.
      Ebooks are not so fragile. The library probably will not buy replacements.
      Why, James, do you want to have e-books? Is it because you want to be trendy? Or do you want to eliminate local jobs for librarians? Do you celebrate the demise of a library as a place where booklovers congregate and quietly browse the stacks? It seems to me that some librarians’ insistence on lending e-books will lead to less foot traffic, less community at libraries and more lending online.

      At which point, it will be impossible for copyright owners to distinguish legitimate libraries from pirates.

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