Libraries and Ebooks: Here’s to a Hopeful 2014

Expert publishing blog opinions are solely those of the blogger and not necessarily endorsed by DBW.

In contrast to the political goings-on in Washington, D.C., I’m optimistic about libraries and ebooks for 2014. As summarized in Jeremy Greenfield’s recent article “Ten Bold Predictions for Ebooks and Digital Publishing in 2014,” I envision that we will build on the momentum in 2013 with continued improvement in library access from Macmillan and Simon & Schuster, as well as other Big 5 players. I look forward to working with our New York colleagues in the coming year.

Of course, there is life beyond the Big 5. Recently, I had the opportunity to meet with senior managers at Perseus Books Group. We had a stimulating discussion about libraries and ebooks. Perseus has dealt with libraries from the early days of their ebook business, and on an equitable basis: All of their titles are available to libraries at the same prices charged to consumers, and for the same time period as consumers—indefinite access via one person-at-a-time use. Thus, our discussion focused on other matters, such as how can libraries be best positioned to fulfill the true information needs of library users, which sometimes means providing or recommending a title that the user never considered requesting.

This point about libraries as discovery and marketing venues is one worthy of more attention. We (the library community) can do a better job to communicate how libraries do and could facilitate access to ebooks, whether for lending (which of course means library purchases) or direct user purchases. But also as a fairly new area, there is room for considerable creativity—brainstorming is needed. For sure, libraries don’t have all the answers, but we are willing and interested in experimenting and innovating.

To that end, here is an opportunity for those of you reading this post. Digital Book World invited the American Library Association (ALA) to host a pre-conference workshop at the upcoming Digital Book World conference on this subject of library discovery and marketing. The workshop will take place on Monday, January 13, 2-5pm, and is entitled “Boosting Ebook Exposure and Discovery Through Libraries.” The presenters and discussion facilitators include Nora Rawlinson of EarlyWord, Maja Thomas, Consultant (and until recently, a Senior Vice President at Hachette Book Group), and Wendy Bartlett of Cuyahoga County (Ohio) Public Library, as well as Larra Clark and yours truly from ALA. I hope to see you there.

Finally, I am optimistic about the coming year because of a new initiative that ALA just launched. As we all know, the digital revolution is driving fundamental change in libraries (and throughout the reading/publishing ecosystem). The Policy Revolution! initiative will enable ALA to reconsider and reorient how we engage in national public policy and advocacy. As the past couple of years have demonstrated, the library community faces new challenges in how it engages with key national institutions such as publishers, distributors, and the author community. I look forward to the coming months as ALA develops a strategy for the digital age that moves us further beyond highlighting library availability problems and high prices for ebooks.


Expert Publishing Blog
Alan S. Inouye

About Alan S. Inouye

Alan S. Inouye is director of the Office for Information Technology Policy (OITP) of the American Library Association (ALA), based in Washington, D.C. Since 2011, he also serves as the program manager of ALA’s Digital Content & Libraries Initiative. Prior to ALA, Alan was the coordinator of the President’s Information Technology Advisory Committee in the Executive Office of the President for three years. Earlier, Alan served as a study director at the Computer Science and Telecommunications Board of the National Academy of Sciences for seven years. He completed his Ph.D. at the University of California at Berkeley.

3 thoughts on “Libraries and Ebooks: Here’s to a Hopeful 2014

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  3. Steven Zacharius

    I’d like to add that Kensington Publishing Corp. has always had the same terms with libraries for digital books as we’ve had with all digital retailers. There are more than Big 5 publishers out there. We publish close to 450 books per year and have great relations with libraries.

    Steven Zacharius
    President and CEO
    Kensington Publishing Corp.



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