Spending Too Much on Ebook Copies of Fifty Shades? Libraries Respond

Earlier this week, Digital Book World reported that a library system in Ohio spent nearly $24,000 on ebook copies of Fifty Shades of Grey (Libraries and Ebooks: Spending Big on Fifty Shades of Grey).

The article caused debate in the library and publishing communities about the role of libraries, library budgets, ebooks and libraries and publishers.

Here is an official response from American Library Association president Barbara Stripling:

The success of the public library comes from its ability to respond to local needs and interests. That translates to the programs, services and even to the titles that libraries purchase. Public libraries make individual decisions about collection development and responsiveness to customer demand. This isn’t about any one ebook title but more about the ability of public libraries to provide access to the content in the formats that customers want. The amount spent on an individual title to meet the demand needs to be taken in the context of an overall materials spend. This example (Fifty Shades of Grey) was used to illustrate the divide between print costs and ebook costs and the dilemma that libraries face in order to satisfy customers. As free access to materials remains a fundamental tenet of public libraries and access to digital content increasingly relates to the relevancy of libraries, we must continue the conversation around the key issues of availability, choice, and fair price.

Read the original article here.

5 thoughts on “Spending Too Much on Ebook Copies of Fifty Shades? Libraries Respond

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  3. Diane

    I am grateful for my county digital library and even support it with donations. I wouldn’t say that libraries shouldn’t have purchased Fifty Shades, but $24,000 seems a bit excessive especially for a book that while in demand for awhile, no longer has a wait list for check out. There are so many other books of good quality that while maybe not as popular in the short term, will probably be in demand for a lot longer.

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  5. Michael W. Perry

    Is it just me, or is the ALA statement rather vague and uncommitted. I’d have rather heard something a bit more strongly worded about high ebook prices and restrictions on loans.

    And the answer to the issue Diane raises is to change how ebooks are acquired by libraries from sold, often under restrictive terms that make it more like a bad lease, to a pure check-out rental fee. Libraries may have to buy more copies of a printed book than there’s a long-term demand for, but there’s no reason that has to happen with ebooks. One copy can service hundreds of readers at the same time, with the publisher getting paid for each checkout. And avoiding long wait-lists could mean that the publisher actually earns more.

    Libraries should also be aware that independent authors are often distributing (through Smashwords) library editions at quite reasonable prices. Two of mine got for the same $2.99 the ebooks sell to the public. Libraries can fight back to these high major publisher prices by stocking ebooks from less known authors AND comping up with ways of interesting their clients in those books.



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