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Monday, August 26, 2019

How We Can [and Must] Fight The Publishers on Ebook Access in Libraries

Although I haven't written about it much here on the blog, we all know that our most pressing issue these days is the increasingly contentious relationship publishers are having with libraries re: eBook access.

For those of you who need a primer, here is a link to the MANY press releases ALA has issued on the topic. 

Things are bad right now. Publishers are trying to either deny us access to eBooks in a timely fashion, creating metered access, are gouging us, or all of the above! Authors are not 100% behind us. Some are, but take this recent press release from the Authors Guild where they stood behind Macmillan in their change in access for libraries.

That is not OKAY. Compare it to the 100% against position the ALA [and many others in the library world] have taken.

Honestly, as bad as the price gouging is, it is this metered access where ebooks disappear from our offerings after so many check outs that is the worst. This is a huge administrative issue because, one, when they disappear from our OverDrive accounts, that doesn't delete them from our OPAC records, so patrons will still think they can get the books and will be upset to find they aren't even there as an option for holds, and two, we are going to be dealing with a nightmare of when books need to be reordered vs new titles being added. We will all need a full time staff member just to monitor the expiring titles, decide if we are reordering, and then There is no way this will work in a cost effective or customer service friendly way.

Even worse, we will be wasting collection development level library workers' time as they spend more of their time doing the clerical work of checking every ebook holding instead of figuring out what titles our patrons would want.

All of this, by the way, means that smaller libraries will simply stop getting eBooks for their patrons because it will not longer be cost effective on multiple fronts. And that will hurt everyone, patrons, libraries, authors and publishers.

Of course in the library world we all know this is detrimental to the patrons, our readers, the most. And we all know that if our readers don't get access to these books, they won't read them, ask for more, and or buy more titles by those authors on their own.

Jennifer, a Public Librarian in Arlington, VA has an excellent Twitter threads that she is updating with pricing info for library books, print, ebook for consumers, ebook for libraries, etc.... This is a great project she is undertaking on her won to educate as many people as possible about the problem. [You don't nee to have a Twitter login to view.] Click here to access.

But us "knowing" all of this has not been proven to the publishers. As I have mentioned here on the blog before, I have been involved with the Panorama Project, the first data-driven project to show the impact of the public library on book sales and author discovery.

Their work is more important than ever. We need to promote, encourage, and use what they are producing in order to help build actual PROOF that limited library access to materials will hurt authors and publishers in their wallets.

Please get up to speed on what the Panorama Project is doing to help us fight for ourselves and our patrons. Below are a few key links that you can use to familiarize yourself with the project and some of the people working behind the scenes to help us stand up for ourselves.


We all need to be advocating for the importance of the library as vehicle for author discovery. We need to remind publishers that we buy MANY copies of the same book. We need to show how library checkouts lead to more sales by readers who seek out titles to own. We need to stop being anecdotal about how much we so for the publishing industry and start proving it.

Panorama Project is one step forward in this journey. Jennifer is trying another. All of us need to do something. Get on social media, write articles for the local paper, reach out to authors your patrons love, talk to local bookstores, find a way to do something.

And understand, this is going to be a journey. We cannot get complacent and just accept these new rules. I know we are all busy with a thousand other issues, but find some time to do something.

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