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Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Libraries and the E-Book Dilemma

While e-books grow more popular, public libraries are concerned as publishers limit access to library copies of their books in electronic format, reports USA Today ("Libraries Launch Boycott in Battle Over E-Books," March 8, 2011).

The article discusses HarperCollins decision to require libraries to order a second copy of an e-book after it has been checked out 26 times. In an era when local governments are strapped for cash and cutting public library budgets, few librarians can afford this new model, writes USA Today reporter Bob Minzesheimer.

He quotes Marilyn Johnson, author of This Book Is Overdue: How Librarians and Cybrarians Can Save Us All, published last year by HarperCollins. “Of course the librarians went crazy," she says "Think about it: 'I'm the 27th patron; I see that the book is in the catalog, and then suddenly it's not?' "

In response to the controversy, HarperCollins posted this message on its Library Love Fest blog to explain the new policy:

"Selling e-books to libraries in perpetuity, if left unchanged, would undermine the emerging e-book eco-system, hurt the growing e-book channel, place additional pressure on physical bookstores, and in the end lead to a decrease in book sales and royalties paid to authors."

But, librarians disagree. “It's never pretty when a publisher decides they have to destroy books in order to save their business model," wrote one librarian on a Library Journal blog.

Two other major publishers, Simon & Schuster and Macmillan do not sell e-books to libraries at all. This means library customers can not check out a digital version of a Stephen King or Jonathan Frazen novel.

Here at the Fairfax County Public Library, our staff is still considering the workload and cost implications of the 26 check out limit, reports the head of our Collection and Acquisitions Department.

So, if you can’t find your favorite digital-format book in our catalog, this may be why. New format. New quandaries for libraries and their customers.

1 comment:

Eva said...

Lack of e-books at the library is the number one reason that I haven't purchased an e-reader. It's too bad that the publishers can't think outside the box.

Thank you for posting about this issue. I've been really interested to see what libraries/librarians have to say about this issue. I look forward to hearing more.