Friday, February 10, 2012

It is time to tell the truth about eBooks

In case you haven’t heard the ruckus from the blogosphere, yet another major publisher has severed ties with Overdrive.  Last fall, after the Overdrive/Kindle launch, Penguin announced that it was not providing new eBook content for purchase, but would allow libraries to purchase additional copies of titles already licensed.  As of today, February 10, libraries can no longer purchase additional copies of Penguin eBooks to meet patron demand.

I wonder, though, how many library patrons (and for that matter, library staff) know that out of the Big Six publishers (HarperCollins, Hachette, Penguin, Macmillan, Random House, and Simon & Schuster), only two are willing to sell eBooks to libraries (at least via Overdrive, the predominant source of popular eContent for libraries).  HarperCollins will license copies for the now-infamous 26 checkouts, after which a library must repurchase the title for another 26 checkouts.  Random House has stated that they are committed to library lending, but will be raising prices on eContent for libraries in the near future.  The other four will not sell eContent to libraries at all.

What does this mean for your patrons?  It means that even if you subscribe to Overdrive or another vendor of popular eBooks,  it is likely that the vast majority of popular content--the same titles we purchase and lend in hard copy to our patrons--is most likely not available for us to purchase in electronic format.

What can we do?  Continue to advocate on behalf of our users, of course, but I also think it is time to tell the truth about the situation.  We are not here to bash eBook vendors or publishers, but our patrons have a right to know what is going on and may be willing to add their voices to the dialogue.  It’s time to tell the truth.

To see how some well-known librarians are addressing this issue in their libraries, check out these links:

Librarian in Black's blog shows the sign she put up in the library listing publishers that won't sell.  

And Jessamyn West's blog has opinions about how we should talk to patrons.

Jessamyn links to Bobbi Newman for talking points / scripts to use when telling patrons about the situation.

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