Ebooks and Public Libraries

Those of you who have e-readers, tablets and mobile devices and have utilized our e-lending service called Overdrive may have noticed that many books by your favorite authors are not available for checkout. This is a problem that has been occuring more and more simply because publishers refuse to make them available to libraries.

Instead of providing equal and fair access for all, which is a library’s guiding principle, they are refusing to sell this format to libraries in hopes that instead of borrowing titles, readers will purchase. Many of the publishers that do sell to libraries do so with unreasonable terms such as use restrictions and inflated prices, making it harder than ever for libraries to build healthy collections and remain competitive in the digital age. Six main publishers control nearly all published titles and include the following:

  • Penguin (recently ended e-book purchasing for libraries)
  • HarperCollins (only allows each copy to be read 26 times . . . then the library has to repurchase the title)
  • Random House (recently increased the price of e-books, in some cases tripling them, resulting in prices upwards to $100 per copy)
  • Macmillan, Simon and Schuster, and Hatchette (none of which will allow libraries to purchase e-books)

The Nebraska Overdrive Consortium has had to react to these unfair practices as best as possible. We do not purchase any titles from HarperCollins and have recently had to decide to only purchase the top ten best sellers from Random House. As you can imagine, this leaves scraps for us to choose from, hoping that it will work. And it doesn’t. But it could . . . if we would be granted fair access to these new formats.

I highly encourage you to visit http://ebooksforlibraries.com/ to learn more about publishers and e-lending and to sign a petition requesting publishers to allow libraries to have access to digital formats. Every voice counts, and unless librarians, readers and library advocates stand together and speak out, the future of ebooks in libraries is endangered.


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