Thursday, December 20, 2012
Originally published in the Oklahoma Librarian.
Recently on Publib, a listserv for public libraries, a subscriber posed the question of what libraries are doing to educate the public regarding issues concerning ebooks. ( ::crickets:: crickets::) The only response was from one person that pointed her to an online petition to publishers. What a missed opportunity. By not educating the public we are not only missing out on a huge opportunity for library advocacy, but we are damaging our own reputations.
This is not evident at first as libraries are trying to advocate with the publishers (though many say this is a case of too little too late), but if a library user searches on the li-brary website for the latest Janet Evanovich book they are not going to say, "Oh, she is pub-lished by Simon and Schuster, and darn that publisher, they won’t sell to libraries!" Quite the opposite, in fact, they will blame libraries. "They can’t even order best sellers! Any monkey could do their job better!"
There are many ways in which we can approach the public regarding the issues, and it can be overwhelming. I have a rather simple method with which we can start. At my library customers frequently come to the reference desk asking for help loading a library book onto their ereaders. We always give them a little cheat sheet to help them remember what we showed them. What if that cheat sheet also contained something along the following?
Can’t find your favorite authors’ ebooks on the library website?Did you know that three of the major six publishers, Simon & Schuster, Macmillan, and Hachette, will not sell their ebooks to libraries?
The other three major publishers will sell to libraries – but at a cost.
Random House has charged the libraries as much as 300% of the list price for ebooks.
HarperCollins makes the library purchase a new ebook after the original ebook has been checked out 26 times in an attempt to simulate physical wear.
Penguin is experimenting with libraries on a limited basis, but the release of ebooks to li-braries is delayed for six months after the publication date, and the ebooks are only good for a year before they must be renewed.
Why? The bottom line is… well, the bottom line. Publishers are afraid that if libraries lend ebooks for free that it will undercut their sales. In fact, the opposite has been shown to be true. A Pew report states that 50% of library users will later purchase a book by an author they dis-covered in the library. Librarians are publishers’ best advertising, and it is free advertising!
What can you do?
Write your favorite authors and make them aware of the dilemmas that libraries face. Let them know that you support your local library, and that you are concerned about current publishing practices. After all, this is author’s bottom line, too. Together, we can make a difference.