Thursday, May 10, 2012

Libraries Experiment With Buying eBooks

Libraries have been faced with a dilemma. On the one hand their patrons have been begging them to stock more eBooks and on the other hand publishers, who make those eBooks available to libraries, have been raising their fees for said eBooks, sometimes as high as 300 percent.

This is quite a quandary for a public institution faced with declining public funds.

They have tried reasoning with eBook publishers to no avail, now they are getting creative. Douglas County Libraries, in Colorado, has started buying eBooks then offering them to patrons via their own online platform, which includes a link for them to purchase the eBooks.

Douglas County Libraries started the new program in February and already major eBook publishers have started expressing an interest in joining the new program. At the same time other public libraries have been studying the system at Douglas County to replicate it for their own patrons.

This makes perfect sense to me and it solves a dire problem faced by libraries trying to keep up with the changes taking place in the publishing world.

Libraries are already become digital wonderlands, with computer terminals replacing card catalog filing cabinets everywhere; more access to digital media of all sorts including music, video and software. They are less about books today than they are about technology.

I have to be honest and admit I have been worrying about the future of libraries in the face of digital publishing. The recent move by publishers to increase the cost of eBooks was deliberate and unavoidable. The cost to produce eBooks is low but the challenges of getting a book produced and sold have not been diminished, meaning their costs still need to be recouped. This has led them to put the squeeze on libraries, a store house of "lending" which gradually eats into their profits (or so they say.)

This latest move by libraries to find a work-around that allows them to continue lending popular eBooks without having to ask the communities they serve for more money is genius. I hope it solves the problem so everyone gets what they want.

Of course, how often does that happen?

1 comment:

Jamie said...

Thanks for noticing our efforts. I did want to comment on one thing. There are now several studies (Pew, Bowker, and even our own) in which we clearly demonstrated that the more people read books from the library, the more they buy. My argument is that the author's challenge in the 21st century is being found. That's precisely what libraries are there for.