UPDATED (Saturday, March 4, 2011):
“This strikes at the heart of what we do,” said Chicago Public Library Commissioner Mary Dempsey, who described electronic media as the new virtual library. “With limited financial resources affecting all libraries across America, people are asking, ‘Why would you do this?’”
E-book checkouts are “a growing percentage, and it definitely reflects a trend that people want to take their e-reader and upload it free of charge with books from the library,” said Steve Sposato, assistant director for collection development at Chicago libraries. “That’s why it’s important for us to be part of the conversation rather than just have it imposed on us.”
Here’s a roundup of some of the mainstream press about library eBooks/HarperCollins story one week after the initial announcement.
The St. Louis County Library — which says its e-book lending has doubled just in the last few months — isn’t going to boycott HarperCollins, but it may have to order fewer digital books from it, says Shannon Crary, electronic resources coordinator.
In January, the library’s e-books were checked out 5,483 times, she said. In November, that number was 2,374. The library has a total of 2,897 different titles available for digital download.
Crary has already spent more money ordering e-titles this year than she did in all of 2010.
Although that expense is growing, it’s only a tiny part of the library’s overall budget. Last year the library spent more than $3 million on paper books, she said. For digital texts: $10,750. So far this year, she’s spent more than $16,000.
Late last week, HarperCollins announced that its new e-book titles can’t be checked out an unlimited number of times but can circulate 26 times at a library before the license expires. After that, a new license must be purchased.
“Publishers are going to find a way to squeeze out every last cent,” said Roy Kenagy, interim executive director of the Iowa Library Association. “Libraries will need to find a way to purchase them.”Demand at Iowa libraries for electronic products, including e-books and audio books, increased 69 percent from 2009 to 2010. They are still less than one percent of total circulation, but the demand is expected to continue rising as patrons loaded up on electronic readers last Christmas, said Sandy Dixon, director of library development at the State Library of Iowa.
“All libraries are going to think twice about what e-books they’re going to purchase in the future,” Leah L. White, a librarian at the Morton Grove Public Library in suburban Chicago, said Friday. Mr. Potash said the change would force some libraries, especially those that stock a lot of best sellers, to be more careful about the publishers from which they buy. “Libraries will have to consider whether they want to invest in titles that, after a year or 18 months or so, they’ll have to replenish or buy additional units,” he said. “There will be some who may have to be more selective about how they can use their digital book budgets.”
“The timing of this announcement is interesting. It appears just as “Read an E-Book Week” looms March 6-12, drawing all the more attention to a significant leap in the technological transformation of reading. Small imprints are banding together to make their e-book titles available inexpensively and with many for free during this week in order to gain exposure for their authors. Exposure to authors is also what libraries are at least partly about.”
The column also includes a couple of mentions of the new OpenLibrary lending program.
“HarperCollins’ new policy on e-books in libraries is creating unhappiness in the book world.”
Like all other media going digital, the transition for books is an awkward convergence of demands for business and pleasure. And while some are calling this policy an example of corporate selfishness, others are viewing it as a nice bit of compromise between publisher and reader.
See Also: Audio: Bruce Adams, Director of Collection Management Services at the King County Library System
From KIRO Radio in Seattle on March 1, 2011. Segment begins at about 28:30.
Anne Marie Aikins, a spokeswoman for Toronto Public Libraries, told QMI Agency the new policy will have a real impact on Canadian libraries, many of which use OverDrive.
HarperCollins publishes popular authors like Janet Evanovich, Michael Crichton and Neil Gaiman.
“This announcement from HarperCollins really doesn’t work for libraries. It’s really too short a time period. We’d really like to work with publishers to develop a model that suits us both,” she said.
Since the Warren County library system began offering ebooks and audiobooks on Jan. 27, the response has been a resounding success.
Ebooks have been “the most immediately, instantly successful program we’ve ever offered,” Sherbondy said on Wednesday. “There hasn’t been a downside really to it at all.”
See Also: INFOdocket Coverage From the Past Week
A Couple of Comments:
+ The change HarperCollins is making comes at a time when library e-book usage is booming. Libraries are providing a service (after a lot of work) that users like and use. So, what happens? Change the rules? Why market and promote when success brings immediate change that hurt will likely hurt the service.
+ If HC would have engaged the library community to some degree things might have been different. People, in this case customers, like to know that they’ve been heard.