January 24, 2022

"Ebook Talks Continued: ALA Meets with Distributors"

From American Libraries:

ALA President Molly Raphael prepared this summary of the meetings of members of the ALA Digital Content and Libraries Working Group with ebook distributors at the Public Library Association Conference in Philadelphia, as well as a panel she moderated at the Association of American Publishers meeting:

At last week’s Public Library Association (PLA) conference in Philadelphia, March 13–17, ALA pushed ahead with its goal of enabling library access to ebooks to everyone in America’s communities. Sari Feldman, co-chair of ALA’s Digital Content and Libraries Working Group (and executive director of the Cuyahoga County Public Library in Ohio), addressed the attendees at the Opening General Session. She acknowledged the serious concerns about ebooks expressed by PLA and other ALA members and provided an update on the progress of the Working Group. Throughout the conference, members sought out Sari to talk about their ebook challenges and express appreciation for the PLA and ALA focus on this issue. Strong media outreach also brought our issues to the forefront in coverage related to the conference, including an editorial in the Philadelphia Inquirer.


“Friction”—mechanisms introduced deliberately to make it harder for patrons to borrow ebooks—came up in several ways. For instance, distributors that also serve the academic marketplace stated that friction is not central to their strategy there and, in fact, efforts are directed toward removing any remnants of friction. They are beginning with the same assumption in the public library marketplace, including the importance of excellent usability of their services to libraries and patrons.

Though ebook demand is growing rapidly, print books still comprise a significant portion of acquisitions in public libraries. Several of the distributors discussed how print books, ebooks with perpetual licenses, and ebooks with limited licenses each provide different functionality and should be viewed as a portfolio of varied resources, rather than mutually exclusive. Services to libraries that help us plan and manage our acquisitions, vendor relationships, and overall operations in an integrated way are desirable, rather than services that focus on ebooks as an isolated resource.

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About Gary Price

Gary Price (gprice@mediasourceinc.com) is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. Before launching INFOdocket, Price and Shirl Kennedy were the founders and senior editors at ResourceShelf and DocuTicker for 10 years. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at Ask.com, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.