May 18, 2022

Access to Ebooks: Major Libraries in U.S. and Canada Announce ReadersFirst Intiative

From Michael Kelley at LJ/The Digital Shift:

Over 70 library systems from the United States and Canada — including New York, Los Angeles, Boston, Toronto, and Chicago — today issued a joint statement demanding vastly improved ebook services for library users in North America.

The statement, dubbed the ReadersFirst Initiative, outlines four principles the libraries want e-content providers — the middlemen between publishers and libraries — to follow in order to lift content restrictions and also make the borrowing experience less cumbersome.


The four principles demand that library users be able to:

+ Search and browse a single comprehensive catalog with all of a library’s offerings at once, including all e-books, physical collections, programs, blogs, and donor opportunities. Currently, content providers often only allow searches within the products they sell, depriving users of the comprehensive library experience.

+ Place holds, check-out items, view availability, manage fines and receive communications within individual library catalogs or in the venue the library believes will serve them best, without having to visit separate websites (libraries, not distributors, should be enabled to manage all interactions with users).

+ Seamlessly enjoy a variety of e-content. To do this, libraries must be able to choose content, devices and apps from any provider or from multiple providers, without bundling that limits a library’s ability to serve content they purchase on platforms of their choice.

+ Download e-books that are compatible with all readers, from the Kindle to the Nook to the iPad and so on.

In particular, even as some publishers demand more “friction” be added to borrowing, the librarians’ demand for a frictionless, seamless experience stems from the requirement that library patrons often have to jump interfaces when borrowing an ebook and librarians would prefer that the transaction remain within the confines of their OPAC or their discovery layer (such as Bibliocommons).

Read the Complete Michael Kelley’s Article (Includes List of Libraries Signing the Letter)

See Also: Public libraries join forces to demand better eBook accessibility for their customers (via Canadian Urban Libraries Council)

About Gary Price

Gary Price ( 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, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.