Report: “Connecticut Officials Aim For First-In-The-Nation Action to Address Ebook Costs”
At a panel discussion in Hartford Tuesday, librarians called on state lawmakers to reignite efforts to regulate and improve licensing agreements between libraries and publishers.
“This has been an issue facing librarians for more than a decade, and quite frankly, it gets worse every year,” said Ellen Paul, the executive director of the Connecticut Library Consortium. “Connecticut libraries, they just can’t keep up. The wait lists for our eBooks are over six months long, our budgets are strained because we have to keep re-renting Harry Potter at the same exorbitant prices over and over again.”
Rebecca Harlow, a librarian at Case Memorial Library in Orange, serves as the chair of eBook Committee for Libraries Online, a consortium of 30 member organizations who pool resources to extend their eBook budgets.
Each month, LION spends $20,000 on eBooks — a budget that she said is limited. Harlow said LION leases fewer than 60 eBooks for children and teens combined.
In her most recent order, Harlow said LION paid $8,460 to lease 170 eBooks — nearly $50 a copy. The same order on Harlow’s personal Amazon account cost just $2,769. But she said “Unlike the consumer purchase, the majority of the 170 books will be gone in 12 months.”
Senior Vice President of Government Affairs for the Association of American Publishers Shelley Husband said that an “artificially capped system of government rates” would “directly devalue the intellectual property of authors and therefore their right to seek market compensation.”
Husband argued that the aggregate cost of library eBooks is nowhere near per-reader rates.
She said balance in this area is critical.
Kyle Courtney, a lawyer and librarian who serves as the director of copyright and information policy for Harvard Library and the co-founder and board chair of Library Futures, said he believes Connecticut can change eBook licenses by harnessing current state law.
“Connecticut has a robust consumer protection statute. It has state contract law. It has contract preemption under the uniform commercial code, which allows us the ability to regulate state contracts and would equally allow us to regulate eBook contracts in the same way,” Courtney said.
About Gary Price
Gary Price (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. He earned his MLIS degree from Wayne State University in Detroit. Price has won several awards including the SLA Innovations in Technology Award and Alumnus of the Year from the Wayne St. University Library and Information Science Program. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at Ask.com.