Life with E-Books

Andrew Richard Albanese from Publisher’s Weekly wrote a very nice article about life with eBooks in public libraries.  I have clipped a couple of paragraphs below.  The fulltext is available on the Publisher’s Weekly site.

Begin clip:

Discussions between libraries and the big six publishers over e-book lending have grabbed headlines in 2012, but despite cordial statements from each side about the benefits of communication, a report released this month from the American Library Association suggests the two sides remain far from a breakthrough.

“Mixed” is how Robert Wolven, associate university librarian at Columbia University, and co-chair of the ALA’s Digital Content Working Group, describes the state of affairs between libraries and publishers. “I think the discussions we’ve had demonstrate that we’re not at an impasse,” Wolven tells PW. “There are potential paths for exploration and for improving things. But there’s still a lot of work to be done.”

To some, however, that may be understating the matter. In its August 8 report, “E-Book Business Models for Public Libraries,” the ALA’s Digital Content Working Group detailed the frustrating patchwork of various publisher policies, vendor products, emerging models, and user expectations libraries must navigate in order to provide e-book service to their customers. And despite the ongoing talks, there has been no real progress—in some cases, even regression.

“Some major trade publishers will not sell e-books to libraries under any terms; others do so only at inflated prices or with severe restrictions,” the report states. Still others appear to be “making little or no headway” at all in their dealings with libraries.

Nevertheless, despite the report’s somber assessment of the library e-book landscape, Wolven says the talks have been “tremendously useful,” and that the ongoing dialogue augurs well for progress. More meetings are on tap for the coming months. Wolven is also quick to add that the talks are not negotiations—there is no deal on the table, or to walk away from. Rather, there’s the opportunity to educate and to learn.