You want e-books from the library? We’ve got ’em. You want popular books in e-book format from the library? Maybe, maybe not.
The refusal of several major book publishers to make e-books available to libraries has been a big topic in library circles for many months. One of the proposed solutions for libraries is to make sure library users understand what the this issue means to them. So here’s a shot in that direction.
On our home page, we have a link to Most Popular books around town. Of the 10 fiction titles listed last week (see above), the Allen County Public Library can provide e-book versions of only three. The Big Book these days, like it or not, is Fifty Shades of Grey, and we do have plenty of e-book “copies” for that — but only after months of delay. Some publishers wait six months to release books in e-book format, and they often price them far above the print price, which is, relative to the cost of production, absurd. That means that even if they do release an e-book, we can’t afford enough copies. Furthermore, we don’t even own the books we do have; it’s more like we are renting them. In some cases, we can only let library patrons use a copy a limited number of times before we have to rent another one. And then there is Amazon, which arranges deals with authors so that their e-books are available only on Amazon’s Kindle readers.
To read a funny and insightful post about how libraries and patrons are getting “screwed” by publishers, take a look at this extended metaphor from the Librarian In Black. If you are put off by some of her language, well, you probably should not be e-reading Fifty Shades.
For the moment, I’m asking those of you who are buying e-readers in the expectation that you’ll be able to use them with library books to be patient with us and other libraries. Librarians are trying to improve the situation, arguing that publishers sell more books to individuals when they also sell them to libraries. And, yes, publishers are running scared as they try to figure out how to make money in this strange new world. If you are the kind of civic-minded person who writes letters to the editor, you could help by writing to the publishers of the books you want to read.
Or you could just stick with reading paper books. They’ve done the job admirably for 500 years, they never need electricity, and you don’t have to figure out how to use them. But that’s another story.