A Concerned E-Book Post in American Libraries

Alan Inouye of ALA’s Washington Office has posted on ALA’s “ongoing concerns over library prices for ebooks and audiobooks.”

Mr. Inouye’s concern about other embargoes happening is well-founded. His call for joint action in a task-force from various library stake-holders is encouraging.

ReadersFirst encourages all libraries to support and participate in efforts to move forward, including considering a boycott (in print and digital) of all publishers who enact embargoes, taking our case to the public, and considering possible legal action. Is it legal to sell to consumers and not to libraries? Perhaps it is time for a test case to see.

It's not DRM, it's licensing . . . but, yes, they are connected


Says Brian Barrett, “YOUR ITUNES MOVIES, your Kindle books—they’re not really yours. You don’t own them. You’ve just bought a license that allows you to access them, one that can be revoked at any time. And while a handful of incidents have brought that reality into sharp relief over the years, none has quite the punch of Microsoft disappearing every single ebook from every one of its customers.”

When consumers feel the pinch that libraries feel even more, is it time to advocate for government action (not that corporations don’t have more power than consumers, making action unlikely), or at least to try an advocacy campaign with the public to generate interest and even anger about restrictive licensing in libraries?

What have we got to lose?

Texas State Library and Archives Commission Announces “E-Read Texas” Electronic Books

A press release about an interesting library e-book development in Texas, expanding access to readers in smaller communities through SimplyE. Well done, TSLAC!

Texas State Library and Archives Commission

Austin, TX

July 8, 2019

 Austin, TX – The Texas State Library and Archives Commission (TSLAC) announces a new program, E-Read Texas, to bring electronic books to Texans served by small community libraries in all parts of the state beginning September 1. The E-Read Texas program will provide an easy-to-use platform to access e-books provided by TSLAC alongside materials purchased by local libraries.

 “We are very happy to be able to offer Texans access to these high-demand materials through their public libraries,” said Mark Smith, Director and Texas State Librarian. “We recognize the great need in communities across the state for diverse reading materials and are excited to partner with local libraries to provide cost-effective and user-friendly access to those resources.”

 TSLAC will partner with Amigos Library Services to make SimplyE, an open-source e-book platform, available to as many as 225 small and medium-sized community libraries over the next two years. SimplyE includes easy-to-use e-reader apps for iOS and Android, allowing users to check out and read e-books provided by their local library.

 “Enhancing the collections of public libraries and making these materials available 24/7 is a great benefit to communities in Texas. We encourage everyone to get a library card to take advantage of this and the many other amazing things libraries offer for free,” said Alan Kornblau, Chief Executive Officer of Amigos Library Services. “We are proud to partner with the Texas State Library and Archives Commission in providing this easy access to electronic books for people of all ages.”

 This project represents the first stage of a multi-year project aimed to bring more e-books to Texans via their public libraries. The program complements TSLAC’s TexShare and TexQuest programs that leverage statewide buying power to bring cost-effective access to e-resources to virtually every person in the state. Texans use e-resources provided by TSLAC over 140 million times each year.

 The E-Read Texas program will include a collection of general-interest adult fiction and non-fiction e-books. Libraries will be able stretch local book budgets by using these e-books to supplement their existing collections, all of which will be available through the SimplyE platform.

 TSLAC is working collaboratively with the Texas library community to select content for the E-Read Texas collection, which will be available before the end of the calendar year. The E-Read Texas program will have a statewide impact built on local needs that improves the ability of Texas libraries to engage with their communities.

More information about E-Read Texas can be found on TSLAC’s Director’s Report blog at https://www.tsl.texas.gov/director/e-read-texas-tslac-e-book-project/ and Library Developments blog at https://www.tsl.texas.gov/ld/librarydevelopments/?p=24660.

Danielle Cunniff Plumer

Statewide Resource Sharing Administrator

Texas State Library and Archives Commission

Library Development and Networking Division

"Another One Rides the Bus" (with apologies to Weird Al and Queen)

Simon&Schuster has gotten on the Big Bus to Ignore LibraryLand, joining Hachette, Penguin Random House, and MacMillan/Tor with new licensing models.

The news is not entirely bad for libraries: S&S’s new two year, one copy/one user model is more favorable than their previous one-year model. They are not embargoing titles—and that’s surely worth two cheers. And while most librarians would prefer a perpetual access license option to pay-per-use—the latter model can be a budget buster—at least they are offering options.

Joining Hachette in metering digital audiobooks, however, is a definite setback for libraries. It will make providing long-term access more expensive, less certain, and more work to manage.

ReadersFirst sends a thanks to Harper Collins. HC, there were a lot of haters when you were the first to switch to the 26 circ no-time-limit model, but overall your terms are the most friendly to libraries now. Please, please, pretty please, with more library $$ on it, would you add a perpetual access model, even if at a higher price?

The ALA Resolution to advocate for library digital access is timely—or, badly overdue, but we won’t charge late fees to the ALA. RF pledges support. Can we form a group from COSLA, ALA, ASGCLA, ULC, and CULC for joint action? The time is now!

ALA Council Passes a Resolution on Digital Content Action

As noted in Publisher’s Weekly, in the wake of two more publishers changing their licensing models, the American Library Association Council has passed a resolution calling for action.

Now, therefore, be it Resolved that the American Library Association (ALA), on behalf of its members:

1) Creates a joint working group of representatives from ALA, ULC, ASGCLA, COSLA and other members to be determined to address library concerns with publishers and content providers specifically:

a. To develop a variety of digital content license models that will allow libraries to provide content more effectively, allowing options to choose between one-at-a-time, metered, and other options to be made at point of sale;

b. To make all content available in print and for which digital variants have been created to make the digital content equally available to libraries without moratorium or embargo;

c. To explore all fair options for delivering content digitally in libraries;

d. To urge Congress to explore digital content pricing and licensing models to ensure democratic access to information'

2) Develops an advocacy and public awareness campaign to provide accurate information about the true value of library purchasing of books to publishers.

Passing a resolution is a long way from realizing action, of course, but ReadersFirst hopes this may be a start for librarians to join together to speak with a collective (and so louder) voice. We pledge our support to the effort and to all who answer the call for action.

[Full disclosure: the original draft of the resolution was prepared some on months ago by the ReadersFirst Working Group. It was subsequently greatly improved by Deirdre Brennan of RAILS and moved forward by Michael Golrick of ASGCLA).

ULC, CULC Respond--Time for Action?

In response to Hachette moving to a two-year metered licence model and Blackstone embargoing digital audiobook sales to libraries for 90 days, the Canadian Urban Library Council has released a statement, supporting ALA President Loida Garcia-Febo’s concerns about access and suggesting that libraries help people with the discovery of materials, ultimately creating sales beyond what we purchase. It reads in part as follows:

“These actions are in direct contrast to the calls to publishers made during the #eContentForLibraries campaign, where 303 libraries participated and engaged Canadians to advocate for fair pricing and access to digital content. Access to digital content is imperative for those who have low literacy or other restrictions that limit their ability to read materials in traditional formats. Restrictive access and pricing models also negatively impact vulnerable populations who rely most heavily on the library: those who cannot afford to purchase individual or subscription content.”

The Urban Library Council has also responded, with “President & CEO Susan Benton [issuing} the following statement:

“Libraries have been fighting an uphill battle when it comes to pricing and access to e-books – publishers have kept pricing unreasonably high, and restrictions such as embargos on new titles have only made matters worse. The decisions by Hachette Book Group and Penguin Random House to eliminate perpetual e-book licensing represent a dangerous step backwards in establishing a fair and sustainable e-book market between libraries and publishers. Although the new model will lower the initial costs of e-books, the two-year licenses will undermine the ability for libraries to establish rich collections that can meet the needs of a wide and diverse readership. For many individuals in the digital age, the library provides their only point of access for e-books – ULC urges these publishers to consider the real impact of these changes on readers and authors from all backgrounds.”

ReadersFirst wonders if the time for statements is past. Is it time for action? Could a task force made up of representatives from ALA (including ALA ASGCLA), ULC, CULC, and other interested parties be formed to take action? Could it take the form of an advocacy campaign with the public, calling upon our readers to express outrage or even to boycott sales of materials for 90 days themselves? Anti-trust laws exist to provide fair competition of the market. Is there a possible legal challenge to an embargo on library purchasing?

For too long, we have listened to polite noises from most publishers that they will address of concerns, only to be stonewalled later. We should expect more embargoes from other imprints. For our readers, the balance in that intricate relationship between libraries and publishers has tipped too far one way, to their disadvantage. Statements are good. How about some action?

Hachette, Blackstone Change Library Digital Content Models/Availability

Effective July 1, 2019, Blackstone Audio is placing a moratorium on sales of library content. Libraries cannot get this content until 90 days after the retail date.

Blackstone may be contacted at libraryservices@blackstoneaudio.com.

We encourage Blackstone customers to email, inquire the reasons for this change, and express their concern.

Hachette has also announced that effective July 1, 2019, [it] replace its perpetual ownership model for libraries with two-year access for e-books and digital audio books.

ALA President Loida Garcia-Febo has expressed concern.

“The elimination of perpetual ownership will reduce long-term access to ebooks and digital audio books and increase challenges to the long-term preservation of our nation’s cultural heritage,” said ALA President Loida Garcia-Febo. “While the announcement includes some positive changes, the model will further limit affordable access to reading for 172 million U.S. library card holders.”

“Libraries will welcome the reduced upfront costs and continued immediate access to new digital titles,” Garcia-Febo continued, “but the increased cost over time hurts our ability to support a vibrant ecosystem that benefits readers, authors and publishers.”

Garcia-Febo points out that at least Hachette is not following Blackstone and Macmillan/TOR with a moratorium but calls for coordinated support:

 “When a new book is released in the consumer market, libraries must be able to obtain it at the same time. Otherwise, the public believes that we are not being responsive to their needs. Library access is especially important to those whose financial situation precludes purchasing books.”

“To offer equitable access of information to our communities, libraries first must have fair and equitable access to resources, regardless of format, that is predictable and sustainable,” said Garcia-Febo. “We’ve had multiple cordial conversations with executives in publishing houses, with some disagreements. In the months ahead, ALA will amplify our role in championing the valuable and essential role of libraries in the publishing ecosystem. We will need strong collaboration with library advocates across the country to press our case.”

ReadersFirst encourages all its members, and all libraries internationally, to support the ALA and other organizations, such as Urban Library Council and Canadian Urban Library Council, in collaborating on action.

It does begin to appear, however, that many publishers are placing shareholders over library readers. That’s no surprise. We must advocate, certainly for multiple models at point of sale that will allow libraries to use their funds most effectively. We should at least ask the reasons for moratoriums. We should make a positive case in support of library readers. Since at least some publishers, we must infer, care nothing about the library market and library readers, however, and often simply ignore our questions, it might be too much to expect meaningful changes. Legislative action in support of our readers may be our only hope.

ReadersFirst Follow-Up to an Elending Project Study: Three Vendors in the USA and Canada

The ReadersFirst work group has made of study of library e-book lending by three vendors in Canada and the USA.

The impetus for this study was mainly due to the work of Rebecca Giblin of Monash University and her Australian colleagues.  They began by examining 546 titles from 5 ebook vendors in Australia. See their work at http://www.elendingproject.org/. Members of ReadersFirst were intrigued by the results of the Australian study which found substantial variations in availability, price, and licensing models for the titles across the 5 vendors. The ReadersFirst team decided to see what the results might be if major ebook vendors in the USA and Canada were compared. Additionally, the Monash team went on to complete a 100,000 title study, looking at the same 546 titles for one vendor (OverDrive) across the five countries. Two papers on the studies have been published and can be found here and here

It is our hope that this additional study in the USA and Canada advances the work of the Australian team by giving a more detailed view of the state of the library e-book market in the English (and French!) speaking world.

Our results will be refined and published in a journal in October, but a preliminary version may be found here.

Here is a summary of results:

In Canada, print outstrips ebook availability -- In Canada 94.4% of surveyed titles were available in print from library vendors, while only 84% of surveyed titles were available in Canada as eBooks

In the USA, eBook availability tracks print availability closely: 84% of the titles were available as eBooks, while 86% of surveyed titles were available from library vendors in print

Amazon published titles, which are not available to libraries, account for many of the unavailable titles.  Access to some important titles, including the Canadian Prime Minister’s autobiography available from Audible, is not available to libraries.

Significant differences exist in the price point at which books are offered across different providers. Some titles varied by as much as 700% ($81 vs. $11.56 for one) with more variation in Canada than in the US. Overall, prices for e-books varied widely, from $2.27 to $90.95 in the US and $.99 to $124.04 in Canada.

While e-books are sometimes cheaper than their print counterparts, they generally cost more.  Not surprisingly, recently published titles are usually more expensive than older titles, but older titles often cost more than might be expected.  Perpetual license titles were generally more expensive than metered (by time period or number of circulations or a combination of both).

Vendor coverage of titles varied more in Canada than in the US, and no single vendor had complete coverage, suggesting sourcing from multiple vendors could be advantageous.

Licensing Models complicate access: short-term metered licenses at relatively high cost for older titles may make those titles less desirable to acquire, while high-cost perpetual access models may limit access to current best-selling titles.

If you have any thoughts or comments, please post them!

Public Domain Status and E-books Availability: An International Study

The Elending Project is publishing another paper, this one exploring the effects of copyright and public domain on library e-book available.

Project Leader Rebecca Giblin of Monash University explains the paper as follows:

“In brief: there is a theory that, if works enter the public domain, they will be subject to less investment and will be less available than works that are still under copyright. This is known as 'the underuse hypothesis'. We tested this by examining the ebooks available to libraries across Canada and NZ (where they are in the public domain), Australia (where they're in copyright) and the US (where their status is mixed). This is the first study testing these questions beyond the US context, and the first one comparing the availability of identical titles across jurisdictions.

 So what did we find? Well, contrary to the underuse hypothesis, titles were more available, and considerably cheaper in the public domain countries. We also found that publishers are willing to compete with each other over the same titles. Sadly/unsurprisingly, most of our sampled authors had no ebooks available in any country regardless of copyright status, indicating that commercial life is often exhausted long before even the shortest terms expire, even where cultural value remains. The full paper is available here.”

ReadersFirst supports the work of The Elending Proejct and encourages reading and sharing of this paper. Could some sort of compromise be worked out with authors and publishers allowing controlled digital lending of older titles in “gray” copyright, just to ensure access and preservation? The questions is worth exploring.

Full disclosure: the author’s library allowed access to a library e-book vendor’s holdings in the USA for this study.

Hamilton Public Library Joins the Open Libraries

The Internet Archive has announced that the Hamilton Public Library has joined their Open Libraries project.

“In today’s rapidly changing access to digital content, it is important that the broader library community works together to build lasting and growing collections of digital content for our customers and communities,” said Paul Takala, Chief Librarian and CEO of Hamilton Public Library. “The Internet Archive has developed a responsible and balanced controlled digital lending (CDL) model. I look forward to a future where all the unique titles we have in our collection – many of which are out of print – can be shared with researchers and learners everywhere. With the Internet Archive’s Open Libraries program, this future is now possible. I encourage all libraries to join this important effort.”

With CDL having recently been challenged by The Author’s Guild and some publishers, it is encouraging to see another large library support a practice that allows library readers to experience titles to which they may not otherwise have digital access. The ReadersFirst Working Group believes that CDL can be fairly applied without disadvantaging authors and publishers and thanks Hamilton Public Library for its stand.