E-books Cost and Licensing in the News

The Philadelphia Inquirer has released a piece on the challenges libraries face with digital content, focused on RF member The Free Library of Philadelphia but exploring the issue in some depth. It is good to see the issues related to library digital content use get explored in the general media and not just library publication.

Read the article here.

Disclosure: members of RF were interviewed for the article.

Canadian Libraries Take the Lead

Canadians are often noted for politeness, but Canadian libraries, led by the Canadian Urban Library Council (CULC), are showing grit and determination in taking concerns about library digital content pricing and business models to the (virtual) streets.

They are following up their earlier “Fair Pricing for Libraries” initiative with https://econtentforlibraries.org, calling upon citizens to call out publishers on library pricing and availability. Canadian libraries will post links on their websites and use social media to engage readers to demand better access for themselves through libraries..

Here are some details:

“Hello and thanks for joining us and participating in the upcoming #eContentForLibraries campaign.

 A reminder that the campaign is starting Monday January 14th and will run until January 25th. A press release will be issued the morning of.

Please review the toolkit (https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/19_kXAo8M383Tp2U4NX6zv3bARAgvY2hi?usp=sharing) and help spread the word about on social media, with local media outlets and with other local stakeholders.

We also ask that you link to the campaign https://econtentforlibraries.org from your own site. The call to action is to share the page and contact multinational publishers directly on social media to demand change.

If you have any questions, please contact Jefferson Gilbert, Executive Director, CULC/CBUC, jgilbert@culc.ca. “

ReadersFirst regrets that this is not an international initiative.

In support, we have worked with a member of the ALA Division ASCGLA to see if the division will support a proclamation to be adopted by the ALA. See below. This process is still very much in the works, and it is too early to know if action will be taken. Perhaps ASCGLA and ALA will prefer other ways of making a statement. With the Tor/Macmillan change of last summer, however, and other possible rollbacks of library content by publishes looming, maybe it is time for us in the USA to get into the game.

For now, Go, CULC, Canadian libraries, and Canadian readers!


Resolution on eBook pricing for libraries

Whereas Canadian Public Libraries for Fair eBook Pricing has led efforts “to raise awareness of eBook pricing issues, with the goal of ensuring broad access to eBooks for Canadian readers” (http://www.fairpricingforlibraries.org/ and https://econtentforlibraries.org );

Whereas the Canadian Urban Library Council (CULC) has declared that the high cost of eBooks and audiobooks, content unavailable to libraries, and restrictive licensing models are not a sustainable model for Canadian Libraries;

Whereas libraries and their readers in the United States face the same barriers to access of titles that exist in Canada, preventing access by citizens to information; now, therefore, be it

Resolved, that the American Library Association (ALA)

 1.     Urges the ALA Committee on Legislation to draft a statement supporting CULC and calling for fair eBook pricing in the United States that will balance the importance of compensating authors and publishers with greater access to information in support of democratic ideals;

2.     Urges the “Big 5” publishers 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;

3.     Urges the “Big 5” publishers 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;

4.     Urges the creation of a joint working group of representatives from ALA, CULC, ULC, and other members to be determined to address library concerns with publishers and content providers;

5.     Urges the “Big 5” and other publishers to enter in to conversation with the library working group to explore all fair options for delivering content digitally in libraries;

6.     Urges Congress to explore digital content pricing and licensing models to ensure democratic access to information

The Museum and Library Services Act Has Passed!

From our Friends at ALA Washington Office, some good news:

“Congress has passed S. 3530, the Museum and Library Services Act (MLSA) sponsored by Senator Jack Reed (D-RI)! We are so proud and thrilled to see one of ALA's top priorities - reauthorizing the Institute of Museum and Library Services - cross the finish line tonight, capping two years of intensive efforts by ALA members and library advocates.

Please take a moment to thank your representative and senators for renewing their commitment to America's libraries by passing this important bill.

ALA advocates, we applaud your steadfast work to move MLSA forward and to send a strong message to Congress that libraries and the vital services they provide have longstanding value in every community across the country. Thank you for everything you do!”

SimplyE adds Audiobook Capability

SimplyE, the “one app to rule them all,” has added digital audiobook capability. Bibliotheca Cloud Library titles can now be enjoyed through the app. Baker & Taylor Axis 360 and RB Digital titles will follow soon, with OverDrive perhaps joining eventually. This format enhances the e-book availability from eight vendors. The goal is to have as many content sources as possible in one place, branded for the owning library, allowing library users an easier and less confusing experience, ensuring that they do not have to visit many different apps or websites to get all of a library’s digital content. Another milestone in the development of an an app that promises to revolutionize library digital use!

News Coverage of High E-book Prices

Our friends at the Canadian Urban Library Council (CULC) are again working to raise awareness of the high cost of e-books from the Big 5 in Canada and of the difficulty in accessing some audiobook content at all.

Although various e-book licensing models come in for appropriate criticism, cost remains a barrier to access: “the problem isn't necessarily the model but the price, she said. While a physical book might cost $22, it can cost the library $100 for a copy of the electronic version.

‘We face excessively high prices and restrictive models for these ebooks,’ she said.

The price continues to rise when libraries purchase multiple copies of an ebook -- and multiple forms of the same book, including hard and soft covers and audiobooks -- in an effort to shorten waitlists.

‘It's not a sustainable model. We're having trouble making sure we have all the content for our customers that they want to see,’ Day said.”

ReadersFirst happily draws attention to CULC’s concerns. These concerns are not new: RF has previously referred visitors to http://www.fairpricingforlibraries.org/. The failure of publishers to meet libraries continues to hinder readers from accessing valuable content.

Caveat Emptor--RBDigital

In October, RBDigital turned on a feature that allows patrons to choose to download new magazine issues automatically.  Sounds good, right?  They can decide they simply want to see their favorite.  There are, however, two concerns with the practice.

One: RBDigital apparently didn’t tell all their customers the feature was being turned on. If you’ve seen a sudden and unexplained uptick in check-outs, here’s a likely reason

Two: as one of our Canadian colleagues found out, it can cause libraries to run rapidly through some available downloads on some popular titles: “We are running out of circs for our most popular titles and customers are unable to download, e.g. we’re out of circs for the Economist for December, our most popular and expensive title. Very annoyed customers! They didn’t tell us that they had added this choice (we would have said no) and of course people check it. To meet demand, we have 38 subscriptions to the Economist, which cost us $22K a year!”

It is possible to turn off the feature. In the Admin settings, there is a feature called Auto-checkout control.  Admins find it under “Services Subscriptions, Magazines,”  towards the bottom of the screen. Change “Auto-checkout Magazines” to “Disabled.”

 Of course, taking away a feature once it is offered can be unpopular, but not so unpopular as customers expecting to get content and not being able to within a library’s budget.

If RBdigital did not tell you about this change, they should have.

RBDigital, I hope you made every effort to communicate this change beforehand. Several libraries, however, have said it is news to them. Implementing changes that might affect our materials budgets without telling us is seriously uncool!

Advocacy Alert: Take action today to oppose a transfer of authority from the Librarian of Congress to the President

From our friends at the ALA Washington Office:

With fewer than two weeks left in this congressional session, we face serious threats on the U.S. Copyright Office and Library of Congress.

On Wednesday, December 12, the Register of Copyrights Selection and Accountability Act (S. 1010), a Senate companion to the already-passed House bill (H.R. 1695) will be voted on by the Senate Rules and Administration Committee, in spite of strong opposition by ALA and others in the library community. There is intense industry pressure to pass this legislation in the lame duck session, even though this would take authority away Dr. Hayden and give it to the President.

ALA strongly opposes this bill. We urge you to contact your U.S. Senators now to express your personal opposition and ask them to vote against it.

We must keep Congress from undermining Dr. Hayden and her leadership. Make your voice heard for the Library of Congress and libraries everywhere--for Dr. Hayden, a past-president of ALA.

Send an Email Now

First Research Report from the Panorama Project

The Panorama Project is trying to determine, in part, the impact of library e-book use on sales. The project has completed its first report, on an OverDrive Big Library Read. The results suggest that, at least for a targeted e-book event, libraries do call attention to and foster sales of books, benefiting authors and publishers.

RF looks forward to other reports on more typical library e-book scenarios. Let’s see if the link between library use and discovery/purchase of titles, which libraries have long argued anecdotally, can be further verified.

“I'm delighted to announce that the Panorama Project has released its first research report. The project’s Community Reading Event Impact Report presents findings on the impact of a recent OverDrive Big Library Read (BLR) community reading campaign. First-time author Jennifer McGaha’s Flat Broke With Two Goats (Sourcebooks, 2018) was selected for the April 2018 public library ebook club event. The data analyzed by the project shows that the selection and promotion of the title for the April 2–16, 2018 event aligns with significant increases in associated social media activity and retail print/ebook sales.

Discovery Impact from the Campaign

  • 5.6 million page views globally of the ebook title details page in public library digital catalogs.

  • An increase in title’s Amazon Kindle sales rank—from below 200,000 prior to the library ebook club campaign to 7,833 at the close of the event.

Brand Development Impact from the Campaign

  • Over 13,000 Goodreads additions for the title during the campaign.

  • 400+ comments from readers, librarians, the author, and OverDrive forum moderator on the OverDrive moderated title discussion board.

  • 500+ mentions from libraries and readers on social media sites using #BigLibraryRead.

Retail Sales Impact from the Campaign

  • 818% growth in ebook sales from March to April, 2018.

  • 201% growth in print sales from March to April, 2018.

  • Sustained retail sales above pre-campaign (January–March 2018) volumes:

    • April–June 2018 ebook sales continued at 720% above pre-campaign volumes.

    • April–June 2018 print sales continued at 38% percent above pre-campaign volumes.

Data was aggregated from a number of sources to obtain the most holistic view possible of all library and retail sales activity (print and ebook) across multiple channels. The data sources include U.S. retail data from The NPD Group’s DecisionKey® retail book sales tracking service (formerly Bookscan™), U.S. public library ebook circulation data provided by OverDrive, and U.S. sales and marketing data from the publisher. In addition to sales data we have aggregated and incorporated promotional activities known to have been undertaken independently by OverDrive and Sourcebooks.

This is the first of several library impact research projects that we are working on. The report demonstrates how we are using library and retail data to develop a better understanding of the impact of the country’s public libraries on book discovery, author/brand development, and retail sales. We believe that the publication of this first report will serve as a catalyst for others in the publishing community to engage with the project. We are grateful for the contributions and support of Sourcebooks and the members of our Advisory Council—all of whom have provided insightful and helpful feedback.

View/Download the Report

View/Download the Media Alert

Thank you for your support!

Best wishes,


Cliff Guren

Panorama Project Lead”

ALA Midwinter ReadersFirst Session

Just before the Consortial EBook Interest Group meeting, from 12:30 to 1:45 p.m. in the same room (Hyatt Regency Seattle in the Junior Ballroom East), on Friday, January 25, ReadersFirst will be holding a digital content interest session. You DON’T have to be a Readers First member to attend.

We will be taking about a study we hope to have completed on eBook availability, licensing models, and cost in Canada and the USA. We’ll discuss some recent digital content developments. We welcome all comments about what is happening at your entity (library, non-profit, distributor, or publishing house). No need for a formal presentation: just tell us what you are seeing, for good or not so good, and what you’d like to see in library digital content. We will have a special guest: Andrew Albanese from Publishers Weekly, who digs deep into all matters library e-book, will talk about where the library e-book market is: the good, the bad, and the foot-dragging.

It will all be informal conversation in which we talk about where library digital content is and where we’d like it to go.

IN the morning, in the same room, there will be a SimplyE interest section. Friday the 25th will be library digital content day in Seattle!

Please consider attending!

PRH Prices Are Being Adjusted, But . . .

Some RF member libraries are reporting that Penguin Random House is indeed adjusting library e-book prices.

For example:

·Titles in the Cold Fury Hockey series went from $14.97 to $55 to the current $10.  Thank goodness as this series is very popular with our customers.

Crazy Rich Asians went from $48 to $55 to the current $45.  It’s interesting, however, that China Rich Girlfriend and Rich People Problems are now $50, not $45. It will be interesting to see if they eventually normalize at the lower price.

In the Loveswept imprint, all but a handful (that aren’t box sets) are now $10, down from $14.97. That’s a drop on around 650 titles.

The price drop is welcome, but the move to a two-year metered model still poses challenges for libraries. For example, one library buyer points out the following: “Today I have to buy 11 more A Spark of Light by Jodi Picoult this week (on top of the 32 we’ve already purchased) to reach our holds ratio. Each copy is $55, but in 24 months we won’t have a single one of them in our collection. Picoult is a perennial favorite, and I will no doubt be purchasing this title for years to come if Metered Access is the only lending model available.”

Adds another, “Our consortium budget can no way absorb having to re-buy this volume of titles.”

Having to repurchase every two years will likely decrease the variety and depth of digital titles that libraries can offer, with either high-demand titles displacing everything else or (and?) librarians facing patrons’ frustrated cry of “what I want is never available.”

PRH, we appreciate you engaging in a conversation with libraries. Please keep the door open. What we need, again, is OPTIONS! Work with us. Pilot at least a perpetual one user/one copy and a metered 52 circ model on all titles. We can talk price options. If we can use PRH efficiently, libraries will buy more from you. Our collections, and your bottom line, will benefit.