AT ALA Midwinter, Carolyn Anthony (Dir, Skokie Public Library), co-chair of ALA's Digital Content Working Group (DCWG), shared news that in DCWG's recent talks with three of the "Big 5" publishers, the idea of a limited simultaneous access model was broached. For a short period of time, and on a limited important topic such as public health (i.e. Diabetes or Heart Health Awareness), might a suite of non-fiction library eBooks be made available to all who wished to access them without the waiting queue that can make library eBooks cumbersome to access? And for the first time ever (at least for more than a single and usually not well-known title), the publishers did NOT say "no."
Carolyn emphasizes caution. The publishers did not say "yes," either. They asked, however, how the model might work and seemed open to talking.
While hardly a breakthrough moment, then, this conversation is significant. Perhaps it is a first step towards developing a business model (subscription? pay-per-use?) that will allow for simultaneous access to high-demand titles by library eBook readers. We thank DCWG for their careful and thoughtful advocacy. Their diplomatic approach is slowly reaping benefits. ReadersFirst has long advocated a business model that would eliminate eBook reserve queues. We welcome any developments that would move greater access forward and hope publishers will continue to come to the table with open minds.
Thanks for the news, Carolyn!
Michael Blackwell, St Mary's County Library, for RF
What do you think? Is a per-per-use or subscription model ever going to viable or even desirable? Is anything likely to come from this sort of approach to the publishers? Please share!