The Toronto Star: Libraries Feel the eBook Pinch

The Star has run an article on our friends in Canadian Public Libraries for Fair Book Pricing (CPLFBP). While we might have wanted a more in-depth treatment, ReadersFirst thanks The Star for bringing attention to a continuing problem for libraries and expresses our ongoing support for CPLFBP, a group which includes many RF members.

"And libraries — including ones in Toronto, Ottawa, Halifax and Vancouver — say they’d like things to change, so that they can pay according to their size and needs, rather than using the current one-size-fits-all model." Absolutely! Our Canadian partners face challenges that those in the USA do not--publishers do not consider the size and scope of Canadian libraries when setting prices and often charge in U.S dollars, adding additional costs--but current pricing models are unfair and are holding back library eBook circulation and doing a disservice to library readers.

Let's dispense with the prevarication that libraries should pay five times the cost for an eBook than a private buyer does because eBooks never wear out. Few books maintain high interest over time. It boots us nothing to keep a title forever if it simply sits collecting digital dust. Ironically, the Harper-Collins 26 circ model, much lamented at the time it was implemented, in some cases by librarians who felt threatened by the growth of eBooks looking to score points in a larger debate, is one of the most advantageous models we see once pricing alone is considered.

Paying five to seven times per eBook what we pay for the same title in print ($18 vs $121) is, simply put, price-gouging. Libraries do not get a good return on investment. Why not just stick to print and let titles run out their useful lives that way? Sure, some print copies are ruined after the first circ by coffee spill or dog chewing, but we get more circ per dollar from them.

We are encouraged by at least one publisher (Penguin Random) moderating prices slightly, but we stand with CPLFBP in their efforts to make prices fair and call on U.S. libraries to let their voices be heard..