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?