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

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 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.

A Panorama Project Update

Thanks to Cliff Guren for providing the following update:


1) Panorama Picks is Live

 Today we are introducing a new program called Panorama Picks that reveals unmet demand for books and sales opportunities for booksellers. Panorama Picks is based on demand for books that readers are waiting to borrow from the nation’s public libraries. The program provides a series of regional lists of titles compiled from the wait lists for ebooks at local libraries. The lists will be updated on a quarterly basis.

 Visit the Panorama Picks webpage to learn more, sign-up to be notified when new lists are available and take our short survey on the program.  

2) Join Us at Book Expo on Wednesday, May 29 from 3:00 to 3:45 PM (Room 1E10 at the Javits Center)

 The Project is hosting an educational session at Book Expo in New York on Wednesday, May 29, from 3:00 to 3:45 PM (Room 1E10 at the Javits Center). Learn the many ways that libraries promote new authors and connect readers with new titles—and how these activities translate to sales. Get a first look at Panorama Picks. Hear how Penguin Random House uses libraries to develop audiences for its authors and launch new titles. Publishers and booksellers will leave this session with actionable ideas on to use libraries to connect with book borrowers and buyers.

3) Over 400 Librarians Completed Our Readers’ Advisory Activities Survey

 We are delighted to report over 400 librarians completed our survey of Readers’ Advisory activities. We are just beginning to review and analyze the results. Initial findings will be presented in our session at ALA Annual (see the update below). We will publish the full findings later this summer.

 4) Planning for Our Session at ALA Annual is Underway

 The project will be hosting a session at the ALA Annual Conference in Washington, DC on Sunday, June 23 from 3:00 to 4:00 PM. Here’s the short session description:

 How Readers’ Advisory Impacts Book Discovery and Sales: New Research from the Panorama Project

 New research on library Readers’ Advisory activities will be presented by the Panorama Project—a cross-industry initiative focused on studying the impact of public libraries on title/author discovery and retail sales. Come hear findings from the Project’s recent survey, get an update on the Directory of Readers’ Advisory Activities, and learn about Panorama Picks, a new library data-driven program for booksellers. There’s also a role for you!  Join us to learn how to participate in this important research initiative.

Cliff Guren
Panorama Project

The Panorama Project Conducts a Survey

The Panorama Project “The Panorama Project is the only cross-industry research project studying the impact of 17,000 U.S. public libraries on title/author discovery and retail sales. The project is using real world data and analytics to provide insights into how libraries affect retail sales.” As part of their efforts, they are conducting a survey of Readers Advisory and library marketing efforts. Libraries, please consider responding. ReadersFirst will post a link to the results when the are available.

Take the survey here.

Partnership to Further National E-book Platform Created

In a Press Release, New York Public Library, Lyrasis, and the Digital Pubic Library of America (DPLA) have provided the following information:

“[We] are pleased to announce a new collaboration to help provide all public libraries with a free, open, library-controlled platform for managing their e-book and audiobook services.

Through this newly-established collaboration, DPLA, NYPL, and LYRASIS will each offer core services and tools that, in combination, will provide public libraries across the United States with a full-service pathway to acquire and deliver e-books and audiobooks through a library-controlled marketplace and platform.

The DPLA Exchange (, launched in 2017 and now providing access to over 300,000 titles including thousands of openly-licensed works, offers a new model for a library-centered marketplace for e-books and audiobooks.

NYPL provides the foundation of the new platform with its free-to-use e-book reader, SimplyE, which was developed to make ebooks easily accessible to the public through their libraries, and to allow libraries to organize and deliver their ebooks directly to patrons through a library-controlled app.  

LYRASIS, a leading non-profit delivering hosted solutions and technology support to libraries, offers preferred cloud-based hosting, ensuring that every library, large and small, can adopt and use SimplyE and the DPLA Exchange.

‘DPLA’s collaboration with NYPL and LYRASIS exemplifies the shared approach that is core to our work and represents an important step in the expansion of the DPLA Exchange and other ebook initiatives over the coming years, with support from the Sloan Foundation,’ said DPLA Executive Director John Bracken.

‘The New York Public Library is excited to work with these two great organizations to help public libraries across the country and to continue supporting our shared mission to make information as freely accessible as possible to all,’ said NYPL President Anthony W. Marx.

‘Public Libraries are crucial to our communities, our engagement with knowledge and learning, and in linking people-to-people. As a mission driven organization, LYRASIS is proud to partner with DPLA and NYPL in this effort to deliver a solution that is focused on library-centered control and maximizing impact on their communities,’ said Robert Miller, CEO of LYRASIS.

In addition to announcing their expanded collaboration, DPLA, NYPL, and LYRASIS are excited to work more closely with members of the library community across the US. The SimplyE Community Leadership Advisory Council, representing institutions across the country, will provide critical on-the-ground insight and guidance about the development of new tools and features, as well as strategies for reaching more libraries.  The members of the inaugural SimplyE Advisory Council are:

  • Kendall Wiggin, State Librarian, Connecticut State Library

  • Michael Blackwell, Project Manager, Maryland State Library Digital eLibrary Consortium

  • Deirdre Brennan, Executive Director, Reaching Across Illinois Library System

  • Paul Swanson, Technology Director, Minitex

  • Christine Peterson, Project Manager, Amigos

  • Paula MacKinnon, Executive Director, Califa

  • John Herbert, Technology Director, LYRASIS

  • Michele Kimpton, Director of Business Development, DPLA

  • Tony Ageh, Chief Digital Officer, NYPL”

ReadersFirst has commented upon the DPLA Exchange and SimplyE before but welcomes this new effort to expand both initiatives. SimplyE offers libraries the ability to launch content from across vendors without leaving the libraries’ own virtual space, promoting the libraries’ brand and enhancing privacy. The DPLA Exchange is not only providing some unique content but is advocating for new license models that will give libraries the ability to use their resources better. Both initiatives are working to improve the digital content experience and are worth investigating.

[Disclosure: the author is in the SimplyE Advisory Council]

A Second Elending Paper is Being Published

A second paper from the Elending Project is being published. This one covers the 100,000 title study done of OverDrive’s Marketplace in 5 countries:  Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

 Download it here.

As previously posted in our news, the Elending Project is an Australian Research Council Linkage Project, led by Associate Professor Rebecca Giblin.

Professor Giblin had the following comments on the paper for ReadersFirst:

“The headline findings from this second paper are that publisher licensing practices are making it infeasible for public libraries to hold many culturally valuable titles in their collections, particularly older books. We show also that ebook prices to libraries have nothing to do with title age, country it's licensed in, or the rights libraries get in exchange for their money - instead, they're set completely at publisher whim.”

The Group’s work is not done. Professor Giblin adds “We're now continuing on with our analysis of the survey results and then beginning to formulate our recommendations about how law and policy ought to be reformed in light of this new evidence.”

The paper gives considerable evidence for things librarians have thought about the library eBook market based on our experiences but perhaps not always backed up with actual study. It is well-worth reading. If you agree, I hope you will share it elsewhere. ReadersFirst eagerly awaits the Elending Project’s recommendations.

Full disclosure: this paper cites work conducted by ReadersFirst and the author’s library provided access to collect the USA data in the study.