I Never Promised You an E-book

The big news this past week in library-land is the price hike Random House initiated for e-books sold to libraries. For those keeping score Random House was one of the few publishers still selling e-books to libraries. Though I imagine tripling the price will leave fewer libraries with the coin to buy from them.

Truth be told I have access to library e-books through work, but I don’t bother with them. Quite frankly it is too much of a hassle when one click gets a book to my Kindle or Nook App. Currently if I want an e-book from my library I have to log into the digital library, find the book, add it to my book bag, then check it out. That is only on a good day. Most titles are often already in circulation so instead of getting the e-book I must add my name to the the list and in several weeks I’ll get an email saying my e-book is available for only two weeks before hopelessly tumbling off my device into the electron netherworld. This is what you get when you marry new technology to an old system.

So is Random House’s price hike just a grab for more money from libraries or the end of libraries as we know them? Rather than paying Random House’s extortion or even firing up the protest/letter writing/petition machine, libraries would be better off directing their patrons to other content. As long as libraries continue to play by the same rules even when the other side is rewriting them as they go their patrons will not be served. Let’s hear what you think in the comments.


Going through my library blogs I found this from The Librarian by Day Bobbi Newman. Sounds kind of familiar doesn’t it? Perhaps libraries are catching on.

6 thoughts on “I Never Promised You an E-book

  1. Vinny, I really appreciate you keeping everyone up to date on how the ebooks industry is effecting the library community. Unfortunately, I think Libraries may be the ones to go. They are hardwired into city governments and school districts and those institutions are always very slow to change to keep up with the new environment.

    1. Vinny

      As long as people need information in one form or another there will be a need for libraries. The library just needs to see that for what it is and not chase content into bankruptcy.

  2. writerwilke

    I honestly hope Michael is wrong… My hope is that libraries will change from a book-lending facility, into something a little more progressive. In a sense, libraries could focus more on what their other functions are: providing a data repository for the public, facilitating meetings, a community meeting place… Maybe even just as big, public access coffee shops (okay, that last one is a little facetious, but hey!)

    Still, It will take some brave library and local government to start the change, but I think they still have a future.

    1. Vinny

      Library as a social function is a necessary component in a democratic society. Hopefully that will not change to meet some corporate bottom line. I like to think it won’t.

  3. If you haven’t been to a public library lately, you may think they are behind the times. You’d be wrong. They are seeing more traffic than ever in history and are loaning more things per capita than since statistics have been kept. They are early tech adopters and almost all offer more technology than most members of their community have ever used. They market new technologies to reluctant adopters. They started loaning ebook readers before the Kindle was invented. They do events and some are offering workshops on publishing your own books. Lots of them have coffee shops, too.

    But ebooks are a problem. Two of the Big Six will not sell libraries ebooks. Two won’t sell frontlist ebooks to libraries. One requires that books be repurchased after 26 loans (which is a shorter life than print books) and now Random House wants to charge $85-$120 for a digital file that can only be loaned to one person at a time. Do they think librarians are stupid?

    Who’s being behind the times? Not libraries. Libraries can do other things – Andy Woodworth has some good ideas about that at https://agnosticmaybe.wordpress.com/2012/03/05/alternative-uses-for-the-pesky-ebook-budget/

    But here’s the thing: people still want to read books published by the Big Six. Some of them would love to be able to read them on their ereaders. Most people with ereaders also read print books, but if they would rather have a digital version, they may blame their libraries for being stupid or behind the times. Libraries can offer their community alternatives, but the alternatives may not be attractive when what someone wants is to read Big Popular Book by Awesome Favorite Writer. Still, it would be a terrible use of public funds to buy one book when you could buy three.

    If the Big Six gets their way, the only option to read Awesome Favorite Writer’s new book will be to buy it. Awesome Favorite Writer may be one of the last of the breed when new writers have no access to the place where people develop their reading tastes and discover the writers they will fall in love with.

    Hey, it’s business.

    1. Vinny

      Barbara, thanks for the link. That is what I am always trying to get across to the libraries I work with. There are other measures another services that your patrons will value more.

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