Tag Archives: eBooks

Public Libraries must take a Stand with the Big 5 on eBooks


Library Journal “ALA, Publishers Talk Ebook Lending Terms for Libraries

I saw the headline and thought “Excellent! I hope this means ALA has made real progress toward open access to ALL content regardless of format!” and then I read the article.

“ALA highlighted the valuable role of libraries in the publishing and reading ecosystems and thus why more flexible and favorable terms for library eBook lending are in everyone’s best interest.”

Publishing ecosystems? Huh? Where’s the mention of providing equal access to information regardless of format?

“This visit represents ALA’s ninth such delegation effort over the last several years.”

Ninth delegation!? Seriously? And yet here most of us sit with abysmal title selections and outrageously priced contracts. I don’t think the strategy is working…whatever it is.

“Libraries have a prominent role in the discovery of books and authors, whether in the physical or virtual worlds.”

True. We all love our reader’s advisory and putting those new books in people’s hands.

“Indeed, the opening of a brick-and-mortar store by Amazon is a major acknowledgment that physical place is important, even for an online-based service. “

True…Library as 3rd space. We have been saying this for a decade. Wait…is the delegation saying these publisher’s should think of the libraries as their “brick-and-mortar” presence for their eBook trade? Hmm..starting to feel a little uncomfortable… where is this headed?

“In our meetings, we came away with a few possibilities for strengthened collaboration with publishers to promote discoverability as well as reading and literacy.”

OK- even less comfortable. Let’s break down this sentence. So in addition to promoting reading and literacy which we all do and love…the delegation is suggesting we promote discoverability…of the publisher’s eBooks. Why is it that this sounds a bit more like promoting for revenue than simple reader’s advisory?

“One idea that received some traction is tying discoverability with a particular subject matter, such as health or workforce issues. Library services or programming in an area would be developed and highlighted on a national scale, and publishers’ titles on these subjects would be featured. Publishers would offer print or eBooks through a favorable promotion to stimulate participation by libraries and, in turn, by the public.”

I’m sorry…what? Let’s read that part again “publishers’ titles on these subjects would be featured”. And…“Publishers would offer print or eBooks through a favorable promotion to stimulate participation by libraries and, in turn, by the public.” Now I’m officially uncomfortable and we have turned into shady ethical territory. Consider this: It is one thing when we host a children’s program with a magician and then put out a display of books on magic. It is ENTIRELY another when a book seller comes to the children’s librarian and says “If you will pay to put on a program with a magician- I will SELL you these books on magic at a discount and then you agree to ‘feature’ those books at the program”. How many of us would pull back from that offer instinctively?

But now we read an article with ALA is actually presenting this as a serious idea. ARE YOU KIDDING!?? Libraries are not peddlers of the publisher’s product! Libraries are not about free advertising for authors! Taxpayers do not give Libraries their hard-earned tax dollars to have us craft services and programming to promote a for-profit venture.

“Most fundamental, however, for these meetings is to further develop the library–publisher relationship at the executive and national levels. Publishers and libraries have similar overall goals—to promote and advance reading and literacy—and are allies in many respects.”

And why is it that each time I read about Library/Publisher talks or pilot programs I always see the same New York area libraries represented? Why are the New York area Libraries driving the national agenda and conversation on eBooks? Why are they some of the ONLY libraries to have ‘deals’ with the publishers? Proximity? Hogwash!! We all know how to get on an airplane. I have as much or more respect for NYPL and its neighbors as anyone (I’ll admit it may nearly bordering on a bit of hero worship); but I would like to see a broader spectrum of folks invited to the table for these negotiations.  Perhaps this is a banner that the new Librarian of Congress or ALA’s new Director of ALA’s Office of Intellectual Freedom and Freedom to Read Foundation, Jamie LaRue. With his appointment, I have the first high hopes I’ve had for awhile when it comes to serious progress from ALA.

And lets not overlook the bit about similar goals.  Unless it’s a charitable tax write off or a form of promotion, do we really believe the Big 5 have any other goal at the end of the day other than to make money? What better way than to get one of the most trusted of public institutions to hawk their products?

Let’s stop kowtowing to the Big 5. Stop telling them how good we are for their product and begging for scraps. Please ALA, do not sell the soul of the Public Library – the public trust that Libraries are one of the only remaining ‘commercial-free zones’- for a better price on the latest best seller. We are not the pawn of the Publishers. We are not their salesmen. Instead stand up for EXACTLY the reason we Public Librarians are here! To ensure that all Americans, regardless of their means, have access to ALL content/information REGARDLESS of format.

THAT SHOULD BE OUR MESSAGE TO THE PUBLISHERS. We will NOT allow them to throw our ability to create open access to information back into the dark ages because the technology of this bright new century allows them to maintain a strangle hold on content. Access to information is a right of all. NOT just those who can pay. That is why the FREE PUBLIC LIBRARY was created. How DARE we let these publisher disregard this basic tenant of our democracy!

Perhaps in the 10th meeting Libraries will make a stand.

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Authors now join Public Libraries as targets of Publisher and Bookseller censorship and greed – But who is the real victim?


It appears that it is not just Libraries any longer that are at the whim of publishers and booksellers. Authors now find themselves pawns in the game of market share and bottom-line. And some are NOT taking it lying down. Rather they are banding together, passing petitions and now a full-page spread in the New York Times Sunday addition at a cost of $104,000!

From ArsTechnica.com Report on the Dispute:

“Authors affected by Amazon’s contract dispute with publisher Hachette have started to band together against the online retailer, reported The New York Times on Thursday. More than 900 authors have signed a letter condemning Amazon for “using writers as hostages in its negotiations,” referring to Amazon’s choices to keep low stock of certain Hachette titles and taking weeks to ship them as the two companies battle over e-book prices.”

The Guardian Reports Best selling Authors take out Full Page New York Times Ad against Amazon:

“As writers – most of us not published by Hachette – we feel strongly that no bookseller should block the sale of books or otherwise prevent or discourage customers from ordering or receiving the books they want. It is not right for Amazon to single out a group of authors, who are not involved in the dispute, for selective retaliation. Moreover, by inconveniencing and misleading its own customers with unfair pricing and delayed delivery, Amazon is contradicting its own written promise to be ‘Earth’s most customer-centric company’,” write the authors, who include Stephen King, Donna Tartt, Paul Auster, Barbara Kingsolver and a host of other well-known names.

Read The Authors’ Letter

But Wait! What is this?? Amazon has not taken the attack in stride but has come out swinging!! They have written their own letter!! (Note it says it is a Letter to Readers – However, I first saw the exact text from an Amazon Author who forwarded an email he received from Amazon billed as a letter to its authors- Thanks Dr. Steve Matthews!)

Read The Amazon Letter to Readers
(OH! and they have they have a bibliography! Nicely played Amazon! Too bad so many facts were wrong- especially that Orwell reference. Pesky Details!)

But now the letters are flying! We did not have to wait long for Hachette’s Response!!
Read the Hachette Letter of Response

And what is to be made of all this back and forth? Well the New York Times made a little fun!
The New York Times Reports on Amazon’s Letter, Its Misquotes, and the Fall out!

At the end of the Times report it appears as if Amazon maybe pondering a go at the giant Disney!

“In a related development, it became widely known over the weekend that Amazon was in a dispute with yet another supplier, this time Disney. Amazon was doing the same thing with the movie studio that it did with Hachette: preventing customers from preordering physical copies of yet-to-be-released content.”

Wow…Disney may be about bringing joy to Children and Adults all over the world; but they are also notorious for aggressively protecting themselves successfully from just about any form of infringement. Amazon may find THEY are the Mouse…to a much larger Cat in that game!

So now, after reading all the press and the letters from the various players, What do we think? What side did you come down on? Who is fighting for what? Who is the Good/Bad guy? Do the details of the actual argument seem….muddled and confusing. I’m sure there are some pros and cons on all sides of the financial and philosophical argument (and a whole passel of lawyers); but to form a truly educated position might require a review of the actual contract in dispute. However, what cannot be disputed…is that in all this pointing and sharpening of the pen the only REAL victim is the CONSUMER. The person who simply wants access to the movie, book or eBook of their choice but is shut out. And when one of the worlds largest booksellers unapologetically employs tactics that covertly limit public access to material in a democratic society it should be a serious warning sign to us all!!

Booksellers and Publishers have been shutting America’s Public Libraries out of the eBook market for years. They have only recently opened the back door and ONLY if we are willing to buy our way in through ridiculous pricing or public-trust threatening “collaborations”. I wonder: Will these authors’ efforts have any greater impact on the covert stymieing of access by these booksellers and publishers than the nearly ineffectual attempts of America’s public libraries?

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eBooks and the 21st Century Library: How Libraries have (almost) sold their soul


In my 2+ decades in this profession I have often worried about the struggles facing our profession and Public Libraries in general.  If I allow my imagination to run amok I ponder the eventual demise of the free public library at the hands of politicians slashing budgets or an apathetic citizenry… What I never imagined was the notion that one day- sitting at my desk- inquisitively researching a library topic that I would discover that we had sold our soul.  In hindsight, maybe I should have seen it coming….

 

It started innocently enough- I was sent the following article that intrigued me and set me off researching:

http://gigaom.com/2014/06/27/the-right-to-resell-ebooks-major-case-looms-in-the-netherlands/

Like many librarians and administrators eBooks are definitely on my radar.  As a reader and consumer they are at the foremost of the online products I buy!  I knew there were controversy’s but honestly- I was taking the “sit back and let them fight it out” approach.  And let’s be frank…I’m busy and have to pick my issues.  I didn’t realize this should be the top of my list.

If your are curious- below are the links I followed in my research:

http://www.teleread.com/ebooks/the-used-e-books-controversy/

http://ownersrightsinitiative.org

http://gigaom.com/2012/12/15/the-right-to-resell-a-ticking-time-bomb-over-digital-goods/

http://www.teleread.com/ebooks/bea-panel-suggests-publishers-still-clueless-about-library-e-books-and-piracy/

http://libraries.pewinternet.org/2012/06/22/libraries-patrons-and-e-books/

http://tempest.fluidartist.com/ebook-library-lending/

http://www.publishersweekly.com/pw/by-topic/industry-news/bea/article/57603-bea-2013-is-e-book-lending-good-for-authors.html

 

To summarize so that you don’t have to read them all if you haven’t (this blog is a long one- pace yourself!)- in broad strokes and boiled down to its simplest (and yes- simple and broad means I won’t hit everything):

The primary hot issues appeared to be- permanence, access, ownership, and availability.  A BIG issue in the string I was following seemed to boil down to “licensed” vs “owned”.  Who owns it? What can you do with it?

Advocates of resale:

You bought it. It’s yours- do what you want with it-resell it, loan it to a friend, etc.

Opponents of resale:

You licensed it.  It’s yours to read and keep- but nothing more. For if we open the door to resale then piracy will run rampant- technology cannot stem the tide, publishing will meet its demise as the world spins out of control!

(Side note: Props to Marilynn Byerly because they are due to anyone who can work the coming Zombie Apocalypse into an article on eBooks. And yes I said ‘coming’…you’ve all been warned…no excuses!! )

So based on my read of the issues at hand- I begin to formulate the following opinion:

As someone who has made their life’s work about the free access to information and thus, inherently, the loaning of materials to many people… GET IT STRAIGHT SELLERS/PUBLISHERS.  You are either selling the book or loaning it.

  • If you  sell someone something it becomes theirs to do with as they will.
  • If you loan it, then you can set parameters for use.

Publishers can’t have their cake and eat it too.  If making it clear to buyers that you are loaning the eBook rather than selling it cuts into sales then that is simply the way it is.  If and informed buyer  chooses not to plunk down their money because of that information- tough nuggies.  But when sellers use terms like “buy”, “bought, “digital edition” in the purchase process they should not wonder why BUYERS believe they have BOUGHT the book.

Sell ebooks or loan them or both…decide!!

And when these issues continue to be on the table- is it any wonder that librarians continue to worry about the ownership and right to items in their collection that are in a digital format? We are all experiencing the effect of those slimmed down reference collections that seemed like such a great idea- right up until our access to those pricey online databases started to dwindle.

Those were my thoughts on the topic…and in fact, I thought I was finished and about to put “The End” on my blog…but then I noticed that all the info I was surfing seemed a tad old.  So I went looking for new news!  And what I found was so chilling it made Byerly’s Zombie Apocalypse pale in comparison.

Now perhaps it was due to the massive avalanche of information all at one time, like watching all the Game of Throne for the first time one season after another over a weekend marathon when you finally get “On Demand”.  But the articles I started with in 2012 and 13 seemed concerned, questioning, strong…  Librarians actively working to carve out a Library ‘clause’ in the business of eBooks.   Librarians outlining our expectations in this world of eBooks for access, retention, collection, buy-power, and managing our collections vs being TOLD how we would manage our collections. Yeah! Go us!!!

And then somewhere along the way it was as if we ‘drank the Kool-Aid’.

When I went looking for ‘new news’ I found VERY new… Something I had yet to stumble upon or hear about from any of my regular sources in Libraryland.

April 24, 2014

“Brooklyn Public Library Strikes deal with Simon & Schuster” :

Due to financial ‘woes’ the Library has struck a deal with Simon&Schuster to participate in a ‘pilot’ program that will bring the publishers entire collection of eBooks to the Library’s Patrons! Eventually rolling out to the NYC and Queens Borough Systems.

This seems great! So why is my blood running cold?  Ahh…the rub…

Only ONE of each title will be available. When it is checked out, patrons will be asked if they would like to BUY (or is it license?) the book instead.  And in return, the library will get 2% of the profits!!

This reminds me of some other model where the first taste is always free and everyone in the selling chain gets a bit of the profit…hmmm… can’t place it…

 

Head swimming- I sat back in my chair stunned.  How have I not heard about this?? How is the Library community not standing on tables somewhere screaming??!!  How did we sell our negotiating position in the world of eBooks without any of us feeling a disturbance like a “million voices cried out in terror and were suddenly silenced?”

Better yet- how did we sell our foundation of free and open access like a 30sec time slot during the Super Bowl??

http://www.teleread.com/library/brooklyn-public-library-strikes-deal-with-simon-schuster/

WHERE IS ALA???

And then I find them- providing an encouraging smile while we tentatively hold our solo cup of KoolAid

June 26, 2014

ALA Pres Barbara Stripling announces on the first day of annual conference that the program will go national!

“Today represents an important milestone for improving the ability of libraries to serve the public in the digital age. America’s libraries are the quintessential institution in connecting authors and readers. We have always known that library lending encourages patrons to experiment by sampling new authors, topics and genres. This experimentation stimulates the market for books—with the library serving as a critical de facto discovery, promotion and awareness service for authors and publishers.”

REALLY?? Because I thought America’s libraries existed to provide equal open access to enable an informed citizenry that can self-govern???  Now I find out we are a marketing service for authors and publishers?  Well, to be fair, Ms. Stripling couldn’t have been more blunt! I at least appreciate her honesty about the sell out.

She goes on in her statement to say that these conversations began in 2012 and the players had very different perspectives on the lending of eBooks. But that much has changed and ALA is pleased they have moved the effort from a pilot to a ‘mainstream business’ for the company.  Again, thank you for your honesty Ms. Stripling.

http://www.ala.org/news/press-releases/2014/06/ala-applauds-simon-schuster-nationwide-expansion-library-ebook-lending

But wait! As with any good Zombie Apocalypse tale there has to be some hope! The band of hold outs rushing up in their Mad Max vehicles and big weapons just as the zombies close in on the bedraggled band of non-zombies (yes, dear reader I watch to many movies…but back to the point).  This tale can still have that too!!

June 28, 2014

http://goodereader.com/blog/electronic-readers/simon-and-schuster-mandates-libraries-act-as-retail

“…libraries have public trust because they are funded by community dollars. People have disclosed that they feel that libraries are leveraging their public trust in order to become a bookseller.”

Over a century of public trust risked for 2%….really? Is that what it is worth to some?

Now Read that last bit:

“The buzz around ALA was uniformly nasty.  Librarians do not want to play the role of showroom or bookstore.  Others claim this is a slippery slope with the potential to lose the public trust.”

Librarians:  If you have thought to yourself, as I did, “This can’t be happening!!” You are not alone! “Uniformly Nasty!!” GO US!!! Throw out that KoolAid.  Stand up and be counted.  So many times we think, as I did, “I’ll let the ‘big players’ sort this out” or “I can’t really do anything about this issue. ALA and the big systems have gotten the ball rolling”.  NO! Enough! THIS  is too much!!

The selectors, the management teams, the administrators, the librarians in every library small or large have the ultimate power to stop this.  Stand on our ethics.  We are not bookstores.  We are not a marketing service for the publishers. And HOW DARE anyone- including and especially ALA-  try to tell us otherwise!!  We are the FREE PUBLIC LIBRARY in everytown.  We are entrusted by the public to create the one space they know will never be a pawn of the marketplace or swayed by commerce or make any decision based on profitability.

The zombies are banging on the locked door.  Grab your pen and when the invoice or email or option to sign up comes…strike it down!

 

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