In September of 2019, if you were looking to purchase a copy of Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens, you would find a variety of prices. For consumers an eBook would cost $14.99, for libraries that same item would cost $55.00. This discrepancy in pricing would also effect eAudiobook purchases; $14.95 for consumers, $66.50 for libraries.
I was asked by a patron why we didn’t purchase more digital content, “Why can’t you get it off Amazon, like I do?” Well, it is not that easy and it revolves around the law, a lot of technology that is beyond my experience or paygrade, and pretty much what should be considered “unfair, abusive or deceptive trade,” (refer to that first paragraph again). The term that I encounter a lot is “platform” which in the simplest terms, means that someone else has to maintain the digital shelf that the digital content is housed on. Here is the complicated definition, “A content platform is the heart of a modern tech stack. It aggregates, structures and delivers content across an organization’s digital footprint,” yep, out of my experience and paygrade.
EBook and eAudiobooks represent a growing part of library circulation, even in our little rural community. I have drastically reduced our adult audiobook budget because of a reduction of checkout; people that enjoy audiobooks now get their content digitally. I don’t have a problem with what material type patrons chose, physical or digital, as long as they checkout with us, it is all good. The problem is, I cannot feed my digital content readers enough, why, well refer to that first paragraph once again.
Because digital content is stored as computer files, it is treated differently under the law, which has allowed publishers to create new restrictions simply because they can. Not only can they sell titles at multiples times the cost to libraries, they can delay selling certain titles to us for months after publication, restrict the number of days that a library can own a title and restrict the number of times a title can be checked out before having to repurchase the title. When I purchase a physical book/audiobook, it is considered a one copy/one user lending model, which means that it never expires from our collection (well, it expires if your dog chews it up, but you get the idea). Most digital content lending models are considered metered access (restricted ownership and/or checkout amount).
Publisher’s practices have created a tremendous waste of taxpayer money and jeopardize the fiscal viability of public libraries as interest in digital content continues to increase. My friend, Steve, gave me those words. Legislators in Maryland and New York have passed legislation to stop these practices. Ohio has also introduced legislation to address the problem. Missouri public library directors (including Steve) have drafted a bill similar to the one passed in Maryland with assistance from the Missouri Attorney General’s office. We are seeking state senators and representatives who are willing to introduce the bill in the 2022 legislative sessions (sponsor or co-sponsor).
Before there were public libraries, literature and knowledge where not available for everyone and private libraries were for the wealthy. Yes, it sure is neat that books are more easily purchased for most, yep, Jeff Bezos has made it easy for that patron I mentioned. The concern for myself and even that patron, is “for most”, not for all. We are the only access for some people, and remember what I said, “I don’t have a problem with what material type patrons chose, physical or digital, as long as they checkout with us, it is all good.” We are here to take care of you, stop giving Bezos money, and please reach out to our state senators and representatives about this bill.
Please email me if you would like a copy of the bill, email@example.com.
Upcoming Events: 12/22 Story Time at 10am, 12/24 and 12/25 CLOSED. The Young Adult Reading Challenge has started (Adults can participate), swing by the library for more information.