As recently reported, I led an ALA delegation to New York last week to meet separately with Penguin, Macmillan, Random House, Simon & Schuster, and Perseus. The publisher representatives at these meetings included CEOs, division presidents, and other executives. We had frank discussions related to library ebook lending and are appreciative of the serious engagement by these publishers. Many of the meetings extended for a longer time than scheduled, and all ended with the expectation of a continuing dialogue between each publisher and ALA.Our discussions with publishers who already sell ebooks to libraries focused on how to maintain and strengthen our relationships. Of course, libraries represent a significant amount of direct buying power. Perhaps even more important is the library role in discoverability. Libraries expend considerable effort to identify the most relevant works for our communities. We weed out titles and feature new titles. We construct displays in our libraries and sponsor author events, often in partnership with local bookstores. We provide literacy training; support for book groups; and offer myriad other services that promote reading and book genres, titles, and authors. These publishers clearly place a high value on the library role in discoverability, and we agreed to continue discussions on how best to provide and promote ebooks to library patrons.
In every meeting, we reaffirmed our mutual desire to bring authors and readers together. Indeed, publishers and libraries enjoy a long history of productive relationships toward this end. There was ready acknowledgment of the key role that libraries and publishers play in society. And there was a desire for a mutually beneficial way forward for library ebook lending.
Of course much has changed in the past few years—and all indications are that the evolution of the ebook format in particular (and the medium of e-content in general) will continue or even accelerate in the coming years. While publishers and libraries share a common mission to bring authors and readers together, it is also clear that we have some goals that diverge. It is these differences that lead to varying views in the library and publishing worlds of business models and overall short- and long-term strategies.
In meeting with publishers who currently do not sell ebooks to libraries, we shared our profession’s concerns regarding the impact of these practices on library users, many of whom rely solely on the public library for their reading choices. In some instances, we found that there were misconceptions about how libraries operate that, once clarified, mitigated some of these publishers’ concerns. For example, some publishers had the impression that libraries lend to whomever visited their respective websites, thus making collections available virtually worldwide without restriction.
Full piece at American Libraries