Wednesday, February 06, 2013

Publishers’ fear of e-books is hurting libraries

Major publishers continue to boycott or significantly limit titles available in digital format, which hurts public libraries, writes guest columnist Alex Alben.

WHEN I was 7, my second-grade teacher escorted our class to the school library and instructed each of us to pick a book to check out. Unfamiliar with the concept that a library was a place where one could wander and discover titles to one’s heart’s delight, I looked up directly from my seat and chose a book about the U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis.
I returned to the same spot the following week and selected The West Point Story. For half a year, my reading was confined to a particular shelf, before I realized that a library is a place to expand one’s horizons.

Due to a ballot measure approved in August, 15 more branches of the Seattle Public Library will open their doors on Sundays. Now 26 branches will give Seattleites Sunday access to the books, CDs, audio books and DVDs. This access should include more access to e-books, but major publishers continue to boycott or significantly limit titles available in digital format.
Libraries sit at the intersection of the new digital age. While libraries continue to fulfill their mission as the repositories of printed books and periodicals, they increasingly have come to play a new role as provider of digital access to those who don’t have access to high-speed broadband or personal computers. The American Library Association reports that as of last year, 39 percent of libraries offer e-readers to patrons for checkout, enabling readers to access content in digital format.
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