Our circulation of ebooks continues to grow but patrons often ask why we don’t have a specific new, popular title or why more copies of a title aren’t available. Unfortunately, the major publishers have been slow to make their ebook titles available to public libraries.
None of the six largest publishers sell or license ebooks to public libraries in the same way they do print editions. Three major publishers have pricing policies that make ebooks more expensive than print editions and others still refuse to make ebooks available to all libraries and are only now piloting programs that make them available to only select libraries.
The example of a recent bestseller makes the point: print edition cost to a public library: $15.51. Ebook cost on Amazon to an individual: $9.99. Ebook cost to a library from the publisher: $84.
The relationship between publishers and libraries is changing. Many small, independent publishers are willing to work with libraries; the major publishers have not yet adopted policies that address equitable access and fair pricing.
Oversight is needed to ensure that publishers do not inhibit access to ebooks in public libraries. The library community is urging policymakers to guarantee that all libraries and their constituents have unrestricted and equal access to ebooks at a fair and reasonable price.