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With yet another publisher announcing today that it’s dropping out of the library eBook market, I decided to put up a new sign in our library in a few different spots to raise public awareness.  The sign lists which publishers won’t do eBook business with libraries and provides contact information for the publishers in question.  I’ve posted about the issue on our library blog and pushed it out on our Twitter accountFacebook page, and Google+ page.  And here’s a direct link to a downloadable copy of my sign on Google Docs. It’s not fancy, but feel free to take it, modify it, use it. And if anybody has better contact info for these companies, let me know. This is what I could glean from Reference USA and the company websites. Update: I have since added a QR code to the sign at the suggestion of several people, pointing people to the library’s blog post with this information.

sign at the San Rafael Public Library

I know it’s a small gesture. It’s just a sign (although I did put three of them up).  I am also writing letters as the Library Director (in many cases, again) to the publishers on the list asking them to try to work with libraries…telling them we’re open to negotiation and suggestion, but that walking away the library market is damaging to all of us.

As a librarian and as a reader, I am tired of publishers walking away from the library table.  I have no problem with them walking away from a particular third party vendor, but only if they have a plan in place to offer up their own platform or be signed with an alternate vendor already.  Gaps in service, gaps in availability of their titles to our patrons equals stupidity in my opinion.  Walking away from the library eBook market makes no financial long-term sense, nor does it continue the positive relationship that publishers and libraries have cultivated for centuries to help bring information and entertainment to people.

I think it’s about damn time we, as library professionals, started getting the public riled up about this too.  We need legislation passed (or copyright law clarified) that states that indeed, libraries can license/purchase and lend out digital items just like they can with physical items.  Fragmentation and exclusionary business practices hurt the people we serve.  As a librarian I feel we must stand up, as a profession, and say “no more.”

As I was putting the signs up today, I got a few questions immediately from library users.  Within a half hour of the Penguin/OverDrive news being announced, I had three phone calls to my desk from concerned San Rafael residents about yet another publisher not being available through their library’s eBook collection.  Now, admittedly we have a mightily active and concerned citizenry here in San Rafael (I love you guys!), but I’m guessing every other community has a good base of people who would also think this is ridiculous and be willing to do something about it.  I’m encouraging users to contact the publishers and tell other book-lovers they know.  This is one of those issues we’ve been dealing with in the library vacuum–an issue 99.9% of the public has no idea exists, and an issue that would invoke at least 80% pissed-off-ed-ness if we tell people about it.

Put a sign up in your library.  Say something to people at your eBooks classes.  Do something.  Because nobody, including ALA, is going to do it for you.

“Notice to publishers: curse your sudden but inevitable betrayal”

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    […] should we alert the public to write letters to publishers, as some librarians are encouraging (http://librarianinblack.net/librarianinblack/2012/02/ebooksign.html)? Please share your thoughts. Share this:TwitterFacebookLike this:LikeBe the first to like this […]

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    […] program of ebooks by libraries wouldn’t exist. In fact note that Macmillan, which is among publishers that refuse to give ebooks to libraries, is one of those moving to DRM-free ebooks. These facts have a powerful relationship to each other […]

  3. 5 years from now Says:

    I don’t think I will be out of line predicting that 5-10 years from now most U.S. readers will prefer ebooks. This will be especially true for the younger generations. With publishers refusing to sell ebooks to libraries, the role libraries served for centuries could significantly erode in less than a decade. Where will it leave us as a society? Clearly libraries’ appeal to publishers is not working. The situation is getting worse, not better. Penguin reported more than 26% profits increase in 2010 and another 5% in 2011. http://us.penguingroup.com/static/pages/aboutus/pressrelease/penguin_group_earnings_release_022811.html Apparently these profit increases are not enough. They are determined to squeeze out every dime they can. It seems without a legislation that will deny publishers the right to limit the format in which they sell books, the big six are not likely to give ground. I would also place more stock in appealing to authors rather than publishers. With many authors attributing their love of reading to libraries, I hope they will be disturbed to hear that young generation of readers will be denied the same opportunities.

  4. Notice to publishers: curse your sudden but inevitable betrayal | Tech Breakfast Says:

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    […] Five of the Big 6 publishers, collectively responsible for about half the (non-self-published) book market, including many of the best-known current titles, won’t sell ebooks to libraries. (One, Penguin, has just started a limited pilot with the New York Public Library, but to my thinking this is firmly in the “wait and see” camp.) […]

  8. The Growing Pains of E-Books « Jenny Arch Says:

    […] This comes as a surprise to many library users, which means librarians must do a better job of raising public awareness, notes San Rafael Public Library Director Sarah Houghton (a.k.a. the Librarian in […]

  9. Theresa Bakker Says:

    I’ve got some suggestions for folks who want to not only protest these publishers’ actions but also to take concrete action that will hit them in their pocketbooks:
    1) If you own a paper book from one of these publishers, and you’re done with it, donate it to your local public library. This will maximize the number of uses the book gets, and minimize the publisher’s profit from the sale of that paper book. Do this as often as possible until the offending publisher changes its policies. Write a letter to the publisher telling them what you’re doing.
    2) If you can afford it, select a popular book from one of the offending publishers as often as you can. Buy a copy of that book USED on Amazon or another reseller (prices can be as low as $.01 plus shipping) and donate it to your local public library. Used books do not profit the offending publishers a second time, and you will maximize the number of uses the book gets, while minimizing the offending publisher’s profit from the sale of that book. Do this as often as possible until the offending publisher changes its policies. Write a letter to the publisher telling them what you’re doing.
    3) Repeat as often as possible until change occurs.
    I’d love this message to go viral … Maybe libraries could publish wish lists for books they’d like to receive, so that folks will know what is needed.
    In the words of TV anchor Ed Schultz, “Let’s get to work!”

  10. Theresa Bakker Says:

    Here’s my letter to publishers (further to my post above):

    Plagiarize at will. Please.

    Dear Sir or Madam:

    As an avid reader, I am concerned with your company’s extremely unfair policy regarding the sale of eBooks to public libraries. I am writing to voice my objection and to advise you of the actions that I and other readers will be taking until your policies are changed.

    Over the last two years, the demand for eBooks has grown by leaps and bounds, and many library patrons (including myself) are moving to eReaders as their choice for content delivery. Changing your policies to open your e-content to public libraries for a fair price will profit not only your company but will also mean more readers will find your titles and have the opportunity to discover new authors.

    There is already a secure DRM (Digital Rights Management) solution in use by all providers of e-content to libraries which protects your authors’ intellectual property and consequently your profits. Further, studies show that people who borrow library books also buy them – in every format.

    I would ask you, as a leading publisher, to do the right thing and open your e-content to public libraries for a fair price immediately.

    Until this change occurs, however, I am personally resolved to take the following actions (as well as to urge all avid readers to do the same:

    1) I will purchase no further e-content for personal use from your company as long as you refuse to deal fairly with libraries. I will only buy such books USED, in paper format. Once I have finished reading them, these books will be donated immediately to my local public library.

    2) Whenever I can afford it, I will be purchasing a USED paper book published by your company from a reseller and donating it to my local public library. As you are aware, used book prices are as low as a penny plus shipping. This will maximize the circulation of books published by your company, while depriving you of any further profit from the sale of that book.

    3) I will also be circulating this message as widely as I can, and suggesting that others do the same until such time as your company changes its policy.

    I hope that you, as the publisher of many books that I have enjoyed over the years, will do the right thing and make all published works available for purchase by libraries at reasonable cost.

    Sincerely,

  11. Librarified » #ALA2013 follow-up: keeping up with ebooks Says:

    […] Librarian in Black’s sign explaining to patrons which publishers will and won’t allow libraries to lend ebooks […]

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