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 account, Facebook 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.
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.