The American Library Association has released a communication supporting Simon & Schuster’s decision to roll out its pilot library ebook lending program, previously covered in TeleRead, nationwide. ALA President Barbara Stripling said:
Today represents an important milestone for improving the ability of libraries to serve the public in the digital age. America’s libraries are the quintessential institution in connecting authors and readers. We have always known that library lending encourages patrons to experiment by sampling new authors, topics and genres. This experimentation stimulates the market for books—with the library serving as a critical de facto discovery, promotion and awareness service for authors and publishers.
Simon & Schuster’s own press release on the move states that:
… each title acquired by a library for lending is usable for one year from the date of purchase. The library can offer an unlimited number of checkouts during the one-year term for which it has purchased a copy, although each copy may only be checked out by one user at a time. All of Simon & Schuster’s frontlist and backlist titles that are available as ebooks are eligible for the program, with new titles being made available simultaneous with their publication. In order to help support libraries, and for the convenience of patrons who might not want to wait until a popular new title is available, Simon & Schuster’s ebook program includes a “Buy It Now” capability, which gives the patron the option to purchase a copy of Simon & Schuster eBooks through a library’s online portal, with a portion of the proceeds from each sale going to the library.
The one-year time limit and one-user-per-volume restrictions do seem rather artificial means to conform ebook library lending to the standards of print books, and one year hardly even matches the useful life of print. That said, the purchase option is a financial bonus to the libraries as well as the publisher, and instant ebook ordering presumably means that libraries can tailor their stock levels and purchasing overheads to actual demand. Concluded Stripling:
The Simon & Schuster development is a welcome acknowledgment of our advocacy, the importance of the library market, and the key role of libraries in the nation’s communities. ALA looks forward to continuing discussions with authors, authors’ representatives, publishers, distributors, and retailers to create new opportunities to support a healthy reading ecosystem for the digital age. Let’s celebrate today’s progress, but also be mindful that a long and winding road remains ahead of us.