Publishing shift threatens library access

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That’s the thrust of an article in the Coloradoan by Holly Carroll, executive director of the Poudre River Public Library District and Patrick Burns, dean of the Colorado State University Libraries.  Here’s an excerpt:

The popularity of eBooks, eReaders and other digital media has grown exponentially in recent years. Unfortunately, current lending and publishing models for electronic content do not provide the same level of access to our library users as print models. One prevailing trend is for publishers to rent content to libraries and then re-charge for it every time it is loaned. This causes costs to rise, and with fixed annual budgets for collections, limits what libraries can offer. Additionally, libraries cannot then engage in sharing such content via inter-library loan, further limiting access. Another problem is that some electronic content is only available to the consumer and not available for libraries to purchase for loaning purposes. For example, individuals can purchase electronic books for their personal use on devices such as the Kindle and the iPad, but libraries are prohibited contractually by the publishers from purchasing titles for these devices and loaning them to patrons.

Thanks to Michael von Glahn for the link.

1 Comment on Publishing shift threatens library access

  1. Quote: “One prevailing trend is for publishers to rent content to libraries and then re-charge for it every time it is loaned. This causes costs to rise, and with fixed annual budgets for collections, limits what libraries can offer.”

    A prevailing trend? That’d suggest that other trends are fading away and that’s news to me. Right now, it seems publishers would rather sell than rent, hence the attempt at limiting checkouts to 24 times. And it’s hard to see why, if the rentals are cheap enough, that costs would rise. Libraries would be saving the cost of buying books that only get read rarely. That savings for that and for shelving printed copies could be passed on to cover rental fees.

    Other parts of the article simply make no sense. Publishers and authors have no problem with inter-library loans of physical books because their use is limited by the fact that loaning is expensive and a hassle. That wouldn’t be true of digital books if interlibrary loans were allowed. In some cases, only one library in the country would need to own a copy, which all the others would borrow. It’s not hard to understand why publishers are not excited by that sort of business model.

    All in all, it’s a rambling article lamenting that public libraries have budget problems. So do we all. And you don’t have to be a libertarian to think that claiming that “librarianship is providing free and unfettered access to information” imposes no burdens on others any more than it means that librarians should themselves work for free so libraries can buy more books.

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