It’s been an increasing source of frustration for many library users: waiting weeks, sometimes months to get to the top of the waiting list for a popular eBook or e-Audiobook.
Why does it take so long? After all, it’s not a physical
object, it’s a digital file that lives in the “cloud”, why can’t
multiple people access it simultaneously instead of only one at a time?
Barring that, why doesn’t the library just buy more copies so that the
waiting list is shorter? Getting people access to books and information
is what libraries are all about, but the struggle for acquiring lendable
e-content is very real, and it’s getting harder all the time. Why?
What’s the big hairy deal? For that answer, you have to look to the “Big
5” Publishers, who are responsible for close to 80% of trade book sales.
Publishers have been extremely wary about allowing library users virtual
access to their books. After all, digital copies of books never wear out
or have to be replaced, and are more vulnerable to unauthorized copying
were afraid if they allowed libraries access to their books digitally, they would be losing money.
Individual publishers came up with their own sets of rules for
libraries to access their e-content, and they have been tweaked many
times since 2006.
In addition, the prices libraries must pay for ebooks and e-audiobooks is very high. Libraries must pay up to 4X the
retail price for digital versions of books (which only one user can
have access to at a time). Meeting the library patron’s needs for
downloadable content is a very expensive enterprise, indeed! Take a look
at this comparison of the prices for various versions of the same book:
It becomes easy to see that acquiring ebooks for public use is a very expensive endeavor…
This is something all public libraries in America are struggling with right now. If you need more sources:
The librarians at Dayton Metro Library have put together a page that’s very quick to read and easy to understand, as well.
Here at LCPL, we offer both Overdrive and Hoopla for ebooks and digital audiobooks, and we don’t expect that to change – but you may experience higher wait times as publishers limit our access to content.
This is a fantastic round-up of sources, and very timely–the ALA just launched a campaign against e-book embargoes for libraries. You can go to
eBooksForAll.org to sign their petition to Macmillan demanding access for all readers!
This is a really well-sourced roundup of the chaos that publishers are putting libraries (and library users!) through right now.
If you use your library’s ebook collection or you value open access to information in the 21st century, please consider signing the petition or signal-boosting.
Signal boost! This gives some good details about the problems libraries have always had with getting ebooks into the hands of our patrons (I once heard it referred to as “adding the limits of paper materials to digital media”) and the increasing issues we’re having now. I’ve definitely noticed the longer wait times in my library’s digital collection – and while some of it can be attributed to more and more people using ebooks, some of it is because of this. Definitely going to sign the petition!