Dispatches from the Digital Revolution
A lot has happened recently in the ongoing battle between publishers and libraries to get ebooks on library shelves in the most practical, effective, and secure way possible. Macmillan has pledged to institute a pilot program for ebook lending in the near future, and Penguin has expanded its own pilot program to more cities and added a new distributor, Baker & Taylor.
With Macmillan’s announcement, the total number of big six publishers in some sort of ebook agreement with libraries comes to five: Simon & Schuster is the lone publisher not working on a program (at least publicly) to sell its titles to libraries.
Though this is good news, an improvement over where they were a year ago, libraries still think it isn’t enough. The frustration expressed in ALA President Maureen Sullivan’s open letter to publishers back in September resonated through the industry. In response, publishers countered that the ALA is over-simplifying a deeply complicated issue.
This past week, the ALA continued to push publishers to come around to its side by giving libraries a set of tools to help convince publishers to develop an ebook lending program with them. In its statement describing the purpose of the toolkit, the ALA writes: “Everyone needs to know that libraries offer ebooks and 21st century library services, but we are unable to offer all the e-reading choices our patrons need because some publishers refuse to work with us. ALA provides this toolkit of resources to support your efforts to address this national problem.”
The tools include a media relations handbook; an ebooks and libraries FAQ sheet; [insert your name here] op-ed, press release, and radio public service announcement templates; ebook-related graphics; and links to relevant research data. All in all, libraries now have everything they need in order to launch a full-on media assault on publishers refusing to sell its ebooks to them, plus the tools to make patrons aware of their existing digital offerings.
With these resources, every library can now help in the effort to increase awareness of the limitations on ebook buying publishers have placed on libraries—especially those which may not have had the resources to develop these communications themselves. As more people find out about the practice, the ALA hopes that a public outcry will motivate publishers to develop ebook lending programs faster and with less restriction. Many libraries and library consortiums across the country have reprinted the press release and link to the toolkit on their own blogs and websites to get the word out.
Cheers to the ALA for creating these sorely needed tools.