10,000 People Want eBooks in Libraries

If your business received 10,000 requests for a product you had in stock, would you sell it to them? In just seven weeks, the Topeka and Shawnee County Public Library, through ebooksforlibraries.com, has collected 10,000 signatures requesting publishers provide ebooks to libraries by developing a business model that allows publishers and authors to thrive. The goal of 10,000 signatures was reached today at 9:05 am CDT.

While sales of ereaders and tablets skyrocket, libraries are having trouble getting ebooks to fill up these popular devices. Some of the largest publishing companies are creating barriers to delivering library customers the books they want in the format they want them.

The library encouraged readers to send a message to publishers about the limits they are imposing on supplying ebooks to libraries. A petition was set up on www.ebooksforlibraries.com. Readers – from as far away as Australia and Spain – responded to help surpass the goal.

“Our customers are buying ereaders, and want to read library books with them. Those large publishers aren’t giving our readers that choice. Our goal is to give them that choice,” said David King, Director of Digital Services. “We want those publishers to hear from you that you want to read books on your terms – not theirs.”

The petition, signatures and comments will be printed out and mailed it to these publishers in hope of change. Their business practices of the past year include adding restrictions and price increases, or simply not selling ebooks to libraries at all:

  • Penguin recently ended ebook sales to public libraries.
  • HarperCollins has a 26-checkout limit on each ebook. Then, the library has to buy it again.
  • Random House allows unrestricted access to ebooks, but recently raised prices.
  •  Macmillan, Simon & Schuster and Hachette don’t sell ebooks to libraries at all.

This means that library customers can get a print copy of a book from a library, but can’t get that same book in an ebook format. But that’s not what library customers want; they want books, in all formats.

“Libraries and librarians put books in the hands of readers millions of times in just one year. We have relationships with readers and are a trusted source for finding great stories and information,” says Gina Millsap, Topeka and Shawnee County Public Library CEO. “Libraries buy lots of books and serve as the outlet for readers to discover a new genre or author, and then make purchases of the books they want to own.”

According to the American Library Association there are more than 169 million library cardholders nationwide, comprising of 57.1 percent of the population. In 2009 public libraries total collection expenditures amounted to $1.3 billion, of which 12 percent was spent for electronic material, such as ebooks.

Library Renewal is a non-profit 501(c)3 organization with a mission to support libraries in e-content research and distribution cosponsoring this initiative. Millsap, as well as David Lee King, TSCPL’s Digital Branch director, serves on its board.

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  • Zoey

    So what are you going to do besides forward the petition? I thought the link to this said “what’s next”? Maybe I clicked the wrong thing.

  • Bev Garretson

    I feel most people will buy a book if they want it regardless of if it available thru the library in an eBook. I have certain books I will by as I want to collect from a certain author. Some books I buy and I also buy from garage sales. I like the convenience of being able to get a book as an eBook. Just because it’s not available in an eBook doesn’t mean I will buy it.