The Topeka and Shawnee County Public Library has launched www.ebooksforlibraries.com in a grassroots effort to encourage readers to contact publishers directly about the limits or restricted access they are imposing on supplying ebooks to libraries. With a goal of reaching 10,000 signatures, more than 5,000 signed the petition in 10 days.
While sales of ereaders and tablets skyrocket, libraries are having trouble getting ebooks from the largest publishing companies. These publishers are adding restrictions and price increases, or simply not selling ebooks to libraries at all:
- Penguin recently ended ebook lending 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 (ALA) 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.
Libraries are seeking the opportunity to work with publishers to develop a business model for ebooks that allows authors and publishers to thrive while ensuring that libraries can build collections for their community of readers.
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.
The Topeka and Shawnee County Public Library is a 21st-century, landmark library, and features the Alice C. Sabatini Art Gallery, the Millennium Café, Chandler Booktique, meeting rooms, and free computer and Internet access and training.
Library hours are Mon. – Fri. 9 am to 9 pm, Sat. 9 am to 6 pm and Sun. 12 pm to 9 pm.