Library Systems Join Together To Demand Better Service for Ebook Users

More than 70 library systems from the United States and Canada – including the Topeka & Shawnee County Public Library – have joined forces to demand vastly improved ebook services for their users.

The libraries – that serve approximately 50 million users – have signed a joint statement calling on e-content providers to follow four basic principles that would give the public a better, less cumbersome experience accessing e-books and lift burdensome restrictions that limit what libraries can offer.

In addition, the Topeka & Shawnee County Public Library, in partnership with Library Renewal, is petitioning for wider access to ebooks for libraries. Sign your name and send a message to publishers at

“Libraries have a responsibility to fight for the public and ensure that users have the same open, easy and free access to e-books that they have come to rely on with physical books,” said the statement. “They face two major challenges. The first is that, unlike print books, publishers are not required to sell e-books to libraries – and many do not. This is a complex and evolving issue. The second, addressed here, is that the products currently offered by e-content distributors, the middlemen from whom libraries buy ebooks, create a fragmented, disjointed and cumbersome user experience.”

The four principles, which can be found along with the growing list of participants at the Urban Libraries Council website, implore providers to offer products that allow users to . . .

  • Search and browse a single comprehensive catalog with all of a library’s offerings at once, including all ebooks, physical collections, programs, blogs, and donor opportunities. Currently, content providers often only allow searches within the products they sell, depriving users of the comprehensive library experience.
  • Place holds, check-out items, view availability, manage fines and receive communications within individual library catalogs or in the venue the library believes will serve them best, without having to visit separate websites (libraries, not distributors, should be enabled to manage all interactions with users).
  • Seamlessly enjoy a variety of e-content. To do this, libraries must be able to choose content, devices and apps from any provider or from multiple providers, without bundling that limits a library’s ability to serve content they purchase on platforms of their choice.
  • Download ebooks that are compatible with all readers, from the Kindle to the Nook to the iPad and so on.

“In order for libraries to continue to function as key providers of information to the public, these basic principles must be followed,” the statement said. “The libraries who signed this agreement are committed to holding content providers to this standard, and will prioritize these requirements when acquiring e-books and other e-content.”

Learn more about which libraries have signed on.


Lisa is a former employee and shared the library story in many of her posts.