In a newly released message to members of the American Library Association (ALA), ALA President Maureen Sullivan details steps taken by the organization over the past year to advocate for library access to fairly priced e-book titles. In the statement, Sullivan sums up work accomplished by the ALA Digital Content Working Group, including relationship-building with publishers, increased media outreach and information resources and tools for libraries and library advocates.
The first major milestone for DCWG and for me, personally, was a set of meetings in New York with several “Big Six” publishers in January 2012. ALA needed to make our case directly at the highest levels in order to establish direct channels of communication and develop a better understanding of publisher concerns and misconceptions.
One issue that became clear from those meetings is the influential role of intermediaries—aggregators and/or retailers—in library ebook lending. Examination of the issue of library ebook lending involves a much broader look at the entire ecosystem, including not only publishers and libraries but also intermediaries, authors, and even literary agents.
These first meetings also introduced us to a central point of negotiation: how much “friction” is acceptable in order for libraries and publishers to do business together? While our patrons love 24/7 access to our digital content, publishers are concerned this easy availability might hurt sales. Of course, we librarians know that our waiting lists already constitute quite a bit of “friction.”