In late September, leaders from the American Library Association met (for the eighth time) with publishers and related organizations to discuss ebook library lending issues. ALA delegation members—which included ALA President Barbara Stripling and Immediate Past President Maureen Sullivan and leaders from ALA’s Digital Content and Libraries Working Group—met with executives at Penguin Random House and Simon & Schuster, the Association of American Publishers and the American Booksellers Association.
Alan S. Inouye, director of ALA’s Office for Information Technology Policy and program manager of the ALA Digital Content Initiative, participated the NYC meetings. Inouye wrote about the leadership meetings on the American Libraries’ E-content blog:
Increasingly on the last few trips, and especially on this most recent one, there was a definite sense of cooperative spirit. For example, the Simon & Schuster discussion did not revolve around whether the publishing house’s initial pilot with New York City libraries would be expanded, but on its progress in opening with other library systems and how could it best be done for all concerned. And at Penguin Random House, the focus was on why particular pricing levels and models are (or are not) acceptable. There were no promises, but the dialogue was constructive and we all felt that we are moving on an “upward trajectory,” as Barbara Stripling often characterizes our journey.
The possibilities for libraries to facilitate ebook purchasing by readers came up in several meetings. Clearly, many people in the publishing ecosystem see libraries, with their community-based physical presence around the country, as attractive outlets. At the same time, libraries and local bookstores have a well-established, beneficial relationship that we want to build on. A current and likely long-term evolving issue will be to discern which sales-oriented activities best serve our users and libraries and which ones are not best placed in a library context.
We heard the question, “Have libraries and ALA won?” Of course, the facile answer is no—this is not a war or a game. The more substantive answer is that the largest publishers all deal with libraries in some way, which has been good progress. Indeed, thinking back to the bleak winter of 2012, maybe today’s situation is even a little better than good. On the other hand, two of the largest publishers remain in library pilots, pricing remains challenging, and there are important concerns about preservation, privacy, school libraries, and accommodations for people with disabilities, among other issues.
“Upward trajectory” indeed, but we have much more room to grow, and the ebook and larger digital environments themselves are still evolving. We are hopeful and continue to move ahead.
For further details, please join us at the ALA Virtual Town Hall Meeting on October 23, at noon Eastern time. ALA President Barbara Stripling will lead the town hall. Register here.