As concepts like self-publishing and digitized materials come to the forefront, how are libraries evolving in the new book world? In the new American Libraries digital supplement Digital Content: What’s Next?, leading library practitioners and experts discuss promises and “Faustian bargains” of ebooks.
The future-focused digital supplement examines how libraries are evolving in response to the digital revolution, including exploiting opportunities in self-publishing, while confronting challenges in licensing constraints.
The digital supplement also details progress made by the ALA’s Digital Content Working Group to advocate for equitable access to ebooks produced by the world’s largest book publishers.
Highlights from the report:
Libraries as content creators: “It is time for the library to step up as the nurturer of content creation,” says James LaRue, director of Colorado’s Douglas County Libraries system. LaRue discusses how libraries can—and should— become local community publishers, and how community members themselves could be involved in deciding which ebooks are made available by libraries.
ALA to move beyond the Big Six publishers: “In early 2012, urgent questions revolved around why the Big Six publishers wouldn’t do business with libraries or, for those publishers who did, why the terms were so unfavorable,” said ALA President Maureen Sullivan. “We focused on these issues last year and into 2013. While we’ve made some headway, more remains for us to do.”
Assessments on ebook library lending: In “Ebooks in 2013: Promises Broken, Promises Kept, and Faustian Bargains,” Clifford Lynch, executive director of the Coalition for Networked Information, provides an overall assessment of the library ebook situation, concluding that “the reality has been appalling.”
Ebook business opportunities: Peter Brantley, director of scholarly communication at Hypothes.is, examines the implications of ebooks that are no longer the intact products of today’s trade ebooks.
Participate in the ebook discussion at the 2013 Annual American Library Association Conference in Chicago. At the session “ALA, Ebooks, and Digital Content: What’s Next?” the leadership of ALA’s Digital Content Working Group will provide an overview of ALA activities and plans. A distinguished panel will then provide views on libraries as publishers and stewards of America’s digital cultural heritage, and how ALA can best advocate for these important library interests. Brantley and Wolven will continue the conversation as part of the ALA Virtual Conference on July 24, 2013.
Penguin Group USA revealed today that it will remove the six-month embargo on ebook titles licensed to libraries and instead offer new titles immediately after they are released in the consumer market. Other pilot terms are expected to continue, including a one-year expiration date on ebooks licensed to libraries and library pricing similar to what is offered to individual consumers.
As the digital publishing world continues to evolve, we can expect more business models and variation will be developed and tweaked. In fact, identifying and describing these various models and terms has been a key project of ALA’s Digital Content & Libraries Working Group (DCWG). As outlined in the DCWG’s report “Ebook Business Models for Public Libraries,” libraries benefit from business models that include access to all ebook titles, enduring rights and metadata integration capabilities (see also the recently-released DCWG “Business Model Scorecard” report on ebook contract variables for libraries). We hope that more publishers will consider ebook business models that license ebooks to libraries on reasonable terms at fair prices.
ALA will continue to work with publishers in the future to explore win-win business solutions. In April, ALA President Maureen Sullivan will lead a library delegation to meet with Penguin and other publishers in New York City to discuss ways to make ebook titles more accessible for libraries.
To help libraries navigate through the ebook environment, the American Library Association (ALA) released today “The Business Model Scorecard,” (pdf) a report that examines specific variables often seen in library ebook license contracts (Download the pdf report).
The report, which was created by the ALA Digital Content & Libraries Working Group (DCWG), can be used by librarians to weigh ebook contract variables most important to their library. The report assesses 15 ebook contract variables of importance to libraries, ranging from ebook title inclusion, to ebook pricing, to immediate patron access. These variables include important ebook lending characteristics, such as ebook revenue streams for publishers and ebook accessibility for people with disabilities.
“We developed the ‘Scorecard’ to ensure that librarians have the information they need to better negotiate ebook licensing agreements with publishers,” said Erika Linke, co-chair of the DCWG’s business models subgroup. “While no single business model will offer the best terms for all libraries, this report details lending terms that libraries can use to craft model contracts that work for their library systems.”
The report is a follow up to the 2012 ALA report “Ebook Business Models for Public Libraries,” a report that describes general features and attributes of the current ebook environment and outlines constraints and restrictions of current business models.
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.”
Libraries are taking on the e-book challenge by creating their own solutions to get e-books into the hands of library readers. Join members of the ALA Digital Content Working Group (DCWG) at the ALA Midwinter Meeting on January 26, 2013, as they examine current e-book lending systems and offer perspectives on future directions.
The e-book session—titled “Starting from Scratch: New Recipes for Ebook Models that Work”—will be held on Saturday, from 10:30–11:30a.m. in the Washington State Convention Center, room 602-3.
Led by school library coordinator and DCWG member Chris Harris, the session will include a discussion by a panel of experts in the field. Panelists will include: Califa staff members Linda Crowe and Heather Teysko as well as Jamie LaRue, director, Douglas County Libraries.
During the session, panelists will discuss the motivating forces that pushed them to create viable e-book lending solutions. The ALA Office for Information Technology Policy, the leading ALA unit on e-book lending policies, will co-sponsor the session.