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Three essential features of any ebook business model for your library

Ebooks and Public Libraries
View the report (pdf).

Nationwide, many libraries are facing constraints from publishers on how ebooks can be used–publishers are limiting the number of ebook loans, perpetuating the print model of one user per ebook license purchased, and restricting consortial and interlibrary loans.

To address library concerns about the ebook market, the American Library Association (ALA) today released “Ebook Business Models for Public Libraries,(pdf)” a report that describes general features and attributes of the current ebook environment and outlines constraints and restrictions of current business models. Additionally, the timely report suggests opportunities for publishers to showcase content through public libraries.

The report was created by the ALA Digital Content & Libraries Working Group (DCWG), an ALA working group created to address digital content issues and assist libraries in the adoption of new digital formats and content.

“Ebook publishing is expanding and evolving rapidly, and the terms under which ebooks are made available to libraries show wide variation and frequent change,” said DCWG co-chair Robert Wolven. “In this volatile period, no single business model will offer the best terms for all libraries or be adopted by all publishers or distributors. This report describes model terms libraries should look for in their dealings with ebook publishers and distributors, as well as conditions libraries should avoid.”

In the “Ebook” report, the DCWG recommends three basic attributes that should be found in any library business model for ebooks:

  1. Inclusion of all titles
    All ebook titles available for sale to the public should also be available to libraries.
  2. Enduring rights
    Libraries should have the option to effectively own the ebooks they purchase, including the right to transfer them to another delivery platform and to continue to lend them indefinitely.
  3. Integration
    Libraries need access to metadata and management tools provided by publishers to enhance the discovery of ebooks.

“ALA appreciates that realizing all of these attributes immediately may not be feasible, and a library may elect to do without one or more in return for more favorable terms in other areas, at least temporarily, but these features are ultimately essential to the library’s public role,” said ALA President Maureen Sullivan.

The DCWG has developed a number of other resources about ebooks, such as its first “Tip Sheet,” which is on digital rights management, and an E-Content Supplement to American Libraries magazine. Check the American Libraries E-Content blog for new developments from the DCWG.

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Jazzy Wright

Jazzy Wright is a former press officer of the Washington Office.

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