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As a librarian I would love to make all the books, magazines, newspapers, movies, music & reference resources available to everybody. Unfortunately, I have a budget that limits me from being quite that generous. It’s always a struggle to decide what to buy or subscribe to in a way that meets the needs and wants of the diverse population that makes up Harris County, but recent changes by some of the biggest publishers to eBook and eAudio licensing models are making those decisions even more challenging. 

Challenges we face in providing access to eBooks & eAudiobooks include: 

  • We often pay up to 5 times the cost that a consumer would pay for the same title.
  • Current lending models consist primarily of two types of license: perpetual use and metered access (set number of checkouts and/or set time period that require purchase of a new license once the limit is reached).
  • Some publishers including big names like Amazon have chosen not to make their titles available for purchase by libraries in digital format.
  • Many authors who self-publish in eBook format do so through services that may not allow their titles to be made available for purchase by libraries.

You’ve hopefully seen our call to sign the American Library Association’s “eBooks for All” petition that asks Macmillan to halt their licensing model changes scheduled for November 1st.  If not, please read more about it here, but Macmillan is only the latest publisher to implement changes over the last year and there is a growing concern that this trend will continue, making it even more challenging for libraries to purchase these titles for their readers.

  • October of 2018 Penguin implemented a switch from perpetual use to metered access license models for eBooks that has led to mixed reactions from libraries who have acknowledged that having numerous copies of popular titles isn’t necessary once the initial demand tapers off, but it detracts from a library’s ability to maintain a core collection of titles in eBook format.
  • July of 2019 Hachette implemented changes from perpetual use to 24-month metered access licenses for both their eBook & eAudio license models. This was the first publisher to implement metered access for eAudiobooks which already tend to be more expensive than eBooks overall. Having to renew licenses for those titles every 24 months is a newly added strain on library budgets.
  • August of 2019 Simon & Schuster  also implemented changes to both eBook & eAudio license models. A switch from perpetual use to 24-month licenses for eAudiobooks, and eBook license models were switched from 12-month to 24-month licenses.
  • November 1, 2019 Macmillan’s planned changes to their eBook licenses models mean libraries will have access to a combination of perpetual use and metered access licenses that will allow them to maintain a core collection of titles while also being able to meet initial high demand with additional copies purchases as metered access licenses.  However, it also includes an eight-week embargo period during which libraries can only purchase that one perpetual use license no matter the size of the population they serve.  This means libraries won’t be able to meet the needs and wants of their communities for reasons even more out of their control than the usual challenges presented by limited budgets.  

Libraries recognize the importance of digital formats, especially for those facing challenges associated Blog-LibraryDigitalMediaLicensePlans-eAudiobookswith visual impairment, for whom the adjustable fonts and views are vital to their ability to access those works.  Fighting against barriers that challenge a library’s ability to provide equitable access to information is one of the core values of librarianship, and the American Library Association (ALA) will be advocating for goals that support ALA’s belief that:

  • “All published works must be available for libraries to purchase and lend to library users.”
  • “Access to and use of eBooks must equitably balance the rights and privileges of readers, authors, and publishers.”
  • “Digital content must be accessible to all people, regardless of physical or reading disabilities.”
  • “Library patrons must be able to access digital content on the device of their choosing.”
  • “Reading records must remain private in the digital age.” 

What can you do to help?

  • Make your voice heard & sign the petition
  • Take a look at this article for talking points on why access to eBooks through libraries is important and share with your friends , family and strangers in line at the grocery store!
  • Contact your favorite authors and share a story of how the library has impacted your discovery of their books.
  • Share your stories and your concerns via social media & make sure to tag it #eBooksForAll. 

Librarians will continue to advocate for access to the books you love in the formats you want, but having your voice alongside ours is so much more powerful.

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