ALA, Publishers Talk Ebooks

American Libraries, November-December 2012 | Go to article overview

ALA, Publishers Talk Ebooks


A few days before her September 27 meeting with the Association of American Publishers (AAP) in New York City, ALA President Maureen Sullivan released an open letter to the industry regarding the refusal of Simon & Schuster, Macmillan, and Penguin to sell their imprints' ebooks to libraries. "Publishers, libraries, and other entitites have worked together for centuries," she wrote. "Given the obvious value of libraries to publishers, it simply does not add up that any publisher would continue to lock out libraries."

Sullivan noted that 76% of public libraries now offer ebooks--double the number of five years ago--and that 39% of libraries circulate e-readers.

She reinforced her call to find common ground during a presentation to members of AAP, emphasizing the need for publishers to work with librarians to make ebooks available to libraries at reasonable prices and terms. Sullivan stressed that librarians want publishers to remain in business and want to continue being their customers. She went on to state that ALA doesn't accept the proposition that an ebook price that is a multiple of the print price is justifiable or fair.

In a subsequent report posted to American, Libraries' E-Content blog, Sullivan said she and an ALA delegation came away from that meeting and several visits with individual publishing houses with "a hopeful feeling" after having "experienced a series of frank, thought-provoking, cordial, and productive discussions."

Both sides agreed they should focus on finding effective ways to resolve the pricing and licensing issues surrounding library lending of ebooks rather than dwelling on past policies and practices.

In meeting with executives at Penguin, Rosen, Scholastic, Harper-Collins, Random House, and Hachette, Sullivan said she and an ALA delegation had good discussions on possible ways to make progress.

"Of course, this alone will not fill our libraries' virtual shelves with ebooks," she wrote October 2. "We will continue to pursue our strategy of heightened advocacy and publisher engagement."

Betty J. Turock (right), professor and dean emeritus at Rutgers University and 1995-1996 ALA president, was elected by the ALA Council to Honorary Membership at the 2012 Midwinter Meeting in Dallas. …

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