Publishers and Libraries Not on the Same Page - How One E-Book Company Is Bringing Them Together

Article excerpt

"We are placing at risk the entire library system. The cause is that publishers will not allow the arrival of of e-books into the public libraries," says Tim Coates. That's changing thanks to Bilbary, an online company Coates launched in early 2012 to bridge the gap between libraries and publishers. The problem, Coates, a veteran UK bookseller, realized was that many of the big publishers were unwilling to give libraries e-books because they feared that they would be accessed repeatedly at no cost. The purported solution involved expensive and complicated technology that neither publisher nor library was eager to embrace. As a result, major industry players, such as Simon & Schuster, Macmillan and Penguin, simply refused to sell their e-books to libraries.

Last month, in a sharply worded "Open Letter to America's Publishers," Maureen Sullivan, president of the American Library Association (ALA), said "We librarians cannot stand by and do nothing while some publishers deepen the digital divide. We cannot wait passively while some publishers deny access to our cultural record." American libraries currently serve approximately 1 69 million users. Over 2 billion books a year are read from public library collections, according to the ALA. The number of books read that are purchased from bookstores is 1 to 1.2 billion yearly, according to estimates drawn from American Association of Publishers statistics.

In the near future it is unlikely that publisherswillfinda way to make unlimited downloads of e-books to library patrons financially palatable, but Bilbary offers a compromise that benefits publisher, library and patron. Not even a full year into the venture, four of the six major U.S. trade publishers have made their e-book selections available from Bilbary (Random House, Macmillan, HarperCollins and Simon & Schuster) and the remaining two are close to signing on. …