Magazine article Library Administrator's Digest

Library Wars: Amazon and Publishers Vie for Control

Magazine article Library Administrator's Digest

Library Wars: Amazon and Publishers Vie for Control

Article excerpt

As the digital era unfolds, the role of libraries in the distribution of e-books has emerged as a significant issue of contention. While print books are still the mainstay of most libraries and audiobooks are accepted as a regular feature, there is considerable uncertainty about how to handle e-books. Among the six largest trade publishers, only Random House has been selling e-books to libraries without restrictions, and a spokesman said that it is now "actively reviewing" its position. Macmillan and Simon & Schuster do not sell e-books to libraries at all. Hachette and Penguin withhold their newest titles, and HarperCollins caps the number of times a book can be loaned at twenty six, after which, in principle, it needs to be repurchased.

The soaring popularity of e-books and the dominance of Amazon and its proprietary Kindle reader have apparently made these publishers wary of the impact on sales. Smaller publishers and academic presses share those concerns and recognize that e-books could, over time, replace print books as the format of choice among students and scholars, which would seriously undermine their revenue model. About two thirds of libraries across the country now offer some access to e-books, mostly working through OverDrive, which is the leading provider of digital books to institutions. Initially, Amazon did not make its Kindle e-books available to OverDrive. When Amazon changed that policy this past September, library patron access to e-books substantially increased, and publishers privately expressed concern that the growing number of e-book buyers would become borrowers instead. Steve Potash, chief executive of OverDrive, told The New York Times that connecting libraries to the Kindle "is going to bring millions of readers to the public library."

In fact, the publishers' real concern is turning over an ever greater share of business to Amazon; in particular, its recently launched Kindle Owner's Lending Library. …

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