E-Books a Struggle for Suburban Libraries

Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL), September 2, 2013 | Go to article overview

E-Books a Struggle for Suburban Libraries


Byline: Matt Arado marado@dailyherald.com By Matt Arado marado@dailyherald.com

Anyone interested in reading author Dan Brown's latest best-seller, "Inferno," on a Kindle can download a copy for roughly $13.

But for many suburban libraries, downloading that same book so that it can be lent out to patrons costs $85.

That's a hefty difference in price, and it's one reason why public libraries have had difficulty keeping up with the demand for e-books in the suburbs.

"At $85 a copy for many popular titles, we just can't afford to buy that many," said Cathleen Blair, the readers' advisory librarian at the Mount Prospect Public Library. "We aren't able to provide patrons with something they clearly want."

E-books have been growing in popularity for the past few years, but borrowing them from suburban libraries can still be a challenge. Some popular titles have unusually long waiting lists, while others aren't available at all. That's because the country's biggest publishing houses, often referred to as the "Big Six" publishers, have not rushed to make e-books available to libraries. Those that do have different lending and pricing policies that serve to limit access.

"Aside from the price, there are often embargoes for certain works, and different limits on borrowing from publisher to publisher," Blair said. "It can get very confusing."

There are signs, though, that change is on the horizon. This past spring, New York-based publisher Simon & Schuster launched a one-year pilot program in which all of its titles would be made available in e-book form to three library systems in New York. At the end of the program, Simon & Schuster will consider expanding it to libraries in different parts of the country.

Other major publishers -- Macmillan, Penguin -- have also taken steps recently to improve e-book availability at libraries.

All of which is good news for libraries in the suburbs, where interest in the e-book format is high.

"For us, it's skyrocketing," said Melissa Ziel, the e-book coordinator at the Gail Borden Public Library District, based in Elgin. …

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