Edmonton Public Library demands publishers lower e-book fees
Publishers charging libraries too much for e-books, hurting bottom line, EPL says
Edmonton Public Library is struggling to keep up with the demand and cost of e-books.
It's now joining other Canadian libraries in pleading with publishers to lower e-book fees.
EPL pays up to five times more per e-book than private buyers do, and they have to re-purchase digital copies after a certain number of uses.
Nevertheless, EPL and other libraries are bound by the same lending rules and fees for e-books and hard copies alike.
"It's frustrating, because we would like customers to know the reasons we have these challenges, because it's not that we don't want to provide the access," said Sharon Karr, manager of collection management and access.
"If we could, we would provide the access to everything as soon as humanly possible. But our hands are tied in what we can do and what we can provide, based on the licensing and the pricing models that were offered by the publishers."
EPL hosted a Twitter discussion with Toronto Public Library, Ottawa Public Library and Ottawa city councillor Tim Tierney about the topic on Thursday.
They're advocating alongside Canadian Public Libraries for fair e-book pricing.
Libraries grow readership and a market for ebooks. Publishers should provide fair + flexible pricing to libraries <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/FairEbookPrices?src=hash">#FairEbookPrices</a>—@TimTierney
<a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/FairEbookPrices?src=hash">#FairEbookPrices</a> are needed to ensure libraries can fulfill mandate to provide access to information for all <a href="https://t.co/azjC13QXYo">pic.twitter.com/azjC13QXYo</a>—@sharonkarr
Even if ebooks aren't your thing, unreasonable prices disproportionately affect your library's collection budget. <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/FairEbookPrices?src=hash">#FairEbookPrices</a>—@kylemarshall4
We need flexible options! e.g. buy copies of a title in perpetuity at one price OR on a shorter term basis for less <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/FairEbookPrices?src=hash">#FairEbookPrices</a>—@beth_lib
"We're just starting our advocacy on this," said Pam Ryan, EPL's director of collections and technology. "It's still early days for e-books in libraries."
Publisher Penguin Random House recently announced reduced prices for library e-books, but a handful of multinational publishers continue to charge libraries high fees.
Small-scale publishers charge lower fees for e-books, but Ryan said they don't offer the same selection as bigger companies.
"They recognize that libraries feed the entire publishing industry. We're a big player in the Canadian marketplace in terms of books and selling and buying print and e-books."
Demand for e-books at EPL increased by 20 per cent from 2014 to 2015.
"Our customers want to read the titles they would like to read, in the format they would like to have," Karr said. "So over the last number of years we've seen a huge increase in the amount of borrowing that customers are doing in digital format, as opposed to more traditional print formats."
Karr said the current fees for e-books aren't sustainable for libraries, and will reduce the number of titles EPL can offer.
"What that really means for libraries is that it diminishes our power to provide access, to provide all the forms of expression, which is our mandate in the public libraries."
Even though e-books are the fastest-growing niche for Edmonton libraries, Karr said that growth will grind to a halt if publishers and libraries can't agree on a new pricing model.