A Philadelphia Inquirer Editorial: “Libraries Need e-Books, Too”

Posted on March 19, 2012 by


From The Inquirer Editorial:

Fearing potentially crippling losses, publishers are withholding e-books from libraries, charging them more than other customers, or limiting how many times a library can lend an e-book. That bumps into librarians’ unwavering commitment to promote literacy, preserve culture, and make books available to people regardless of their financial situation.

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Librarians rightly argue that they are spending dwindling public resources on e-books, so they should get a break. Part of their job is to help build a literate society, which is essential to a strong democracy. They also make a strong case that libraries generate business for publishers.

“We know book borrowers are also book buyers, and we find that e-book borrowers are also e-book buyers, and that pattern won’t change,” says Sari Feldman, cochair of the American Library Association’s e-book committee.

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But publishers have a point, too, in wanting to protect their businesses and authors from losses. Unlike newspapers, which went to the Internet without a sustainable business model, book publishers are trying to figure out a way to protect themselves before leaping into cyberspace.

A compromise that could work is being pioneered by Harper Collins, which put a 26-loan cap on its e-books last year. Once an e-book is borrowed 26 times, a library must buy a new license. But Harper’s limited-use model doesn’t assist librarians in their roles as preservers of the culture. Imagine how scandalous it would be if the Free Library’s impressive collection of first-edition Charles Dickens’ novels were e-books with expired licenses?

Read the Complete Editorial

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