Do You Use a Library? Read This

Do You Use a Library? Read This October 8, 2013

Very sad what e-book prices are for libraries:

This is not one of those rants about missing the texture, touch, colors, whatever of paper contrasted with the sterility of reading on a tablet. No, the real abomination of ebooks is often overlooked: Some are so ingrained in the product itself that they are hiding in plain sight, while others are well concealed beneath layers of commerce and government.

The real problem with ebooks is that they’re more “e” than book, so an entirely different set of rules govern what someone — from an individual to a library — can and can’t do with them compared to physical books, especially when it comes to pricing.

The collusion of large ebook distributors in pricing has been a public issue for a while, but we need to talk more about how they are priced differently to consumers and to libraries. That’s how ebooks contribute to the ever-growing divide between the literary haves and have-nots….

Sadly, pricing changes the game for library access altogether because ebook distributors have radically changed the pricing from that of regular books.

Take the example of J.K. Rowling’s pseudonymous book, Cuckoo’s Calling. For the physical book, libraries would pay $14.40 from book distributor Baker & Taylor — close to the consumer price of $15.49 from Barnes & Noble and of $15.19 from Amazon. But even though the ebook will cost consumers $6.50 on Amazon and Barnes & Noble, libraries would pay $78 (through library ebook distributors Overdrive and 3M) for the same thing.

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  • labreuer

    One more step toward a distinctly tiered society. How can we fight back effectively?

  • I think this is a false complaint. This is how an electronic product designed for lending works. I would be all for lower costs to libraries. But on the publisher’s side there is no wear and tear to an ebook. A paperback book has a limited shelf life, but an ebook has a negotiated shelf life.

    Also this is similar to the way that movie studios have worked with blockbuster and Netflix for a while. Studios charge a different price to companies that lend their products than to individual consumers.

    Also with the cost of the ebook to libraries come multi-format and infrastrastructure to do the lending. Libraries do not run their own ebook lending services for the most part, they outsource that to Overdrive or one of the other companies and that outsourcing is part of the cost of the book.

  • MatthewS

    We live in a rural-ish area, in driving distance of several nice libraries. We use them a LOT. This is largely driven by homeschooling for us. We have checked out thousands of books (no exaggeration) and audio books in the past few years, and have enjoyed many hours of sitting, working/reading, and sipping coffee in various favorite nooks and expanses there. Libraries are a wonderful thing.

  • attytjj466

    I Think that price also includes many people on multiple platforms can borrow the same book at the same time, which is not possible with one or two regular books.

  • Marshall

    If there were no libraries today and somebody tried to start one, betcha it couldn’t be done.