ATG Articles of the Week: "Book Publishers and Libraries: Historic Partners Facing a Disruptive Technology" and "Libraries and Book Publishers"

In a slight break with tradition, this week we have two articles of the week!  Admittedly, they both appear in the same issue of  the Maine Policy Review  that focuses on libraries and information, however, they represent far different viewpoints on an issue that is important to all of us.  The articles are by Tom Allen, President and CEO of the Association of American Publishers and Maureen Sullivan, Past President of ALA and both focus on the purchase and lending of eBooks by libraries

In the first, Book Publishers and Libraries: Historic Partners Facing a Disruptive Technology,  Tom Allen offers the  publishers’ position and points to their concern that eBook borrowing from libraries will become “so easy as to erode consumer sales.”  He notes that this uneasiness is reinforced by the goals reflected in a recent ALA report entitled EBook Business Models for Public Libraries.  He goes further by saying that “despite offering to do so, the ALA has not provided a workable plan for e-lending that takes account of publisher concerns.”   On the other side, he lauds the individual lending agreements that major publishers have developed with their varying terms of use and compensation,  as efforts “to advance the e-lending concept.”

As you can imagine, Maureen Sullivan does not share these views.  She points out in Libraries and Book Publishers that by using varying business models publishers add confusion, “complicating the library purchase of e-books” noting that “each of the big six publishers uses a different model, and Simon & Schuster’s model is to not sell to libraries at all.”  And then she goes on to complain about lending and content restrictions as well as the inflated pricing in these various models.  However, she does mentions some hopeful signs as publishers and librarians have held meetings that “have been frank, cordial, and productive discussions that have fostered greater understanding of the challenges.”

We suspect that you will find yourself nodding in agreement with some of the arguments being made in both articles.  However, despite the publisher/librarian meetings alluded to in Ms. Sullivan’s article, we are left wondering if there are compromise solutions that will accommodate the needs of both publishers and librarians.  We’d love to know what you think?   So after you’ve had a chance to read both articles, feel free to comment.

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