Canadian libraries have been closed for months during the pandemic and have experienced a record number of digital loans for audiobooks and ebooks. Normally this is a very expensive proposition, but major publishers have lowered their prices.
Sharon Day, chair of the Canadian Urban Library Council’s e-content working group, says several publishers have slashed prices for libraries to access electronic materials, while others have offered access to titles that were previously off limits. “It was very, very good news in a very dark period,” Day said, where she works as a the Edmonton library’s director of branch services and collections. She said that many of the price reductions were put into place early during the pandemic and were slated to end in mid-June. Libraries are eager to see how many of those offers are extended.
Major publisher Penguin Random House has offered a major discount on one-year licences, she says, and Macmillan US has lifted an embargo that prevented libraries from offering e-books to patrons within eight weeks of publication. HarperCollins and House of Anansi have also offered temporary discounts.
Kay Cahill, the Vancouver Public Library’s director of collections and technology, says the changes will ultimately benefit both libraries and publishers and she hopes they will remain in place in the long-term. “Ensuring libraries can continue to offer strong digital collections to our communities will remain of paramount importance,” Cahill said. “Especially when so many have suffered financial impacts that may limit their ability to purchase content or subscribe to paid services.”
There is a growing movement in Canada and most of the big libraries have joined, it is called Fair Use Pricing. It lists the number of ebooks issued by major publishers that are not available to libraries and puts the spotlight on the pricing. For example, the David Baldacci novel, The Fallen, costs customers $22 for the physical copy, but libraries pay $87 for the digital one. The Linwood Barclay novel, A Noise Downstairs costs $19.99 for the physical copy and libraries pay $65 for the digital one. On average, libraries pay anywhere from $30 to $60 above the retail price, just to make one single copy available for loan.
Michael Kozlowski is the Editor in Chief of Good e-Reader. He has been writing about audiobooks and e-readers for the past ten years. His articles have been picked up by major and local news sources and websites such as the CBC, CNET, Engadget, Huffington Post and the New York Times.