Last summer the The Toronto Public Library, Canadian Library Council, Ontario Library Association and the Canadian Library Association formed a working group with a singular purpose, to raise public awareness over the high prices libraries pay for e-books. The gambit has paid off, and many Canadian news organizations and media outlets have written stories on the plight of libraries and how their budgets are being stretched thin due to draconian pricing.
Libraries all over Canada are disgruntled with the current state of e-book pricing. An individual e-book purchaser would pay $15.99 for John Grisham’s bestselling Rogue Lawyer — but it costs $85 for a library to purchase as an e-book. James Patterson and David Ellis’ The Murder House costs $14.99 for an individual purchaser and $110 for the library. Friction by Sandra Brown costs $12.99 for an individual and $103 for the library.
Obviously paying this type of money for e-books is unsustainable for the long haul. This has led to the formation of the Fair eBook Pricing movement in June 2015 and now many new libraries have joined the cause.
In the last four months the Nova Scotia Library Association, Ottawa Public Library, Halifax Public Library, Edmonton Public Library, Pictou-Antigonish Regional Library, Newmarket Public Library, South Shores Public Library, Cape Breton Regional Library and Whitchurch-Stouffville Public Library have all joined the Fair eBook Pricing initiative.
Ottawa Public Library board chairman Tim Tierney outlined the primary reasons why he joined the group. His library has an acquisitions budget of about $4.88 million annually, which has not changed much in the past five years. In 2011, the library spent about $70,000 on e-books and $3.4 million on printed books. Last year, the library spent $463,000 on e-books and about $3.1 million on printed books.
“Small municipalities are already feeling the pinch. We’re doing OK for now, but there’s going to be a tipping point,” says Tierney.