Neil Gaiman, Naomi Klein, Cory Doctorow and 900+ authors speak out for libraries right to own and preserve eBooks. They are demanding that publishers and trade associations put the digital rights of librarians, readers, and authors ahead of shareholder profits. A website called Fight for the Future has created an email, blog and social media template and a list for authors to sign. They want to fight against the Association of American Publishers and the Publishers Association who are undermining the traditional rights of libraries to own and preserve books, intimidating libraries with lawsuits, and smear campaigns.
Here are their three main points that they are trying to draw attention to;
- Enshrine the right of libraries to permanently own and preserve books, and to purchase these permanent copies on reasonable terms, regardless of format. Many libraries would prefer to own and preserve digital editions, as they have always done with print books, but these days publishers rarely offer them the option. Instead, when libraries have access to ebooks at all, the prices libraries pay to rent ebooks are often likened to extortion.Digital editions are more affordable to produce and often more accessible, but libraries are already relying on emergency funds and may only be able to license a small selection of mainstream works in the future. In turn, readers will have fewer opportunities to discover the more diverse potential bestsellers of tomorrow.It is past time to determine a path forward that is fair to both libraries and authors—including a perpetual model for digital ownership based on the cost to maintain a print edition.
- End lawsuits aimed at intimidating libraries and diminishing their role in society. The interests of libraries are the interests of the public, and of any author concerned with equity and longevity for themselves and their fellow writers. We are all on the same side. Yet a unanimously passed Maryland state law ensuring libraries pay “reasonable fees” for digital editions died after the AAP sued. And after a previous suit failed, several publishers are currently suing the Internet Archive Library in an attempt to prohibit all libraries from lending out scanned copies of books they own. While undermining libraries may financially benefit the wealthiest and most privileged authors and corporations in the short term, this behavior is utterly opposed to the interests of authors as a whole.
- End smear campaigns against librarians. Recent comments likening library advocates to “mouthpieces” for Big Tech are as tasteless as they are inaccurate. Also concerning are the awards recently given to legislators who have advocated in favor of the dangerous surveillance of library patrons, and of laws that criminalize librarians. As a last bastion of truth, privacy, and access to diverse voices, libraries’ digital operations grow ever more essential to our society—and their work should be celebrated, not censured.
Michael Kozlowski has written about audiobooks and e-readers for the past twelve years. Newspapers and websites such as the CBC, CNET, Engadget, Huffington Post and the New York Times have picked up his articles. He Lives in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.