At the recent American Library Association conference in the Anaheim, California, the current state of ebook lending for public and academic libraries was a dark undercurrent throughout the multi-day event. Various panelists and keynote speakers urged librarians to be patient with the publishers who as of yet have not made much headway with the ALA on how to deliver bestselling titles for digital lending. Currently, most of the Big Six publishers place severe restrictions or outright embargoes on their titles, a fact that has many librarians up in arms over what they feel should be a simple issue of lending.
Last month, Penguin announced its plans to work with the New York Public Library on an extremely limited basis, unveiling a plan that will actually restrict access to some of its digital titles for as much as six months. The very idea of releasing a book but not letting libraries have access to it was unnerving to a number of ALA attendees, as they made clear in several sessions on digital reading.
On the brighter side, the data from the recent Pew Research Center’s Internet and American Life report was highly received, as Lee Rainie spoke at length on the concrete data that showed how readers actually consumer books.
“The new report underscores that libraries continue to be a vital part of people’s lives in the digital age,” said ALA president Molly Raphael, as reported by Publisher’s Weekly. “The double and triple-digit growth libraries have reported in demand for e-books, desire for access to e-book readers, and requests for e-book reader assistance and classes clearly express a hunger for these services.”
Also, the tone of the event came around to a greater appreciation of libraries working directly with authors to acquire digital content for lending, making the public libraries quite possibly the next sector—after the self-publishing industry—that begins to realize that working within the confines of the publishing industry may be a thing of the past.