Publisher’s Weekly caught up with American Library Association president Molly Raphael at the recent Public Library Association conference in Philadelphia to find out the latest state of affairs over ebook lending from public libraries. Over the last year and a half, major changes from both the larger publishing houses and the libraries and lending systems have left patrons without ebooks to read.
While there wasn’t much new information on the recent developments and early 2012 attempts to resolve a lot of the concerns from publishers, Raphael did weigh in on an interesting point that could end up building a bridge between libraries and publishers: the authors’ concerns that their books were not available in public libraries.
“Authors can put pressure on publishers in ways that we can’t and some authors are interested in doing this. We’re not going to have a big rally cry around it, but we do think authors would like to know that their e-books are not available in libraries, and they can decide what they want to do,” explained Raphael to Andrew Albanese.
Admittedly, Raphael had some good things to say about how the publishers are at least willing to listen to the concerns coming from the public libraries and are even interested in continuing the dialog to resolve their own concerns, fears that Raphael even says are not just lip service or an effort to not cooperate with ebook lending. The major concern in these discussions has always seemed to be the ease with which ebooks can be pirated, but libraries have been able to show the thought-provoking data on how circulations can actually increase sales. She also noted that even librarians have changed course on some earlier condemnations, such as the initial railing against HarperCollins’ 26-lend limitation imposed on ebooks in 2011.
Raphael had some encouraging words for where the talks are headed, but also praise for the cooperation that has already come about from other publishers, smaller companies who are happy to provide digital editions at reasonable prices to libraries. As she prepares to step down to let the incoming ALA president take over this issue, there is no doubt the she will continue working on an issue so pressing to libraries.
“I was a front line librarian for a good part of my career, and I know what it is like when someone comes in and says “what do you mean you don’t have this book, it is in all the store!” But, I also know we are in a very uncertain and volatile time. We’re pushing for a solution, and I do think that publishers too now feel a sense of urgency to resolve this issue. I think we’re going to see some forward movement, but believe me I really feel for the people who are on the front lines right now, because they don’t want to wait for six months or more, they want it resolved now.”