One of the most frustrating aspects of digital publishing is the current sad state of affairs in ebook lending. At a time when libraries are already struggling to survive within the confines of dwindling budgets and patron apathy, the Big Six publishers haven’t been very supportive of library lending, at least in their actions if not their sentiments.
All this time, Random House is the only Big Six publisher who makes its bestselling titles available to libraries without restrictions—such as HarperCollins’ 26-checkout-limit—but even that company came under fire last year for artificially raising the price on ebooks for libraries by nearly 300 percent.
Now, Hachette Group is experimenting with a limited population of libraries and patrons being allowed to have lending access to its titles, although it hasn’t disclosed where and which libraries.
“These pilot programs will help us learn more about library patrons’ interests, usage, and expectations,” Hachette said in a statement that was published on paidContent.org. “This information will help HBG devise the best strategy to reach the widest audience of e-book readers in libraries. We’ll have more to say once we have looked at the data from the pilots.”
ALA president Molly Raphael and several board members held a series of meetings with publishers at the beginning of this year, but this is the first great news for library lending to come about. Last week, Raphael met with several executives from Hachette Group, so hopefully this signifies that the talks are helping publishers overcome their fears of piracy and stagnant book sales in order to move forward on a larger scale.