Pierce County Library faces higher costs associated with e-books

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If you have a Kindle, Nook or other e-reader and want access to more e-books from your local Library, you’re not alone. The Pierce County Library System gets requests from users on a daily basis asking that more e-books become available. But the library is facing publishers who are selling them sometimes 300 percent higher than list prices or with heavy usage restrictions. The Pierce County Library System is now asking its users to start putting pressure on publishers, urging them to sell to libraries.

“I am confused and frustrated by publishers’ unwillingness to allow us to participate in the e-book marketplace,” said Neel Parikh, executive director, for the Library System. “Publishers have given no clear reason about their blackballing libraries and the public, and taking on the role of a modern-day Scrooge.”

Retailers are projecting Kindles and other e-readers again will be top sellers this holiday season. Last year, after the holidays, people rushed to the libraries to learn how to use their new technology gifts and start downloading e-books for free from Pierce County Library.

According to the Pierce County Library System, publishers have drawn an arbitrary line and are turning their back on the 122,000 libraries and approximately 169 million public library customers. They are either not selling e-books to libraries or selling them at costs 100-300 percent higher than list prices or with heavy usage restrictions.

Currently, only two of the six major publishers, HarperCollins Publishers and Random House, Inc., are selling to libraries at exorbitant prices or strict restrictions. For example, “Fifty Shades of Grey” costs Pierce County Library $47.85 and sells on Amazon.com for $9.99.

Pierce County Library offers e-books, however because of the publishers’ blockade to libraries it is not allowed to offer what is available on the open market. As a result, the Library System is reducing its e-book budget by nearly 50 percent in 2013. The Library System sparingly purchases the over-priced e-books in its commitment to be good stewards of taxpayers’ dollars.

“It’s quite rare that in a free market a customer—in this case libraries and the American public—is refused the ability to buy a company’s product and is told its money is no good.” said Parikh.

Every day people ask staff why the Library doesn’t offer very many best-seller e-books and why it provides so few e-books. In response the Library is now asking people to take this question directly to the publishers.

It is asking residents to send an email or postcard to publishers and urge them to sell to libraries. People can get a sample email from the Library’s website at www.piercecountylibrary.org or postcards at any Pierce County Library.

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  1. mikefarleywa December 5, 2012 at 12:30 pm - 

    On the other hand…. When reading a library book on Kindle you get to see not only what other people highlight, but how many of them did. It’s not unusual to see well over 100 people have highlighted a given passage. Say that represents 75 books that the publisher didn’t sell but otherwise could have. In other words, they’re getting $48 income for what they otherwise would have received $750.
    Looking at it objectively, calling them “Scrooge” is a bit unfair and can’t be expected to make them more amenable to negotiating with public libraries.
    I don’t think name-calling and demonizing others will be any more productive in this situation than it’s been in the nation’s political realm. Please be more mature about it.

  2. RealDuPont December 5, 2012 at 3:36 pm - 

    In the case of an ebook, all the downside is placed on the publisher and author.

    The problem is large institutions are struggling to keep pace with technology. We are experiencing rapid change and that causes the initial reaction to be resistance to that change. 20 years ago no one knew what an MP3 was and now that is the predominate way to buy music.

    Libraries may have to work out a deal with publishers such as charging ebook consumers a $0,50 fee to ‘borrow’ the book; and after a specific amount of time has past to enable retailers first shot at release day sales.

    There is a solution, but the libraries need to learn their world has changed and in 20 years time we may be answering our grandkid’s question of “What was a library?”

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