This post is in response to a recent YALSA article by Chanitra Bishop and Marijke Visser (Spring 2013 issue). Find more info by clicking here.
Why are e-books such a hot button issue? They're convenient, accessible, and appeal to patrons of many ages. However, they're also device dependent, manipulated by publishers, and selection varies greatly.
Bishop and Visser point out that, "Because of the rapid and sometimes surprising changes, librarians have found themselves in an uncomfortably reactive state rather than as a force that can help shape the e-book market - at least as it pertains to libraries." I could not agree more with this statement, and I think librarians must stay conscious of this fact. While it may seem tempting to duck out of the e-book debate all together, I personally believe that will help no one. I think it's better to be aware of trends and research how each library can strategically serve its community rather than wave a white flag. Relevancy is a constant goal for public libraries; addressing new trends and slowly integrating them will demonstrate to patrons that libraries are active.
A great difference in e-books is permissions. The YALSA article argues that publishers and/or distributors often prevent libraries from the following:
- selling e-books that libraries do not wish to retain
- receiving donations of e-books
- ensuring patron privacy
- making reasonable accommodations for e-books for people with disabilities
- archiving and preserving content
Uh, hello?! If I'm not mistaken, these are staples of libraries. It's no wonder that libraries feel like they're attached to a master puppeteer. Unfortunately, this is probably a large reason why many libraries do not offer any e-books: they cannot afford the materials, time, or advocacy needed to fight for privileges. Despite my optimistic idea of embracing new trends, I can empathize easily with libraries that choose not to be manipulated by publishers. With multiple companies hungry to invade the e-market, publishers hiked their prices exponentially in 2012, which likely furthered angst and hesitation on the part of libraries. Random House doubled or tripled prices, and Blessings by Anna Quindlen went from $15.00 to $45.00 (Bishop). Ouch.
We're in a tricky time now, where publishers and libraries are not BFFs. I hope in my lifetime this becomes an amiable partnership that truly serves the needs and wants of both parties. Bishop suggests that as librarians, the onus is on us to tell patrons about available e-books through the library. This is sounding more and more like a never-ending battle, so I hope everyone has their game face on.
What I truly appreciate about Bishop's article is the last section of "What Can You Do?" Rather than leaving us hanging in a sense of doom and gloom, we're given specific goals and explanations as to why they're crucial. The main ways to stay active in this discourse are:
- Stay informed
I could not ask for a more succinct, logical conclusion. To avoid hair-ripping and severely agitated staff, we must attempt to follow the above guidelines. I highly recommend reading this article; Bishop may not solve our problems for us, but I feel much more knowledgeable having read it.