The E-Book Dilemma

          Our Southfield Library users are often puzzled as to why titles by their favorite authors aren’t available as downloadable e-books, and ask why the library’s collection appears limited.

The fact is, there’s a war brewing between libraries and the publishing industry.  Publishers are worried that allowing libraries to carry e-books will undercut sales, and that patrons will click to borrow an e-book rather than to purchase it.  Most of the major publishers in the U.S. deny libraries access to their new titles.  Many publishers deny access to any of their catalog of titles.

Simon & Shuster, Penguin Books, and Hachette Publishing allow no e-book access to libraries.  Other publishers, like Random House, have tripled their cost to libraries.  HarperCollins will only license its titles for a maximum of 26 checkouts.  Once the limit is reached, the library has to repurchase the title.

Most libraries, including Southfield, don’t actually own the e-books.  The books are “rented” through a third party called Overdrive.  The software or app that transfers the books to your Kindle, Nook, or IPad is through Overdrive.  The library has to re-subscribe to the Overdrive program every year, or lose the collection.

That said, there are more than 1,000 smaller publishers who make their books available as downloads to libraries.  And the method in which libraries can obtain e-books for their patrons is still a work in progress. Just as records made way for cassettes, which became obsolete in the wake of CDs, our library e-book collection will continue to change and grow along with new technology and our patron’s requests.


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