From The Canadian Broadcasting Network:
You might call her an ideal library-goer: Andrea Querido visits her local branch weekly — even blogs for it — and describes libraries as “a place of community and connection.”
And when Querido’s son was born five years ago, the communications professional fell in love with a new section of the stacks: e-books, which along with e-audiobooks, make up the fastest growing area of borrowing for many libraries today.
“You’d have those late nights and you could be on your phone or your iPod, reading, while he’s feeding or you’re changing a diaper,” recalled Querido, an avid reader and book club member who lives in Brampton, Ont.
But as any library patron could tell you, there can be lengthy waits for e-book and e-audiobook titles — especially for A-list authors. Take, for instance, Oprah Winfrey’s latest self-help title, The Path Made Clear, published in March.
“I think for the audiobook, it’s 135 days to wait. And then the e-book is something like 35 days,” said Querido. “If you’re willing to wait, it’s great. But if you want to get your hands on that, it’s kind of a long time to wait for the book everyone’s talking about.”
That kind of wait could get even longer now, as libraries call out multinational publishers for high prices, restrictive terms and exclusivity windows that they say make it tougher to get e-content into the hands of eager customers.
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In the last three years, for example, use of e-audiobooks at six of Canada’s largest public libraries grew by 82 per cent, the council said.
But what isn’t widely known is that publishers charge libraries a significantly higher price for digital books than print versions — both of which are loaned out to customers on a one-to-one basis. For example, one physical copy of Linwood Barclay’s 2018 thriller A Noise Downstairs costs a Canadian library $19.20, while a single digital copy costs $65.
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Multinational book publishers are changing how they provide digital content to libraries: rather than selling e-books and e-audiobooks for perpetual use, they are adopting a business model whereby libraries must repurchase digital content after a set period.
Hachette Book Group is the latest publisher to make this switch, announcing in mid-June that its perpetual ownership model for digital content would be replaced by a metered system where libraries must repurchase e-books every two years. The change, which goes into effect as of July 1, will be accompanied by a price decrease (up to 25 per cent) for a “vast majority” of titles, the company said.
“With the changing digital marketplace, we feel that this business model better supports our entire publishing, library and bookselling ecosystem and unifies our lending terms for e-books and digital audiobooks to make access to our catalog consistent,” Hachette Book Group said in a statement.
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Penguin Random House, which moved from perpetual access to a two-year metered model in October 2018, said its decision came “in large part in response to conversations and data provided by its partners.”
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Exclusivity is another thorn in the side of library systems. Macmillan’s sci-fi division, Tor Books, and Blackwood Publishing are among those testing out embargo windows — holding back new and in-demand digital content from libraries for weeks or months, with some claiming library e-lending has had an “adverse impact” on retail sales.
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“It took a long time for all the multinationals to get on the board with public libraries. It took a long time before they all agreed to start loaning [digital content] to public libraries,” said Sharon Day, director of branch services and collections at the Edmonton Public Library and chair of the CULC’s e-content working group.
After “a period of relative calm,” she said, libraries are now seeing a slide backward in their relationship with multinational publishers.
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While the CULC says it recognizes libraries can’t pay publishers the same low price point as individual consumers, they are calling attention to what they view as inflated costs for digital content and expressing alarm over the budding trend of restricted access — all of which limits what libraries can offer their patrons.
“We need to be at the place where our customers are, to be providing customers with content the way they want to use it,” Day said.
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And while convenience is a key reason many have become fans of e-books and e-audiobooks, for others it’s simply a necessity.
Senior citizens, someone at home recovering from surgery, those with mobility challenges, people who are blind or visually impaired, those on fixed or low incomes — there are many different segments of the population that rely on their local libraries for information and entertainment, said Querido.
“I don’t want to say second-class citizens, but when you’re talking about seniors and those who can’t afford it … you’re making that distinction.”
Link to the rest at The Canadian Broadcasting Network and thanks to Desmond for the tip.
PG says a significant number of library patrons are intensive readers and provide book recommendations to their friends. He understands some face-to-face book clubs will not select a book for discussion that is unavailable in local libraries.
PG has no illusions about being typical of any meaningfully-sized subset of readers (other than, perhaps those who are institutionalized), but he seldom feels a need to read a new bestselling book (fiction or nonfiction) right away. He suspects the “event book” that is a “must-read” beloved by major publishers may be reaching a smaller and smaller subset of readers with each passing year.
As long as PG is on a rant, he believes that a great many consumers (including consumers of books) don’t like the feeling of being manipulated to part with their money by large corporations with distant headquarters. For Big Publishing, goosing the sales numbers for the current quarter without understanding the larger consequences of such tactics over a longer term is all too typical.
All of this incents more and more avid readers to look at the work of indie authors. As mentioned, these avid readers also tend to be enthusiastic influencers of other readers.