Friday, September 21, 2012

Fueling the Library EBook Fire

If you haven’t yet heard, the big news in eBooks this month is Hachette’s OverDrive price increase, which was announced on Thursday, September 13. In an email to their library customers, OverDrive stated that, “Hatchette will be raising its eBook prices on October 1, 2012 on their currently available eBook catalog (~3,500 eBook titles with release dates of April 2010 and earlier.) On average prices will increase 220%.” However, OverDrive corrected itself in a later blog post, saying the price increase would only be about “104 percent, or 2.04 times the current price.”

Although following RandomHouse’s decision to increase OverDrive eBook prices by 300% in March, Hachette’s decision seems to have come during at bit of a backlash. In a post at the beginning of August, noted library blogger and tech-geek, Librarian in Black publicly stated her decision, as director of San Rafeal Public Library, to “break up” with library eBook. Earlier this summer in an article on American Libraries’ site, director of Douglas County (Colo.) Libraries, Jamie LaRue, did the math on purchasing “50 Shades of Grey” as either an eBook or a physical book. He argued that due to cost “publisher and distributors (in this case, Random House and OverDrive) have driven up the price of an ebook so far that it really doesn’t make sense for libraries to buy it.” Staying a bit more positive, Andy Woodworth sagely remarked on his blog that “[i]f this is how [publishers] plan on nurturing and growing the eBook market, then we (libraries, consumers, readers) are in for a bumpy and vastly uncomfortable ride.” If nothing else, this latest development has definitely given libraries cause for pause over the value of eBooks.

However, new and innovative solutions are also emerging out of this eBook budget squeeze. LaRue and his library colleagues in Colorado are forging a new way with their e-content delivery platform, which was described detailed in in this year’s Jan/Feb edition of Public Libraries. Working groups for digital content, like Library Renewal, Gluejar, and Open Library are going strong. Furthermore, ALA seems to be spurring its Digital Content and Libraries Working Group into more action
with this latest development (see response). With all this fuel being added to the fire, the world of library eBooks likely to be an more exciting, if not innovative one, in the near future!

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