Did you know that JTPL has promoted eBooks and eAudiobooks usage for nearly 10 years, long before it was as popular as it is today? In fact, in the last 12 months, JTPL cardholders checked out 21,313 eBooks and eAudiobooks (that’s 19% higher than the previous 12 months) through platforms like OverDrive’s Libby app and Hoopla. These digital copies are great not just for their portability, but also for readers with visual impairments who are able to enlarge the font in an eBook to make it easier to read.
However, we know there are some frustrations: we don’t have every single title on Libby; there are long wait lists for new books; you can only check out 5 items on Hoopla per month. Our goal is to get the eBook and eAudiobook content you want, but we are limited by cost and our shrinking budget.
Our two platforms have different pricing models: on OverDrive we purchase licenses for eBooks and eAudiobooks at a set cost, and each licensed copy may only be checked out by one user at a time; on Hoopla, we pay for an item only when it is checked out, and that cost ranges from $0.99 to $3.99, but the content can be checked out simultaneously by an unlimited number of users. There are pros and cons to each model: on Hoopla, we know the cost value of each checkout but the more checkouts there are, the more the library pays; on OverDrive, we get a better value from the set cost we pay the more patrons checkout a title, but we have no way of accurately predicting a title’s popularity.
You’re probably already aware that the consumer prices for eBooks aren’t much cheaper than the price for print books, and you probably know that eAudiobooks are even more expensive. What you may not know, however, is that the cost for libraries is significantly higher.
For example, you as an individual could buy Stephen King’s newest book The Institute for your Kindle for just $14.99. The library’s price for one digital copy on OverDrive? $59.99. You could also purchase the eAudiobook on Audible for $30.62 (or “free” with an Audible subscription). The library’s cost for one eAudiobook copy is $99.99.
These prices are all determined by the publishers, not our platforms like OverDrive and Hoopla — in fact, Steve Potash, founder and CEO of OverDrive, wrote a great letter about why these models are harmful to libraries, readers, and authors. What’s more, most of the “Big 5” publishers require libraries to repurchase eBooks after 2 years (regardless of how many times it was checked out) or after a set number of checkouts. They call this metered access. So if we decide we want to keep an eBook of The Institute in our library’s digital collection, we’ll have to pay $59.99 every two years. This used to only apply to eBooks but now Hachette is leading the way to force this model on eAudiobook lending, too.
[fvplayer id=”7″] In addition to higher prices and metered access, publishers like Macmillan and Blackstone are starting to embargo new titles. MacMillan recently announced that starting on November 1, libraries, no matter their size, will only be able to buy one digital copy of their new titles within the first eight weeks of publication. One digital copy that only one patron will be able to check out at a time. After that eight-week mark, libraries will be able to buy more copies, but those copies will be twice the price and expire after two years (regardless of how many times they are checked out).
Embargoes, higher prices, and metered access aren’t new; in fact, MacMillan has already done this once in 2018 with a “test” that placed a four-month embargo on new titles in their Tor imprint. However, now that more publishers are moving to metered access without lowering their prices significantly, there’s going to be a long-term impact on library collection budgets and our patrons. Our mission has always been to identify and meet the informational, technological, and entertainment needs of our community, and we’ve done our best to keep up with digital demand. But these changes will make it increasingly difficult to do so, which effectively means these new restrictions are limiting access for readers like you!
What can you do?
Macmillan claims this new embargo is because library book lending is cannibalizing their authors’ sales, even though multiple studies have shown the exact opposite is true. Help us show publishers that libraries are collaborators, not competitors:
- Sign and share ALA’s petition against the Macmillan embargo
- Write an op-ed or letter to the editor
- Share feedback on these lending terms with the Big 5 publishers:
- Macmillan: email@example.com
- Penguin Random House: https://www.penguinrandomhouse.com/about-us/contact-us/
- Simon & Schuster: https://www.simonandschuster.com/about/contact_us
- Hachette: https://www.hachettebookgroup.biz/contact-us/
- HarperCollins: https://www.harpercollins.com/corporate/customer-service/contact-us/
- Continue to use our digital collections. We can’t demonstrate the value and need for access without your support in this way.