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Like many librarians last week – I got a bit upset about the latest “snag” preventing libraries from sharing eBooks with their patrons. The whole Penguin issue made me mad. It was really just the latest in a long string of disappointing blows that continue to hamper libraries’ ability to provide stories in eBook format to their patrons.

What makes me really annoyed is how oblivious the general public is about what is going on. I spend a lot of time teaching people how to use their eReaders. I like doing it. It is quite the kicker, however, when that same patron complains about my library’s lack of “selection” of eBooks once they are off and running with their new format. Needless to say, they are usually then treated to a three minute “chat” about the current state of eBooks and libraries. I can tell you, most people are blown away by what is going on with the restrictions placed on public libraries. Think about if that same mentality was applied to print books?

In addition to tweeting my anger, I also wrote a letter to the two local papers. The Indy Star printed it today, and the Daily Journal is printing it tomorrow. I doubt if either letter causes the masses to run out and write letters to publishers expressing their outrage, but hopefully it will help to bring about awareness of a topic I care about. Please note: I did get permission from my supervisors prior to attaching my position to my signature and sending off the letter.

My Indy Star Letter to The Editor
My Daily Journal Letter to the Editor

The letter in full is below:

Publishers block e-book checkoutsThe public library has long been known as
the place for readers to discover their next
new story. Reading and its enjoyment have
stayed the same for many years, even if
the format has evolved. Hardbacks,
paperbacks and now e-readers and tablet
computers provide readers with ways to
read using the medium with which they feel
most comfortable.

This year Greenwood Public Library
launched its digital library to offer e-books
and e-audiobooks so patrons could check
out books from the library just like they
have always done. This service is incredibly
popular.

Offering e-books is not an easy thing for
libraries. The first issue is the cost. Besides
buying the e-book, the library has to
purchase the platform to allow that kind of
sharing. With dwindling tax dollars, this is
not a small hurdle. However, the biggest
roadblock has turned out to be publishers
who do not want libraries to offer electronic
books to the public. Six publishers have
control over the majority of popular fiction.
Four of the big six publishers — Hachette
Book Group, Macmillan Publishers, Simon &
Shuster, and Penguin Group — do not
allow libraries to lend e-books.

It is a difficult thing to make a product and
then see people share it without actually
buying it themselves. It is easy to feel sorry

 
for the publishers, except for the value that
story sharing brings to communities
through public libraries. With more
bookstores going out of business, libraries
offer a browsing option for readers to
discover new authors and backlist titles in
ways that are becoming increasingly rare.
Libraries provide that same opportunity
through their digital branches and e-book
selections.If you believe libraries should be given
access to e-books by publishers, please
contact them and let your opinion be
heard.

Kendra Auberry

Librarian, Greenwood Public Library

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