Did you know that libraries pay a huge amount more for audiobooks and eBooks than for a physical copy of the book? And did you also know that many audiobooks aren’t even available to libraries…even when they are bestsellers? This is an ongoing issue that libraries are struggling to overcome, especially since there is a growing demand for digital services such as this.
Libraries are crucial to exposing people to new authors, for promoting books, and for keeping publishers above water. But it’s difficult to get this idea across to the big publishers, who feel that their authors are being underpaid, or at least, undervalued.
When we purchase books for libraries, we might purchase several copies, depending on the demand for the book and the number of branches. However, each book will be read by multiple people, and publishers feel like this is “cheating” both them and the authors out of residuals. The same is true for audiobooks and ebooks, but on a much more dire scale. A physical book will most likely only last about 24 reads before it becomes worn and needs to be replaced. But a digital copy of a book can be used over and over without decay. It sounds like the argument for paying more is good.
But our digital copies are limited to about the same number of reads through the systems that our libraries use, such as Libby (formerly OverDrive), and Hoopla. Once they reach the checkout limit, another copy must be purchased, whether the digital copy is in fine form or not.
So why are publishers charging twice or even three times as much for a digital copy? Libraries can’t afford to purchase more, simply because we could buy other books…newer books, or different versions of those books. And if the bestsellers aren’t even available to libraries, then we’re losing out again.
Libraries have started a movement using the hashtag #eContentForLibraries to help spread the word. You can read all about the movement here.
Go to the page and read it. If you feel strongly that libraries are being treated unfairly, share the information, and be sure to use the hashtag above. Or contact the publishers directly, doing the same. If enough voices are heard on this issue, maybe libraries will be able to offer patrons more. We’d love to, but we can’t do this alone.