Libraries and publishers have had a long complicated history over access to eBooks. Libraries routinely pay multiple times more per copy for each title than the regular public, face limited availability for the number they can order, and have their copies expire after a fixed number of uses or a set time frame. However, did you know that one of the biggest eBook publishers in the world still refuses to sell their eBooks to libraries? That publisher is someone everyone knows very well: Amazon.com.
Recent developments indicate that pressure is building to change this situation. An article in The Hill found that many organizations and even elected officials are working to convince Amazon to change their practice. It might be having some positive effect.
An Amazon spokesperson said the company is in “active discussions” with the Digital Public Library of America (DPLA) to make its e-books available for library distribution.
The company expects “to be testing a number of different models” early next year, the spokesperson added.
“We believe libraries serve a critical purpose in communities across the country, and our priority is to make Amazon Publishing eBooks available in a way that ensures a viable model for authors, as well as library patrons,” the spokesperson said.
Amazon declined to provide details regarding pricing or the lengths of licensing deals it plans to test in 2021.
If Amazon does not create a viable model on its own, it may face legislative pressure to do so.
Two states have proposed legislation that would seek to regulate Amazon’s ban on selling e-books to libraries. State senators in Rhode Island and New York proposed bills this year that would require publishers to offer licenses for electronic books to libraries under reasonable terms.
A spokesperson for state Sen. Rachel May (D), sponsor of the New York bill, said the senator will pursue the legislation in the next legislative session.
“New York’s public libraries are one of the state’s greatest assets. In order to fulfill their democratic function, librarians must be able to access the materials their clients need on fair and equitable terms,” May said in a statement.
Read more about the current status of the Amazon eBook situation.