kindlebook Last week, I mentioned that certain publishers won’t let libraries lend their eBooks. To bring it home more, if you are looking for romance eBooks by Sherrilyn Kenyon, Lora Leigh, Keiran Kramer published by Macmillan Publishing at your local library or Simon & Schuster’s authors such as Jayne Ann Krentz or Sabrina Jeffries, don’t waste your time looking because their eBooks are not available for lending. If that is not enough, Penguin, which only offered backlist eBook titles for library lending, announced that it is terminating its contract with OverDrive, the library digital vendor, and starting February 10 will cease to offer any of its eBooks to libraries.

A 2011 survey among librarians suggests that they want to help make it easier for their patrons to check out eBooks. One librarian, Sarah Houghton, has taken it one step farther and wants your help in convincing publishers to change their stand on e-book lending. She has started a writing campaign. However, most publishers feel that borrowing an e-book from the library is too easy and will cut into their revenue. They actually want to make it more difficult for us as readers to read their books digitally. Almost all major publishers, Macmillan Publishing, Simon & Schuster, Penguin Group, Brillance Audio, and Hachette Book Group block libraries’ access to e-books.” Quoting from this New York Times article:
“Borrowing a printed book from the library imposes an inconvenience upon its patrons. ‘You have to walk or drive to the library, then walk or drive back to return it,’ says Maja Thomas, a senior vice president of the Hachette Book Group, in charge of its digital division.

and from that same article:

Publishers feel that ‘they need to reintroduce more inconvenience for the borrower or raise the price for the library purchaser.’ Limiting the number of loans allowed per purchase, as HarperCollins has done, or holding back the most recent eBook titles from libraries.

It has been a year since HarperCollins implemented their plan limit of twenty six loans before the library has to re-purchase the e-book. When compared to no books at all, many libraries are thinking a little is better than none. I did check with my library before writing this blog. I live in a town of about 60,000. The eBook program was just added in May of last year and they now have over 1700 eBooks in their system from publishers that allow eBook lending. And no, my library is not buying eBooks from HarperCollins.

As with anything, when there is the void someone moves to fill it. And that someone is Amazon with their Prime Amazon Lending program. This blogger states it perfectly:

“For readers, high price points for eBooks might drive them to a library, except that publishers have withheld titles from libraries. Therefore, some readers might turn to pirated digital editions; others might turn to other forms of entertainment; others find cheaper books on Amazon. It has a dark beauty: through the combination of usurious pricing strategies and their undeclared war on libraries, the largest publishers have unerringly drawn their customers – readers with whom they’ve never cared to have a direct relationship – closer into the arms of the retailer whose market power and influence they most fear – Amazon. So much for a strategy of self-interest.”

Amazon lending library is not free, you do need to be a member of Amazon Prime. To be honest, I never would have joined Amazon Prime just for the book lending since you can only check out one book a month, but when added to free two day shipping and Amazon streaming video and television shows – it is attractive to me and apparently to authors, too.

In a blog on publishing perspectives, an unnamed author listed the pros and cons. And she definitely falls into the Pro column. You can read more about it here. And many other authors must have decided that it works for them because according to Publisher’s Weekly, “Amazon’s Kindle Owners’ Lending Library now has more than 100,000 titles, growing to over 20 times its original size since launching in November 2011. While most traditional publishers are not part of the program, Amazon reports that KDP Select authors have had more than 1 million loans and that KDP authors participating in the Lending Library have earned $1.8 million, which is an incremental 24% on top of their royalties from paid sales.”

Publishers were looking to Apple to provide some severe competition to Amazon KDP program with their iBook author program. Marlene Harris in Reading Reality states: “However, if an author wants to be recompensed for the blood, sweat and tears they have put into their book, and they want to create it using Apple’s new program, which is supposed to be so cool, they have to be willing to sign over exclusive, absolutely exclusive, distribution rights to their work, forever. Not for a period of time, but forever. Authors can’t even sell their books on their own sites.”

Reading all that publishers have done to protect their business makes me wince as a consumer. In almost every way imaginable, they continue to tell us as consumers that we don’t matter.

There is hope, though. My librarian states that she was able to sign a very appealing five year contract on Harry Potter eBooks and publishers now seem to be shifting (if perhaps slowly) from a gatekeeper-oriented “You’re lucky to be with us” mentality to a service-oriented “What else could we possibly do for you” mentality. All the talk and media attention given to self-publishing as an alternative to traditional publishers seems to be having some impact. At Digital Book World, a panel featuring executives form S&S, Random House, Little Brown, HarperCollins and Perseus, spent the morning issuing mea culpas (and highlighting current and planned correctives) over past “paternalistic” practices in dealing with their authors. Indeed there was a fair amount of discussion about whether authors should be called “partners,” “customers,” or “clients,” in an era when veteran authors and even emerging writers have viable alternatives to the traditional publishing contract.

And hey, maybe they will remember readers next. Are you frustrated that you can’t get eBooks on current releases from your library? Do you still drive and pick up the actual paper copy or is it causing you to purchase the book? I would love to hear your opinions on this topic.

– Leigh Davis