ALA Statement on E-Books

“In the midst of the economic downturn, the e-book market is expected to nearly triple – from $1 billion in 2010 to more than $2.8 billion by 2015, according to a November 2010 study by Forrester Research.

Libraries welcome the opportunity to provide new formats and resources to our communities nationwide. Two-thirds of U.S. public libraries now offer e-books, up from 38 percent only two years ago. Unfortunately, some publishers are denying or limiting library patron access to e-books at the same time demand for the full range of library services continues to climb and libraries face unprecedented budget cuts.

The challenge facing libraries with lending e-books is that without a viable model for e-book lending in place, libraries cannot uphold their fundamental role to society – providing access to information. The ALA calls on the publishing community and other stakeholders to develop such a model to enable libraries to serve their patrons effectively.

Unfortunately, a market solution from some publishers is to bypass the sale of e-books to libraries altogether. Other publishers have concocted limited lending models that would establish arbitrary loan limits in an attempt to simulate “print book wear and tear;” library access to the digital e-book file is “turned off” forcing libraries to purchase replacement e-book copies. Yet another method from the publishers is to use digital rights management schemes that make it difficult for library users to download library e-books, leading to user frustration.

These recent developments underscore the urgent need to identify and advocate for an e-book purchasing model that will serve libraries and the public in the long run. The ALA has two entities addressing these issues – a presidential task force on digital access and a more focused task force on e-books – both with broad membership from America’s libraries.

Market solutions are not meeting the needs of library users and appear to ignore the significance of book discovery through sharing. As the world’s oldest and largest library association, the ALA calls upon all stakeholders to craft a 21st century solution that will ensure equitable access to information for all.”

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