Canadian libraries bind together to fight for better e-book accessibility
London Community News
By Mallory Clarkson/London Community News/Twitter: @MalloryClarkson
With how people physically read literature turning onto its next chapter through the use of e-readers, library institutions across the country are pushing publishing companies and vendors to follow suit.
Under the Canadian Urban Libraries Council (CULC) banner, establishments from Halifax to Vancouver — including the London Public Library (LPL) — have bound together over a couple of major challenges, the first being a number of major publishers are not selling e-books to libraries.
David McCord, co-ordinator of collections management with the LPL, said what the local institution has found is people want to read the same material on an e-reader as they do in print.
“They want access to their favourite popular titles in adult fiction, children’s (literature), some non-fiction,” McCord said, adding the LPL has more than 6,450 e-book titles available. “We feel it’s very important to be able to offer the same popular materials in the e-book format, which has become one of our most increasingly popular formats.”
Currently less than 50 per cent of available titles can be bought by libraries. While there are many materials on that list, authors you won’t see gracing that lineup are Nora Roberts, Clive Cussler or Jodi Picoult.
And it’s not for lack of trying. McCord explained the availability of works, including ones penned by many best-selling authors, depends on the publishers.
“Lots of publishers have made arrangements not to sell their books at all to libraries,” he said. “Other publishers have restricted access to their books by limiting the number of times they can be borrowed and other ones have increased their prices significantly, sometimes tripling the price.”
McCord said that’s a big problem for the local library institution, especially since e-content is growing in popularity. In 2011, he said, e-books were circulated more than 50,000 times and that figure is expected to increase by 200 per cent in 2012.
While it’s frustrating not being able to bring certain e-books into circulation, the collections co-ordinator added it’s a tough task informing patrons on why it’s done that way.
“It’s a challenge for us to educate the public on what we do have available and what we don’t,” McCord said. “Everyone just assumes that because they can go to Chapters, Indigo or Amazon to buy that e-book that we should be able to buy it too, and that’s just not the case.”
There are other misconceptions surrounding the relatively new literature format, including the price, as well as how long materials can be loaned for and how many are made available.
“The library e-book comes with DRM (digital rights management) that controls how long you can have the book for,” McCord said. “When we purchase them (the books), we buy multiple copies … and we loan them out one person at a time. They can be checked back in early if you’re finished reading, or they automatically expire (and disappear off of your device.)”
He added almost all e-readers, excluding the Kindle, can be used at the LPL.
The second challenge being made by CULC is that patrons need to visit a separate website outside of the library’s domain, to borrow an e-book.
McCord stressed members of the CULC are pushing this issue because they’re interested in providing a more user-friendly, seamless experience of borrowing content.
“That’s the ideal and we’re not there right now,” he said. “What we want our patrons to do is to be able to see content and borrow it from our public catalogue, which is where we want them to see everything.”
As a member of the libraries’ council, McCord said the LPL feels it’s strongest to work collectively with other library systems in voicing these issues.
“We’re fully supportive of the CALC initiative,” he said. “What they’re doing is they’re galvanizing the concerns of all public libraries and they’re also working with libraries in the United States to try to bring these concerns to publishers and to library vendors.”
He added if patrons are interested in sharing their perspectives, there are public forums and publishers can be contacted, as well.