The CITE, a blog published by the National Association of College Stores, takes a look at the intersection of education and technology, highlighting issues that range from course materials to learning delivery to the student experience. Comments, discussion, feedback, and ideas are welcome.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Libraries Take Names, Keep E-Book Score

In an effort to help member libraries negotiate acquisitions of e-books to lend, the American Library Association (ALA) issued the E-Book Business ModelScorecard to use in sizing up publishers’ e-book programs.

Released Jan. 25 just as ALA’s Midwinter Meeting was getting underway in Seattle, WA, the scorecard is a follow-up to the association’s August 2012 report E-Book Business Models for Public Libraries. Both are part of ALA’s increasingly intensive campaign to pressure publishers into making more e-books available to libraries, especially frontlist titles, and at more lenient terms.

In particular, ALA wants libraries to be able to own e-books outright, not license them, a scenario that scares the pants off publishers fearful that easy and unlimited e-book borrowing means patrons will never again buy a book.

The scorecard lists 15 factors to consider, each with a five-point rating scale. For example, no. 8 deals with the number of loans a publisher allows for each “purchased” e-book: one point for none, three for a fixed number, four if the limit is retired after a certain amount of time or the title goes out of print, and five if the library can actually own the e-books and/or resell ones that no one borrows.

About the same time the scorecard came out, ALA learned Macmillan is finally getting its library e-book pilot off the ground. While libraries are pleased another big publisher is testing e-book loans, the pilot comes with plenty of restrictions from the library perspective. Only backlist titles from the Minotaur mystery/crime imprint will be available, about 1,200 in all. For $25 per title, libraries buy the right to lend it out 52 times (one borrower at a time) or for a two-year period, whichever comes first. After that, they’ll have to pay another $25 to loan it again.

Penguin, which has been conducting a pilot program in New York libraries, is expanding it to other libraries. The program gives libraries access to e-books about six months after their release to the consumer market. As in the Macmillan pilot, libraries don’t own the title but license loaning rights for one year.

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