Skip to main content

Colorado ebook manifesto

Drafted by Gene Hainer (Colorado's state librarian) and me at the request of public library directors in the state, here's our Colorado ebook Manifesto.

The Colorado EBook Environment—Overview and Talking Points

Leadership. Colorado libraries have been leaders in securing access to collections in many ways: working with distributors like OverDrive and 3M; experimenting with products like Freegal and Freading; checking out ereaders with bundled titles; and even hosting the works of independent publishers, including many Colorado authors.1

Reading. 21% of Americans have read an e-book. 88% of those who read ebooks in the past 12 months also read print books. Compared with other book readers, they read and purchase more books.2

Demand. There is growing demand for ebooks. In Colorado they now account for about 3-7% of overall circulation, but are increasing upwards of 500% annually. Budget. Colorado libraries are shifting more of our budgets—already stretched by recession—to buy more digital content.

Purchasing. Libraries are volume purchasers, accounting for 10% of the total print sales today, and 40% of children’s print market. Traditionally, that’s earned us significant publisher discounts, further demonstrating the power of cooperative purchasing that is a fundamental value of public libraries.

Publishers. Three of the Big Six publishers (Hachette Book Group, MacMillan Publishers, and Simon & Schuster) will not sell ebooks to libraries at any price. The three that do (HarperCollins, Random House, and Penguin Group) require us respectively) to buy popular books again after 26 uses, spend 3 times the commercial price, or wait six months after street date. This uncertain and inconsistent publishing market is further eroding the purchasing power of libraries.

Legal action. Colorado is one of 14 states in an anti-trust lawsuit filed by the U.S. Department of Justice alleging price fixing and other anti-competitive practices conducted by some of the largest publishers.3

What Is the Vision for the Future?

Working together. In five years libraries envision a world where they are working together with publishers for the good of all parties; where the ability to publish, find, and buy books is easy, seamless, and sustainable. Ultimately, libraries seek an eBook world without unnecessary constraints on access by and for the public.

Uniform accessibility. Libraries envision a nationally sponsored eBook model where they can get eBooks at a discount, own them, and treat them no differently than their print items are handled now. Libraries must stop being reactive, but keep at the center of the evolving discussion.

Defend the right of public access. Libraries must be vocal in speaking up to corporations that do not act in the best interest of those who use and rely on library materials no matter the format. Business models that exclude libraries’ and the public’s right to access information in any format must be rejected.

What can you do? What should you do?

Pay attention. This is a time of change and disruption. There is an opportunity for libraries to move "upstream" in the publishing world, stepping around expensive middlemen, and developing new partnerships and markets. And there is danger: the erosion both of library purchasing power, and public access to content.

Speak up. The integration of ebooks into library collections is increasing scrutiny on how publishers do business. Your voice is important as the environment evolves. If your library isn't meeting public demand because of restrictions from the seller, say something. You won't be alone in wanting fair play for libraries and the consumer.

Experiment. While we may need to be patient as our environment changes, we dare not be complacent. Try something new. Let people know how it worked. Sharing knowledge is a library value. Some libraries will be early adopters—others will prefer to wait and adopt proven products. Both can prudent depending on how you view your role and stewardship of the community’s trust.

Be proud and positive. Today’s libraries are the result of hundreds of years of adaptation and action. Ebooks are but one aspect in the ongoing evolutionary trend. Like other products, they too shall pass into the library collection in ways that best meet community needs. You are one in a long line of people who have created the present and will shape the future of libraries through support, use, understanding and communication.

1 American Library Association (ALA) “E-content: The Digital Dialogue,” May 22, 2012. Multi-faceted articles on many aspects of eBook evolution.

2 Pew Research Center Internet & American Life Project. “The rise of e-reading” April 4, 2012. Report of eBook use and statistics.

3 Evoke Colorado. – an open eBook forum and ad hoc discussion group for Colorado.


Popular posts from this blog

Uncle Bobby's Wedding

Recently, a library patron challenged (urged a reconsideration of the ownership or placement of) a book called "Uncle Bobby's Wedding." Honestly, I hadn't even heard of it until that complaint. But I did read the book, and responded to the patron, who challenged the item through email and requested that I respond online (not via snail-mail) about her concerns.

I suspect the book will get a lot of challenges in 2008-2009. So I offer my response, purging the patron's name, for other librarians.

Uncle Bobby's wedding
June 27, 2008

Dear Ms. Patron:

Thank you for working with my assistant to allow me to fit your concerns about “Uncle Bobby's Wedding,” by Sarah S. Brannen, into our “reconsideration” process. I have been assured that you have received and viewed our relevant policies: the Library Bill of Rights, the Freedom to Read, Free Access to Libraries for Minors, the Freedom to View, and our Reconsideration Policy.

The intent of providing all that isn'…

Are libraries neutral?

Here are my remarks at today's American Library Association Midwinter Conference. Jim Neal's Presidential Program was "Are libraries neutral?" I was first on the "pro" side of the debate.In 1938, a time with an eery resonance to today, some citizens in Des Moines, Iowa protested a book we would now call hate speech: Hitler's Mein Kampf. Director Forrest Spaulding drafted "A Library's Bill of Rights" to establish for the first time the library's endorsement of intellectual freedom -- the right to access even uncomfortable or offensive content. Maybe, Spaulding said, we needed to know what was going on in the world.In 1939, ALA Council approved the statement for the entire association.Implicit in intellectual freedom is the principle of neutrality.Let me make two things clear.Neutrality does not mean that librarians have no values. We do. It doesn't mean that institutions don't exist to advance certain goals. Libraries actively a…

The First Year: 5 strategies for success

[The First Year: 5 Strategies for Success, 1 of 8]

Over the past several years, I've had the pleasure of coaching several new public library directors. For a variety of reasons, many directors are stepping into the role for the first time. Often, particularly in smaller or more rural libraries, they haven't even had a lot of supervisory experience.
I tell new directors that the two big advantages of confidential access to someone who has walked in your shoes is that (a) you can ask the questions you might feel embarrassed to ask your board or staff, and (b) you have the advantage of someone else's mistakes. To be clear, everybody makes mistakes. It may be the most powerful learning tool we have. But I've thought about my mistakes, and I can help you identify the old ones, and with luck, make new ones. There's no good reason to make the same ones!
I believe that there are five key constituencies the public library director must satisfy: your boss (usually a board), y…