E-books and Libraries: why there is a shortage
If you have searched the library’s collection of e-books for a bestselling title, there is a good chance you didn’t find it. This is because of the top six publishers, which control approximately two-thirds of the U.S. consumer book publishing market, only a few sell e-books to libraries. This reluctance to sell is due to concerns that borrowing e-books instead of buying will lead to loss of revenue. The American Library Association (ALA) disagrees with this position and finds the practice of not selling e-books to libraries discriminatory inhibiting the mission of libraries to provide access of information, regardless of format, to all. ALA is actively engaged in talks with publishers seeking a solution.
From the ALA website:
What is the status of Big Six publishers selling to libraries?
As of November 27, 2012, this is the status of relations between large publishers and U.S. libraries:
Simon & Schuster has never offered its catalog of e-books to libraries and has not indicated plans to work with libraries. Among their most popular e-book titles denied to U.S. libraries are: “Bruce” by Peter Ames Carlin and “Team of Rivals” by Doris Kearns Goodwin.
Macmillan has never offered e-books to libraries but announced plans in September 2012 to begin a pilot to explore how they might work with libraries. Among their most popular e-book titles denied to U.S. libraries are: “Killing Kennedy” by Bill O’Reilly and Martin Dugard and “Wolf Hall” by Hilary Mantel.
Penguin offered titles to libraries through e-book distributor OverDrive until February 2012, when it discontinued its relationship with OverDrive. It recently launched a pilot with two large New York libraries and announced its content will be available to libraries through the 3M Cloud Library. Among the popular titles denied wide distribution to U.S. libraries are: “This Is How You Lose Her” by Junot Diaz and “The Help” by Kathryn Stockett.
Hachette offers “backlist” (older) titles to libraries and has a pilot underway to explore conditions for offering more recent titles. OverDrive announced in September that the publisher was raising prices for its titles by about 100 percent. Among their most popular new e-book titles denied to U.S. libraries are: “The Casual Vacancy” by J.K. Rowling and “NYPD Red” by James Patterson and Marshall Karp.
HarperCollins and Random House have always offered e-book titles to libraries. In February 2011, HarperCollins announced that new titles licensed from library e-book vendors would be able to circulate only 26 times before the license expires. In March 2012, Random House dramatically increased prices for libraries.
With the October 29, 2012, announcement that Random House and Penguin plan to merge, and news in November that News Corp. (owner of HarperCollins) was in talks to acquire Simon & Schuster, the number of major publishing houses could decline to four.