Libraries certainly are living in interesting times, and last week was no exception. We were also provided with more evidence supporting one of my hypotheses, which is that if you want to get something done, don’t involve the ALA.
For example, top ALA representatives met with several major publishers a couple of weeks ago. The ALA version of the meeting was reported last week. Considering that it was reported in American Libraries and yet there was no puffery or positive spin, I can only assume the meetings didn’t go well.
There was no mention of whether the discussion began with the ALA Executive Director tough talking the publishers by saying, “you need to deal with libraries and you need to do this as soon as possible.” I predicted that opening wouldn’t go well considering that libraries have no bargaining power over publishers.
However, that might have been how they started, which would explain why a week after the meetings ended, Penguin – one of the few big publishers to sell ebooks to libraries at all – ended their contract with Overdrive and now isn’t allowing libraries to lend their ebooks. Way to go, ALA!
A quote from the Penguin press release is priceless: “In these ever changing times, it is vital that we forge relationships with libraries and build a future together. We care about preserving the value of our authors’ work as well as helping libraries continue to serve their communities. Our ongoing partnership with the ALA is more important than ever, and our recent talks with ALA leadership helped bring everything into focus.”
Apparently what the recent talks helped to bring into focus was that people could read Penguin ebooks without paying for them. “My god,” I can hear the Penguin representatives exclaiming, “do you mean that people can just log into a website and download our ebooks for free? This is the sort of frictionless socialism up with which we shall not put!”
It’s a good thing their partnership with the ALA and libraries is more important than ever, or they’d have tried to remove the titles libraries have already paid for.
The good news is, someone is finally taking my advice about how to fight back. In this post, I suggested that if libraries wanted to do something effective, they “should be putting announcements on their websites saying, ‘You want to check this book out as an ebook? Then contact these publishers and complain about their anti-library lending policies,’ with a list of the offending publishers.”
Well, kudos to the Librarian in Black for taking my advice and starting up just such a campaign by putting up a notice in the library as well as online. It’s about time librarians started listening to the AL. Now we might get somewhere.
The LiB is no delicate flower, and it’s possible other libraries will be too timid to follow. Timid, subservient librarians have been part of the problem all along. Librarians tend to whine about how hard they’re working to get ebooks to patrons, when really they’re not doing anything other than signing a contract with Overdrive.
Trying to get the public involved might take some effort, but it would have to be more effective than the hitherto popular strategy of librarians twiddling their thumbs and hoping for the best.