In the last post, I talked about librarians whining about ebook price increases for libraries. “Boo hoo, if we don’t get these ebooks we’ll die and Random House is being so mean! Wahhhhh!” It’s not a pretty sight.
But gosh darn it, some of these librarians aren’t going to sit idly by whining and complaining. They’re going to get the law on their side.
This story from Nashville is both inspiring and pathetic. It’s good that librarians are getting the news out to the public about ebooks and libraries. The librarian sounded tough: “if prices continue to remain high, the library will not be able to purchase eBooks.”
I’ve been questioning all along why libraries are spending public money on ebooks they don’t really own and can’t do much with, and it’s nice to see a librarian taking a stand in public and saying that at some point enough is enough.
However, the final paragraph, which I assume must have also come from the library spokesperson, was just sad.
“A non-profit has been created to go before legislators to do something about the price hikes. Right now they are just hoping publishers will make more titles available and be reasonable when negotiating with public libraries.”
The last sentence expresses the desperation librarians are feeling because they know that when all books are ebooks they’ll be out of a job…sorry, I mean because they are passionate about making sure the latest bestselling thriller makes it into the hands of as many people as possible. Because, as one ineffectual group fighting for better ebook access puts it, if people can’t get free bestsellers from the public library, democracy itself (!) will die.
I was most curious about the non-profit that supposedly has been created, but I couldn’t find any more information about that. (If anyone knows what the article is talking about, please let us know.)
There’s an ALA group that’s working on the ebook publishing issue, but creating yet another ALA task force isn’t the same thing as creating a non-profit.
Regardless, this non-profit will end up being as ineffective as any ALA task force if it expects any legislators to “do something about the price hikes.” What could this group, if it exists, possibly be thinking?
Though the story is from Tennessee, I’m assuming that whatever non-profit allegedly set up is something more national. Considering that Random House is a large international publisher, it would be absurd to expect the Tennessee legislature to pass laws compelling Random House to sell ebooks to libraries at a price libraries like.
Wait a minute. You know what would be just as absurd? Asking the U.S. Congress to pass such laws or regulations. This is an example of librarians going off the deep end, for several reasons.
The biggest reason is that the House of Representatives is currently dominated by Republicans. Since ebook pricing has nothing to do with either cutting taxes or restricting abortion rights, it hasn’t a chance in hell of becoming the object of any legislation.
The other big problem is that there’s nothing that can really be done. What do librarians expect? A law requiring publishers to sell ebooks to libraries at a given price? Or better yet, a law requiring all publishers to sell ebooks to libraries at whatever price libraries deem fair? That’ll show you, Macmillan!
Given the current understanding of intellectual property law, that idea is ridiculous.
There’s not even a compelling reason. If the government doesn’t care if people get equal access to healthcare or education, it certainly won’t care that they don’t get equal access to ebooks.
The librarians might protest and claim the government is already considering suing publishers for raising prices, and this is the same thing.
Okay, so the “Justice Department has warned Apple Inc. and five of the biggest U.S. publishers that it plans to sue them for allegedly colluding to raise the price of electronic books,” but that has nothing to do with the Random House decision, even though another news story coming out of Nashville made the connection.
First of all, Random House is the only one of the Big Six publishers not named by the Justice Department, so Random House isn’t a target yet.
Second of all, Random House deciding what to charge institutions for its own books isn’t collusion. Far from colluding, Random House has broken from the pack by allowing libraries to purchase new ebooks at all. Sheesh, librarians always need something to complain about.
Next thing you know, libraries will be suing ebook publishers to try to force them to exploit libraries with their ridiculous ebook contracts.
For all I know, that is the next step. It’s America, after all, and Americans like litigation. Some of them also like libraries. Libraries and litigation even sound good together. Libraries can sue the Big Six all the way to the Supreme Court, where they will then lose, but in the meantime it will make them feel like they’re doing something.