A kind reader sent in this piece from American Libraries. Amazingly enough, it contains a bit of actual news rather than the usual library cheering section. It might be best just to quote from the email quoted in full in the article:
I’m over-the-Empire-State-Building excited to announce that effective today Penguin Group (USA) has agreed to expand its pilot with 3M beyond the New York Public Library and the Brooklyn Public Library and license access of its ebooks to all of our library systems. Titles are available for purchase immediately in the Library Admin Tool.
That’s from the Collection Development Manager at the 3M Cloud Library. “Over-the-Empire-State-Building excited” sounds pretty darn excited, and why wouldn’t she be? She’s giving librarians another clear opportunity to show what dupes they can be about ebooks.
And why dupes? Well, the terms of the 3M agreement aren’t exactly good deals for libraries.
The terms that 3M originally brokered still apply: There is a six-month delay on new titles and term of use is one year from purchase date. Library patrons will be allowed to access ebooks remotely using library-compatible reading devices, under the one-user, one-copy model.
The delay in new titles seems entirely reasonable to me, and I’ve already supported that position. There’s no solid reason why publishers should let libraries compete with them in the first few important months after a title’s release if they can help it.
But expiring after a year? That’s sort of ridiculous. For most books it won’t matter anyway, and Penguin won’t see any more money. It seems to be a way for Penguin to see just how many librarians will line up to be swindled, or rather, how much public money will go for this swindle.
However, I expect plenty of libraries will take advantage of the deal, or rather let the deal take advantage of them. After all, the “customers” want ebooks! That’s what some librarians say. And there’s the occasional article about how ebooks give libraries a “new life.”
But there have also been numerous articles in the last few months detailing the problems libraries face getting ebooks. The goal of those is to put pressure on publishers while educating library patrons about why they can’t borrow most of the ebooks they can buy at Amazon.
That pressure doesn’t seem to be working, if the Penguin move is any indication. At least it’s not working in favor of libraries or the people who fund them.
So the options now seem to be for libraries to pay 3 times the price for the ebook, pay a regular price but have only 26 loans, or pay a regular price but only have access to it for a year – all while still having the one-checkout limit.
Maybe librarians will start stepping away from these deals, but I doubt it. Not long ago I saw The Empire Strikes Back for the first time in years, and librarians salivating after ebooks remind me of Lando Calrissian. With every new negotiation, the deal gets worse, and the librarians sit anxiously by while publishers (sounding remarkably like James Earl Jones in an iron lung) say, “Pray I do not alter it further.”