November 14, 2022
Popularity of eBooks Put the “E” in Expensive
Ebooks. The waitlist, the cost, the licensing issues. Readers love them. As a librarian, eBooks leave me, as the kids would say, smh. (That’s shaking my head.)
Pew Research reports people in 2021 checked out more than half a billion “e-items,” up 55 percent from the previous two years. Libraries struggle to meet the demand for these increasingly popular items, and people generally are unaware of the tension between the publishing industry and public libraries.
Let’s take a look at the challenges:
Libraries don’t buy eBooks. The publishers won’t allow it. We buy the right to offer the public an eBook for a limited period of time, generally two years. Then it has to be purchased again. On the other hand, libraries only re-purchase a physical book when it’s chewed by a puppy or accidentally dropped in a mud puddle.
Libraries don’t get consumer pricing. You might buy an eBook for $12.99 and keep it forever, but the same book could cost libraries $50 for a two-year lending period. However, we get great discounts on paper books.
Libraries sometimes don’t have immediate access to purchase eBooks. When a hot title is released, many publishers sell to the public first, libraries last. And the publisher might decide to sell just one copy of an eBook to a single library, including some of the country’s largest libraries. Imagine a Milwaukee library with one copy of a bestseller. The waitlist might have hundreds of patrons.
Libraries couldn’t purchase Amazon titles for years. Even now, the purchasing options are limited.
Libraries have to explain the model to new readers: one patron, one e-copy. In theory, an eBook could be read simultaneously by multiple people. But eBooks are just like physical books. You have to take your turn.
Publishing is a business, not a charity. Amazon has turned the industry upside down, and publishers are adapting to survive. We understand publishers need to be profitable, but there needs to be a reasonable balance between profitability and America’s library tradition.
Intellectual freedom is a core value for libraries. We provide universal access to information, an essential foundation for democracy. Libraries have educated, informed and entertained Americans for nearly two centuries.
Keep checking out those eBooks. We enjoy them, too. But if you’re frustrated by the waitlist or because we don’t have your favorite author’s new book, please know librarians nationwide are advocating for more titles and shorter waitlists.
October 14, 2022:
May 2, 2022:
November 4, 2021 Update:
There’s a mix of good and bad news in our latest storm-damage update:
The good news: Curbside service will soon expand. Current service only offers materials from other libraries in our system. The cleaning crew is working on glass removal now, so all Hudson materials will be available for check out soon, probably after Thanksgiving.
The bad news: Patrons won’t be able to access the library building until early 2022. That’s the earliest timeline for carpet replacement.
While cleaning is underway from the Sept. 17 storm, the reopening delay is related to carpet replacement. The scope of the project requires the city to seek requests for proposals from firms. The carpet replacement is part of the larger construction project.
“We know patrons are disappointed. It’s demoralizing for staff, too. There’s nothing more depressing for staff than a quiet, empty library,” Library Director Shelley Tougas said.
The powerful winds sprayed shards of glass throughout the building. The children’s section was hit hard. No vacuum or cleaning system can ensure complete glass removal.
“Our little ones crawl on this carpet. They sit and page through books, and they play with our toys. We have to make sure they’re safe.”
Work on the library’s exterior wall and roof won’t start until spring, and supply-chain issues could affect progress. Damage estimates aren’t yet available.
Library programs are being held off site thanks to support from the Phipps Center for the Arts, the YMCA, the Hudson School District, Urban Olive & Vine, Faith Community Church and Hop & Barrel. Community members can find dates and locations on the library’s website and Facebook page.
“We’re grateful so many community partners and individuals have offered their assistance,” Tougas said. “Our spirits have been lifted by the support and love from the communities we serve.”
PAST UPDATES DIRECTOR’S STORM DAMAGE NARRATIVE
The Phipps shared video from a security camera that captured the minute leading up to the library getting hit. It’s on the library’s Facebook page:
Meg Heaton interviewed me about the storm on River Channel’s Western Wisconsin Journal. Check it out here: