Have you downloaded the OverDrive or Libby app yet? I love picking out a new book to read or listen to, and having it delivered directly to my tablet or phone any time of the day. The Oklahoma Virtual Library (OKVL) has been a wonderful addition to the services offered by the Stillwater Public Library. In addition to being a user of the OKVL, one of the many hats I wear in my job is to order materials for the collection, and administer the tasks that come with being part of a collective of 92 libraries.

Since forming the OKVL Consortium in 2011, the only constant has been change! And not just in technology. The publishing world is still trying to figure out business models for electronic books and how to best share them with library patrons. Over time I have seen the big five publishers (Harper Collins, Penguin Random House, Macmillan, Hachette, Simon & Schuster) go from not sharing any eBooks with libraries, to sharing them at very expensive prices, and then to dropping prices but sharing them with limitations. Every year has been a different story, and it has been tricky to keep up with pricing and lending models while fulfilling patron demand and staying within our budget.

The past year has shown a disturbing consistency however, in that all of the big five publishers have now limited library ownership of eBooks and some audios by time or checkouts. In some cases that means a title will expire after 26 or 52 checkouts. In many cases it means we will lose a title after two years. To keep a copy in the collection we have to keep re-purchasing it. By the way, $60-$95 is an average price for a digital library copy of a top selling author.

Starting Nov. 1, Macmillan is enacting the harshest limits by only allowing one copy of new eBooks to be purchased by OverDrive sites. That is one copy shared amongst 92 libraries in our case! After an eight week embargo, additional copies may be purchased for $60 that will expire after 52 checkouts or two years, whichever comes first.

Librarians are left in a quandary of deciding whether or not to purchase a title and frustrate patrons with long waiting lists. Some of the authors that will be affected by this are C.J. Box, Nora Roberts, Liane Moriarty, Louise Penny, and Kristin Hannah.

Although the new lending models are a response to publishers’ fears that libraries are encroaching on author sales, libraries have a long history of promoting authors and enabling discovery of their works, which in turn leads to more sales. If embargos like Macmillan’s become the new standard, it does not bode well for the quality of the digital collection we can offer. 

As this is only the newest development in the evolving world of eBook and audio lending, I hope that libraries, authors, and publishers will reach a place of equity that benefits all, most importantly readers. In the meantime, the buyers for the Oklahoma Virtual Library will continue to work hard navigating pricing and lending models to bring you a collection you love.

To learn more about eBook lending issues affecting readers, visit www.readersfirst.org and www.panoramaproject.org. If you are a reader who will be affected by the new lending models and would like to provide feedback to Macmillan, you can email the company at: elending.feedback@macmillan.com.

Andrea Kane can be reached at andrea.kane@stillwater.org.

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