Sunday, March 4, 2012

How do we add bite to our bark?

Photo credit: Surtr via Flickr
ALA President Molly Raphael issued the following statement in response to the announcement that Random House is raising prices of ebooks for libraries

While I appreciate Random House’s engagement with libraries and its commitment to perpetual access, I am deeply disappointed in the severe escalation in ebook pricing reported today. Calling on our history together and our hope to satisfy mutual goals moving forward, the American Library Association strongly urges Random House to reconsider its decision. In a time of extreme financial constraint, a major price increase effectively curtails access for many libraries, and especially our communities that are hardest hit economically.

Also, ALA appreciates the data gaps that exist, and we commit to work quickly and collaboratively to address this concern. We must have better data to inform decisions that have such wide and deep implications.

Finally, we recognize and thank those publishers and aggregators that have worked with libraries on e-book lending models at a time of significant disruption and change. Libraries must have the ability to purchase a wide range of digital content at a fair price so that all readers have full access to our world’s creative and cultural resources, especially those who depend on libraries as their only source of reading material.

Libraries belong at the center of this digital revolution, not on the periphery. We continue to seek partners to further our shared goals of connecting readers and authors well into the 21st century.

I am very glad that Raphael and the ALA are coming out with a statement, but.... I feel that this is all bark and no bite. I agree that libraries need to be at the center of the digital revolution - but what exactly are we doing to stay there? As I mentioned in an earlier post, I believe that the ebook debate will not be solved by a technological solution but through a moral argument. How can we make the publishers agree that open access to information is an American virtue and they should be working with us instead of hindering us? 

I know that these are some big questions, but this is a big issue and I am not sure where the solution lies. I do know that we need to continue  to ask these questions, as well as work together to make sure our voice is heard. 

The Digital Shift has a great guide, Publishers in the Library Ebook Market, for anyone (like me) who needs some more back ground context to this debate. 

As always, Andy Woodworth is lending some valid observations/arguments/agitations/suggestions to this debate. Today he had a great post putting forth the notion that Overdrive should partner with Amazon, becoming a potential major player in providing ebook content for libraries libraries.

What do you think, dear readers? Are there any other writers out there who are putting forth valid arguments in this discussion?  What is our future going to look like? you have to admit, with these big questions and big issues, it's an exciting time to be a librarian...

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