Ebooks and Libraries

New technologies impacting our way of life is nothing new, but it sure seems the speed of change has increased rapidly. E-books have been around for quite a while, but usage significantly grew about five years ago. Amazon Kindles, Sony e-Readers, Barnes and Noble Nooks, and tablets greatly improved the e-book reading experience. Coffey County Library wants to stay on top of and be a part of this change, but it hasn’t been easy.

The problem lies in the relationship and distribution of books from the publisher to the library. The book model of buying a book and allowing one person to borrow it at a time simply doesn’t fit. An e-book is a digital file and could theoretically be shared an unlimited number of times. Publishers don’t like the sound of that.

Different publishers have taken a variety steps to address the challenge. Publishers allowing libraries to circulate their titles use a one-to-one model. This means that even though the technology exists to allow multiple readers at the same time, it is established that only one patron can read the e-book at a time. HarperCollins limits the number of checkouts. After 26 checkouts, the library has to repurchase the book. Random House sells their books for 3-8 times the consumer price of a title. Penguin titles expire after a year. MacMillan is only sparingly allowing access. Simon and Schuster and Hatchette are essentially not allowing libraries to circulate e-books. Douglas County Libraries (CO) maintains and updates a bestseller list comparing e-book pricing and availability for libraries compared to the average consumer.

While this information might seem overwhelmingly negative, looking at the progress made over the past few years should allow for some encouragement. Just two years ago, libraries were lucky to have access to 20%-40% of the titles on the NY Times Bestseller list in e-book format. Today, the number available is consistently above 75% of the titles on the list. Processes and norms are still evolving and library associations and individuals are working to bring about more consistency and fair access.

Coffey County patrons have access to The Sunflower E-Library. This is a collection shared by a consortium of libraries across the state and also has a collection dedicated solely to CCL patrons. Coffey County patrons also have access to The State Library of Kansas 3M Digital Library and Freading digital book collections. We welcome you to visit with your library about these offerings. We love to share our knowledge and learn alongside you.

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