This is a legitimate, big problem, which affects authors just as much and as directly as it does libraries and publishers. It has no quick fix. To solve it will take a complete and painful rethinking and re-organisation of the whole publishing industry.
But many corporate publishers, without seeking a long-term strategy, consulting no interest or value but their own, have reacted with mere panic greed.
Some, exhibiting all the foresight, generosity, and public spirit of a Florida alligator, outright refuse to sell their ebooks to libraries. Simon & Schuster, Hachette, and Macmillan are among them.
This policy can be summed up as: Libraries can go to hell.
Other publishers, perhaps hoping to keep some appearance of a certain degree of goodwill towards men, limit themselves to making it hard for the library to stock ebooks and inconvenient for you to get them from the library. They call it “inserting friction.” A kind of anti-Vaseline.
Currently various publishers are employing various forms of “friction:”
■“Embargo” (some publishers call it “Windowing”): the publisher refuses libraries access to recently published ebooks, especially best sellers. The library must wait as long as 18 months to get the book.
■Snatch-back: Instead of selling an ebook to the library, the publisher rents it for a certain length of time or a certain number of uses — after which the ebook vanishes, pouf! The library must pay for it all over again.Harper Collins sells an ebook to a library for 26 individual uses, then the book vanishes and the library is forced to purchase another.
■Selective price-gouging: The publisher charges libraries more than other customers for best-sellers.Random House announced in March that it was increasing the cost of ebooks to libraries, in some cases tripling it.
■Pay-on-Demand: Require the library to pay the publisher a sum each time the ebook is ordered.This is an ironic reversal of the system obtaining in Europe whereby the author is paid a small sum every time the book is taken out of a library. European libraries can do this because their evil nanny governments support them with money. No American public library could afford this kind of pay-on-demand either to the author or the publisher.
And the absurdest piece of meanness yet:
■Make the Old Lady Hobble Downtown: Every library that can afford to gives patrons access to music, audio books, databases, etc. via their home computer, but some publishers want libraries to allow access to ebooks only to patrons who actually, physically, come to the library. You have to be there in person and hold out your hand, see, so the librarian can put those valuable electrons in it.
Quite a bit more at the site.