Modern Times

Libraries, Publishers Clash Over eBooks

As e-books grow in popularity, libraries and publishers find themselves increasingly at odds over how best to loan digital copies to library patrons. In a new report from NPR, Lynn Neary details the conflict over pricing and distribution. Publishers, hesitant to provide vast numbers of possible customers with an easily duplicated and quasi-permanent version of their product, have been pricing eBooks to libraries at vastly inflated rates. In addition, many publishers have been effectively leasing their e-books by restricting the amount of time or number of uses allowed per digital copy. Many librarians, however, argue that price inflation and restrictions make loaning e-books untenable, despite growing demand from their patrons. In April, Simon & Schuster began an experimental program with three New York City libraries that would make their entire catalog available to check-out, with the option for the patron to buy the book at any point. Whether this satisfies both sides of the divide remains to be seen.