In this day and age, why’s it so hard?
At Anythink, our mission is to “open doors for curious minds,” and we have taken great strides to create amazing experiences for our customers. Getting people what they want, when they want it is an important part of making Anythink a destination for our community. And what do people want? Ebooks! In 2012, we had a 76 percent increase in ebook and audiobook checkouts over the previous year. Our online collection is our fourth-largest "branch." People are reading on tablets, phones, computers – on everything they can, anywhere they can.
So, why’s it so hard sometimes to find the title you want? And why is the process so darn cumbersome?
We want to get you that popular title you want, when you want it. We want to provide our customers better service – which means making the process as easy as possible. But libraries everywhere are facing huge challenges when it comes to ebooks and the publishing industry.
Here’s the current model:
- Pricing: Some publishers charge libraries up to five times more for an ebook than the print edition. For example, Justin Cronin’s bestseller The Twelve costs $15.51 for the print edition, $9.99 for the ebook on Amazon and $84 for a library ebook. This makes it hard for libraries with limited funds to purchase these bestsellers. It’s a huge strain on library budgets and frustrating for organizations trying to meet community needs.
- Availability*: There are some publishers who won’t even sell ebooks to libraries. This is changing little by little, but it makes even getting access to some of the biggest bestsellers very difficult. This is not an issue among all publishers. It’s the “big 6” who will not sell to libraries under the same conditions they sell to the public. These publishers control 90 percent of the bestsellers.
- Non-ownership: When the library does buy an ebook, this does not mean that they own the content. It’s basically “leased” to the library for a certain number of checkouts. This also means that we can’t move these ebooks to a different server, change the terms of checkout, or make them available on certain devices – as much as we’d like to.
- Accessibility: Because of these restrictions, it’s not always easy to check out ebooks and audiobooks. There’s no one-click solution like there is with companies like Amazon. It’s why we have different platforms that each require different software and different apps.
We’re working with publishers, vendors and the library community to help find solutions. But what can you do?
- Contact leaders – Find contact information for your elected officials and tell them you’re concerned about this issue.
- Read ebooks – No matter where the book comes from or the format, one thing is for sure – we love reading! Whether you checkout ebooks from Anythink or buy them from your favorite bookseller, reading ebooks is a great way to show that libraries and their customers can be great partners with publishers.
- Contact publishers – Below is a list of publishers and their contact information. If you feel as strongly as we do about this, let them know that their inequitable practices hurt our communities and constituents who depend on their public libraries for unrestricted access to information. 
175 Fifth Avenue
New York, NY 10010
Hachette Book Group
466 Lexington Ave., #131
New York, NY 10017
Random House, Inc. (Headquarters)
New York, NY 10019
10 East 53rd Street
New York, NY 10022
Did you know…
Did you know that by using the “buy it now” button on OverDrive to purchase your own ebooks, Anythink gets a portion of the money back to help buy more ebooks for our collection? This is another great way to support your local Anythink in providing access to information for our community.
 From Urban Libraries Council one-page summary “Libraries, Publishers and Public Access to Ebooks,” http://www.urbanlibraries.org/filebin/pdfs/EBooks_Summary.pdf
*Since this blog post was originally published, Penguin changed their practices and now offers titles available to library customers through OverDrive. Macmillian recently announced they will also be expanding their library offerings, and they now offer backlisted titles via OverDrive.
Stacie Ledden is Communications Director for Anythink Libraries. A special thank you to Anythink Collection Development Director Logan MacDonald for contributing to this piece.