E-books and Libraries

ebook-pileOur patrons love ebooks!  The library has been offering ebooks through Library2Go since 2010 and the service has been growing in popularity ever since.  If you are a Libary2Go user, you know that the selection is not the same as what we have in print in the library.   While we are excited to be able to provide ebooks to our patrons, there are several restrictions that prevent us from offering everything we would like.

The publishing landscape is in flux, and publishers do not have a uniform model for pricing ebooks.  Many publishers did not initially allow libraries to purchase ebooks at all.  Things are looking better in that regard:  four of the “Big 5” publishers now sell ebooks to libraries.  But the terms under which they sell them vary.  Some publishers will sell us their books at over 10 times the price consumers pay.  For example, you can purchase an ebook version of J.K. Rowling’s The Casual Vacancy for $7.35 from Amazon, but it costs the library $105.00.  And we can only allow one person to read it at a time.  If we want more people to have access, we need to buy additional copies.  Other publishers sell library ebooks at prices much closer to consumer prices, but they will limit the number of checkouts or the length of time we can license them.   Harper Collins books can only be checked out 26 times, then we have to re-purchase them.   Books from Penguin Publishing will expire after one year.

What does this mean for the library’s ebook collection?  With these pricing models we cannot maintain the same kind of comprehensive collection in ebook format as we can in print.  Particularly vexing are the one year time limits.  Just think if print books were sold this way — we would need to replace our entire collection every year!

Fortunately there are many other publishers outside of the “Big 5” that sell library ebooks at prices that are much more affordable, but these are not usually the best-sellers.   Most of the Library2Go collection is purchased by the Oregon Digital Library Consortium, of which we are a member, so we are able to share the costs among libraries.  But we also purchase extra copies of ebooks that are only available to our patrons in Benton County.   We are currently discussing our strategy for purchasing ebooks and trying to find ways to get the most bang for our buck.

If you have questions or comments about ebooks we’d love to hear from you.  You can contact us at the Adult Reference Desk 766-6793, or email us through our askalibrarian form.

For more information see also the American Library Association’s Frequently asked questions regarding e-books and U.S. libraries.


Posted by Carrie, a second floor librarian

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