While most small presses sell all their books freely and happily to libraries, the “Big Five” publishers continue to be terrified by the idea of letting public libraries have their e-books, and to punish libraries for even trying to get their e-books to customers.
The corporations’ confused and panic-driven search for an “acceptable business model” for the library e-book has led to some truly grotesque solutions:
- HarperCollins rents a library the license to an e-book for 26 uses, after which the license expires and the book goes poof.
- Hachette sells e-books to libraries at three times the print price for the first year — and one and a half times print price thereafter.
- Macmillan sells only its Minotaur crime and mystery e-books to libraries, asking $25 apiece — again about three times as much as anybody else has to pay.
- Random House has raised prices for some of its e-books by 300 percent.
- Simon and Schuster, which previously refused to sell e-books to libraries at all, is now trying out a pilot program: A library will be able to buy license for any e-book in the S&S catalogue for one year, and each book can be lent any number of times — “so long as it is being used by one borrower at a time.”
Perhaps we should be glad that this experiment is being carried out only in parts of New York City.
People in New York City are tough. They will not mind being followed home from the library by a person in a purple cloak and grey tights, known as S&SMan, who will move into their apartment and stay there as long as the book checked out, watching closely to be sure that nobody else in the family reads it or is even looking over the borrower’s shoulder….
And here are some truly remarkable figures:
In October, 2012, a certain best-selling book sold in print for $15.51.
If you bought the e-book on Amazon, the price was $9.99.
If your public library bought the e-book, they paid $84.00 for it.
So, dear reader, if your library doesn’t have the e-book you’d like to read, please don’t complain to your librarian. Complain to your publisher. Tell him to wake up and get real.