Two Colorado Libraries Break New E-book Ground

March 16, 2011

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Officials of two Colorado libraries announced March 16 that they will be adding to their catalogs e-books that are published by members of the Colorado Independent Publishers Association (CIPA).

The Red Rocks Community College Library and Douglas County Library also revealed that by June they plan to launch click-through links so interested patrons can purchase an e-book title from its respective catalog record.

The agreement is particularly timely in light of the March 7 change in HarperCollins Publisher’s terms of service for library loans of its catalog of e-book titles, capping at 26 the number of checkouts it will permit per e-book license. Librarians’ reaction to this sea change from a major publishing house was mostly negative; some libraries soon announced that they could not afford to purchase e-books from HarperCollins under such terms and the American Library Association held a two-day retreat about the larger issues surrounding access, collection development, and present-day budget constraints.

Douglas County Library Director Jamie LaRue told American Libraries, “Our intent is to buy the titles outright. We will limit the use to one simultaneous patron per copy.” He went on to emphasize that this pilot project “will demonstrate not only that libraries are firm supporters of the independent publishers through our willingness to buy and promote their works, but also that libraries and publishers can help each other grow the still-developing e-book market.”

“Libraries are natural partners with independent publishers,” agreed Joseph Sanchez, director of library and learning services for Red Rocks Community College. “We understand and value both copyrights and the great value of alternative viewpoints. We can easily integrate e-books into our collections, ensuring one use at a time, but also exposing authors to precisely the people who are looking for them.”

Karen Reddick, executive director of CIPA, sees this partnership as “helping us introduce a new generation of writers to a new generation of readers” and continuing the cycle of inspiration that generates the next generation of writers and  independent publishers.

How e-book lending in libraries will evolve remains to be seen from a number of perspectives, of course. “The interesting question,” LaRue mused, was about economies of scale. “Will public libraries weed e-books? Under Adobe Content Server (the software tool for managing our own digital content), we pay 22 cents per database record for permanent, and 8 cents for short-term. Conclusions?”