Ebooks and the Big Six publishers was the first topic addressed at the ALA Executive Board spring meeting, held April 21–22. Because the board fully appreciates the importance of this issue to ALA members, we had planned one hour and 45 minutes for the discussion—an unusually long amount of time for the board to devote to any topic. But with the vigorous discussion and energy exhibited around the table, we devoted more than two hours to the topic.
The Executive Board reaffirmed ALA’s stance that “libraries of all types must be able to provide effective access to electronic media for their users at a reasonable price and consistent with ALA core principles.” In the context of ebooks from the Big Six, the discussions that ALA initiated over the past several months represent a good beginning. Both publishers and libraries improved their understanding of the other sector. We are continuing communication and building our relationships with publishers, with the goal of achieving tangible progress in the coming months.
However, we concluded that it is time to complement our efforts with publishers with an increased focus on other stakeholders in the ebook ecosystem. Therefore, the Executive Board also determined that ALA must develop plans and initiate near-term actions on a broader front, which includes reaching out to the media and bringing public attention to the need for libraries to be able to provide access to ebooks.
We already engaged ebook distributors at the PLA Conference last month. In the near future, we will be meeting with groups that represent authors, as well as connecting with individual authors, to help us develop and advocate for solutions that can work for everyone. We also want to more fully engage and support our members and library patrons in this effort, and we are developing plans now for doing so.
I appreciate the support from ALA members during this trying time. Believe me, as a career public librarian, I do appreciate the frustration of not being able to acquire the titles that your patrons are clamoring for. I can assure you that the ebook issue is among the highest priorities for me, as well as the full Executive Board. I have reason to believe that, at least among some of the publishers we are dealing with, finding a library-lending business model that works for them is also a high priority. I ask for your continued support in the months ahead.