ALA Moves Forward in Ebook Arena

Wrap-up of the Virtual Town Hall

October 29, 2013

More than 700 librarians, publishers, and media representatives participated in the American Library Association’s Virtual Town Hall on Ebooks October 23. ALA President Barbara Stripling led a discussion that highlighted ALA’s successes from the past two years and the Association’s plans to address the challenges ahead. View the archived town hall and download the Power Point presentation.

ALA Immediate Past President Maureen Sullivan recounted the grim situation for libraries seeking to grow their ebook collections in 2011 and into 2012, ALA’s issuance of an Open Letter to Publishers, and how her appearance at a forum at the headquarters of the Association of American Publishers represented the peak of the conflict between ALA and the publishers. In 2013, we enjoyed multiple breakthroughs. Digital Content Working Group (DCWG) Co-chair Sari Feldman, executive director of the Cuyahoga County (Ohio) Public Library, summarized the current status with respect to the Big Five publishers. Despite this progress, libraries still face major problems such as high prices and limited availability of titles from some publishers.

A key part of ALA advocacy actually consisted of education. DCWG Co-chair Robert Wolven, associate university librarian at Columbia University, explained how both publishers and librarians needed to learn about the others’ world views, needs, and rapidly evolving situation in the digital environment.

ALA Executive Director Keith Michael Fiels discussed the high level of media attention on the ebook library lending issue. He credited some of the media success to the Author for Library Ebooks campaign and the release of the ALA E-book Media and Communications Toolkit. Fiels also summarized the many educational products and presentations generated by ALA.

Though 2013 is a remarkable year of library ebook achievements, the road ahead remains a long one. Alan S. Inouye, director of ALA’s Office for Information Technology Policy, explored emerging issues in the ebook lending arena, including digital preservation, improved library access to self-published works, libraries as publishers, accommodations for people with disabilities, and privacy. ALA leaders and the DCWG will continue to provide updates on the American Libraries’ E-Content blog.