Last week a delegation of ALA leaders met with senior corporate executives and library marketing executives of Simon & Schuster, HarperCollins, and Penguin Random House. ALA’s most specific request was to expand the options for library ebook lending business models to give libraries more choice. In particular, we advocated for a long-term option, such as purchase or perpetual license, and a shorter-term option, such as a one-year license or other flexible arrangement.
ALA highlighted the valuable role of libraries in the publishing and reading ecosystems and thus why more flexible and favorable terms for library ebook lending are in everyone’s best interest. This visit represents ALA’s ninth such delegation effort over the last several years.
Libraries have a prominent role in the discovery of books and authors, whether in the physical or virtual worlds. Indeed, the opening of a brick-and-mortar store by Amazon is a major acknowledgment that physical place is important, even for an online-based service. In our meetings, we came away with a few possibilities for strengthened collaboration with publishers to promote discoverability as well as reading and literacy.
One idea that received some traction is tying discoverability with a particular subject matter, such as health or workforce issues. Library services or programming in an area would be developed and highlighted on a national scale, and publishers’ titles on these subjects would be featured. Publishers would offer print or ebooks through a favorable promotion to stimulate participation by libraries and, in turn, by the public.
ALA raised other issues, such as challenges for people with print disabilities (as made visible via a few lawsuits about e-readers). And Penguin Random House discussed further their consolidated library ebook lending model—see our recent post and ALA’s public response.
Most fundamental, however, for these meetings is to further develop the library–publisher relationship at the executive and national levels. Publishers and libraries have similar overall goals—to promote and advance reading and literacy—and are allies in many respects.
The delegation for this trip included ALA President Sari Feldman; ALA President-Elect Julie Todaro; Immediate Past President Courtney Young; cochairs of the Digital Content Working Group (DCWG) Carolyn Anthony and Erika Linke; Executive Director Keith Michael Fiels; Carrie Russell from the Office for Information Technology Policy; and Feldman’s assistant, Hallie Rich.
Meeting with METRO and Queens Library
We also participated in a reception hosted by the Metropolitan New York Library Council (Metro) at its headquarters. Feldman praised ALA’s long-standing positive relationship with Metro and provided an overview of Libraries Transform, ALA’s new communications and advocacy campaign. Thanks to Metro’s Nate Hill and Davis Erin Anderson for enabling this opportunity for ALA leaders to meet and talk with Metro members from across the greater New York City area.
Another highlight of the trip was a visit to Queens Library. We learned about the pathbreaking efforts to greatly improve users’ digital experience. Many thanks to Kelvin Watson, chief innovation and technology officer at Queens, and his colleagues for this opportunity, which generated a number of possibilities for Queens–ALA collaboration.
Each of these trips to New York City is a whirlwind, as is just walking down Fifth or Sixth Avenues—nowhere else in the United States do you encounter such a mass of humanity (especially during the week of the Christmas tree lighting at Rockefeller Center). But the succession of meetings—including other, smaller-scale encounters not mentioned here—comprises a fully frenetic digital content experience. It is also a symbolic reminder that while the ebook marketplace may seem to be in a relatively stable place, that is merely an illusion.
For more on ebooks and digital content, don’t miss the DCWG’s session “From Glass Half Empty to Glass Half Full? Evaluating the Current Ebook Environment” at the 2016 Midwinter Meeting & Exhibition. Also, look for an article on the future directions for ebooks in the January/February 2016 issue of American Libraries.