Ebook Talks: First Report

February 2, 2012

Here’s a first take on the talks held this week between American Library Association leaders and the senior management of several New York–based publishers:

Dear Colleagues:

Here is a brief report on our meeting with publishers in New York on January 30–February 1. Others participating in these talks besides myself were:

  • Maureen Sullivan, ALA President-elect
  • Keith Michael Fiels, ALA Executive Director
  • Robert Wolven, Co-Chair of ALA’s Digital Content and Libraries Working Group
  • Alan Inouye, Director of ALA’s Office for Information Technology Policy

We met separately with the senior leadership of Penguin, Macmillan, Random House, Simon & Schuster, and Perseus. Two of these publishers (Random House and Perseus) currently do offer their ebooks to libraries; these two publishers approached us to meet when they learned we would be in New York. The three others either do not sell ebooks to libraries (Macmillan and Simon & Schuster) or sell only their backlist (Penguin). Our purpose was not only to express our dismay about those restricting sales to libraries but also to understand the concerns that publishers have in general in this new digital environment, including those who do sell to libraries.

The discussions were substantive and productive. We were able to genuinely engage during each of these meetings at the highest level and were encouraged, in each case, by the desire of both the publishers as well as our delegation to understand the issues faced by both entities. In each case, we reaffirmed our shared purpose of connecting writers with readers and our desire to find solutions, as well as identifying some specific steps that the publishers and ALA can take.

Our report early next week will provide more detail about issues discussed and what we (ALA) will be doing to reach our goal of opening access to all ebooks in libraries.

More to come next week. . . . 

Molly Raphael, President

American Library Association