Library E-Book Action Plan

A few days ago, I posted to this blog about libraries and the e-book market. In that post I suggested that libraries should be grateful to Macmillan and other publishers for giving us an opportunity to consider new models for acquiring and promoting e-books in libraries.

I think I might have overstated the “being grateful” thing. One person who read the blog commented that I was advocating that librarians be passive in the e-book market. I can see how she read it that way, but that was the opposite of my intention.

Upon further reflection, I want to suggest what I think are the actions librarians can take to, as I previously stated, consider new models, to flex our collective muscle in the ecosystem, to make purposeful use of our collection dollars, and to take a more active role in influencing the reading choices of our customers.

Here is that e-book action plan:

  1. Buy from library-friendly publishers. We at TSLAC cannot tell libraries to boycott any specific publisher, though there are libraries in Texas and across the nation that are not buying from Macmillan because of their embargo on selling new e-books to libraries. But I can say that as custodians of public funds, libraries and state agencies should make smart decisions about how those funds are used. One would be to buy books from vendors that give libraries the best terms. And in my mind that does not mean to buy books that are sold at several times the price that the same book is sold to an individual consumer, or that have limitations on the number of circulations, or that expire after a certain period of time. At the Texas State Library and Archives Commission we are, in most cases, purchasing e-books for statewide access with a strong preference for library-friendly terms, whenever possible, a perpetual access license.
  2. Create interest in authors and titles from library-friendly publishers. Some libraries might then say, okay, but my readers mostly want the New York Times bestsellers or the books recommended by celebrities like Reese Witherspoon and Oprah Winfrey. To that I say, let’s change that paradigm. No offense to Reese or Oprah or the Times, but there is a huge universe of books on the market from other publishers that readers would like just as much as those ones if only they knew about them. So let’s tell them. Let’s start crowdsourcing reviews and recommendations from librarians about great books from library-friendly publishers. Some libraries are doing this, and there are lists of independent authors built into Overdrive and Access 360 and other vendors. Some libraries might want to follow the lead of Kelvin Watson, director of the Broward County, Florida, Public Library, and create a book club to discuss and promote independent authors.
  3. Join E-Read Texas. If you are a Texas Public Library using Biblionix Apollo for your integrated library system, you are eligible to join E-Read Texas and get free assistance in integrating the SimplyE e-book application with your Apollo system. This will allow your patrons to access—in just three clicks—content purchased by TSLAC alongside the content you are already purchasing from Overdrive and other vendors. Using SimplyE via the E-Read Texas project is a great way to guide the public to more diverse and independent content and to discover a much wider world of great authors. TSLAC has purchased perpetual access licenses to collections from over 20 independent publishers, totaling over 2,000 titles and plan to purchase more. These titles are available to anyone in Texas: just visit Libraries interested in E-Read Texas should contact or
  4. Discover the Indie Author Project. Last week, TSLAC and the Texas Center for the Book sponsored an event at which two Texas authors, Michelle Rene and Scott Semegran, received the Texas Author Award, an award given in several states and sponsored by the Indie Author Project. The Indie Author Project is an activity of BiblioBoard, a vendor who specializes in independent local and regional authors and who sells e-books to libraries with perpetual access and simultaneous use.
  5. Prize independent authors. Like the Indie Author Project, there are many ways that library-world prizes can honor independent authors. An excellent example is the inaugural 2019 E-book Award of the Black Caucus of the American Library Association which went to Ran Walker for his book, Daykeeper (45 Alternate Press, 2018), a book that has also won other literary and library awards.Librarians have a role in many literary awards and it is time that independent press books begin to be recognized.
  6. Seek policy remedies to library-unfriendly terms. In a number of states, legislation is being introduced to require publishers to sell to libraries on more friendly terms. Legislators in other states have recognized that if libraries are to serve their customers equally, they need to have equitable access to e-books, while also recognizing that publishers have legitimate concerns about protections from violations of copyright and unfair access. Alan Inouye of the ALA, wrote eloquently this week in The Hill about the need to ensure our copyright laws permit fair and open access to e-books and other content.
  7. Work with publishers to consider mutually beneficial models for sale and distribution of e-books. Several members of COSLA, the association of state librarians, most notably Washington State Librarian Cindy Aden, are working hard to develop models that will find a common ground between the needs of publishers to protect their content and their authors, and of libraries to serve their users. We will continue to work actively and in good faith to seek models that will continue the long and productive partnership between publishers and libraries.

There is much to be done in the e-book arena and we look forward to actions by libraries in Texas and nationally to change the dymanic around public access to e-books.

Links in this blog:

Broward County Library, Director’s Book Club:

E-Read Texas:

BiblioBoard content on E-Read Texas:

Indie Author Project:

Texas Author Awards:

Scott Semegran:

Michelle Rene:

Ran Walker:

New York Senate Bill S7576:

Alan Inouye, Bring back equitable access for the digital age:

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