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Margita Lidaka LIS 701 12/3/2011

E-Books and the Future
Libraries have traditionally been thought of as a warehouse of knowledge, and most importantly the keeper of books. As stated by the Online Computer Library Center (OCLC), “libraries always have been and may always be synonymous with books” (qtd. in Buczynski 11). But with the modern age, libraries have evolved and continue to do so to keep up with technology. This can be seen with public libraries that now offer many services beyond print, such as computer access and social networking classes. The print book itself has evolved into e-books, which are electronic books. E-books are becoming an important part of the public library’s collection, and will become increasingly popular as e-book technology advances over the future years. There are many positive aspects as well as issues with the current e-book model and e-book availability. But one must look towards the future to determine what the outcome for the e-book will be. One will analyze and generate ideas about what the next 5 years will hold for the e-book in public libraries. This works toward learning about the e-books different aspects and also what its usage should aspire to be. “An EBook … is electronic text (also known as etext or e-text) that is available in a digitally encoded format readable via an electronic device. Etext itself is a digital version of a published work such as a book” (Wexelbaum, Miltenoff, and Parault 1). Ebooks started out being available through CD-ROMS, but they are now available online and have increased in popularity. They can now be accessed through the computer, read


through many different devices such as the Nook, Kindle, Apple iPad and even viewed on cellphones. Many public libraries offer free e-book lending through a vendor. Ebooks are great for portability and they can also save on space within the library’s physical building. As said by Genco, e-books “raise circulation, offer a 24/7 service for patrons who may not have a schedule that allows them to visit the library, do not require shelf space … and allow lending flexibility (qtd. in Polanka 56). But there has been pushback by publishers and companies against having free e-book access available through public libraries. The purchasing of the right to circulate e-books can also be very expensive for libraries, especially during such an uncertain economic time. The positive and negative aspects of e-books must be analyzed. In the future, there will be a great amount of pushback from book publishers and even e-reader device manufacturers against allowing public libraries to provide free ebook loans to their patrons. There is currently much concern from publishers over losing revenue as well as the security of their materials. Publishers will continue to try and fight against library e-book lending. This can be seen with the current actions by publishers. The publishers Simon & Schuster as well as MacMillan do not allow their e-books to be made available to public libraries. HarperCollins Publishing announced that they would start a new policy in March 2011 through which their e-books would only be allowed to circulate 26 times, after which the library would have to pay for the title again. The HarperCollins head of sales “justified the 26 circulations by making the analogy that print books in a library collections wear out and need to be replaced” (Ojala 36). Penguin Books has made a similar choice to change their e-book availability. It originally removed all of the library accessible e-books that were available in Kindle format. They


restored the Kindle books, but they have stopped allowing their new titles in e-book format to be available to libraries. They will also not be allowing future e-book titles to be used by public library lending services. According to Penguin Books as found at, “due to new concerns about the security of our digital editions, we find it necessary to delay the availability of our new titles in the digital format while we resolve these concerns with our business partners” (qtd. in SLJ Staff). These current decisions and actions made by publishers is a highlight of what the future holds for the ebook. There will likely be further restrictions and removal of access placed by publishers as they try to protect their assets. In an interview with HarperCollins, Josh Marwell in “Our Ebook Future: The Digital Shift said, “Intellectual property is the core of our business … Though far from perfect, DRM [digital rights management] plays an important role in protecting the work of our authors. We are not considering changing this position at this time.” (found at This highlights the decisions that will unravel over the next 5 years as big publishing houses fight against libraries, who are trying to provide equal access to e-books for their patrons. There is also the high cost for public libraries to purchase the licenses for e-books. Public libraries pay more than the public for a license to e-books, and they often subscribe to them rather than owning a copy. This is different from how it currently works with print copies, as the library gets to own the copy of the print version of the book. “Ebooks on average cost more than print books. Fees over and above print retail prices are charged for hosting the title on a server, whether they are charged annually as a ‘platform fee’ ($500-$3000+) or one-time perpetual access (print retail price plus 50%)” (Buczynski 14). This is an expensive venture and it will continue to be in the years to


come. As publishers continue to work on keeping a tight grip on the e-book market, public libraries will continue to pay high fees to rent the licenses in order to circulate ebooks. As Carrie Russell was quoted as saying at, “library spending on ebooks has doubled or even tripled over the last year…New York Public Library alone is spending $1 million a year on ebooks.” (ALA director of OITP Program on Public Access to Information) With the price issues and pushback from publishers, ALA and public libraries around the world will fight back against all these restrictions and issues in the future. In order to continue providing e-book access to its patrons for free, public libraries will take on the fight against the current e-book licensing model as well as the publishers’ limits or lack of participation in library e-book lending. Public libraries will take a strong stand against the current e-book practices in the next 5 years, and this will include boycotts as well as protests in order to have their voices heard. Librarians, as well as patrons, will take on the fight against publishers and digital rights management rules, as publishers and the DRM has made the use of e-books by libraries incredibly difficult. Especially since “digital rights management technologies strictly enforce publisher and distributor business models that focus on direct-to-consumer sales. Library-centric vendors have increased their eBook title offerings to libraries, but there remains a large gap in terms of time of release … Libraries need to play at this critical juncture lest they should be left out or sidelined in the emerging eBook marketplace.” (Buczynski 18). There has already been some backlash against publishers over the current e-book standards. When the HarperCollins revised library e-book policy came out there were calls for boycotting the company as well as many letters written by librarians to HarperCollins and the OverDrive


e-book digital distributor (Ojala 36). ALA has spoken out against Penguin’s decision to stop providing new titles to library’s e-book lending services, and will continue to speak out against it until the titles are allowed back in libraries’ e-book lending. There was also a letter written to the e-book creators and sellers in California and Florida, which called for a better model and price point for the e-books that libraries deal with. As listed at, a few things that it asks for include “offer popular titles at reasonable prices … provide e-books in standard format with standard digital rights management … provide for electronic check-out to customers similar to how we lend hard copy items.” These statements and rumblings are just the beginning for what should be coming in the next 5 years. As more instances similar to those of HarperCollins and Penguin Books happen, and while there are “predictions that the ebook will account for over 50% of purchases worldwide within 10 years” (qtd. in Duncan 44), librarians and their patrons will take bigger steps towards gaining a standard pricing and model for e-books within public libraries. In the way that librarians have fought against the violation of privacy due to the Patriot Act and against any hindrances to Intellectual Freedom, they will fight for more rights in regards to e-books in the next 5 years. With the fight by librarians that will likely take a few years, the future will then lead to a better e-book model and more titles available for lending in e-book form. Pricing will likely still be higher as so many publishers are concerned over their profit, as they know that librarians feel the urge to provide e-books to fulfill their patrons needs. But the prices will likely be a bit lower than they are now. There will also be a standardized model that fits the libraries’ needs in order to best serve their patrons. As libraries fight as a united front against the current e-book practices, they can get the


attention of publishers and authors alike and then get what they need while also benefitting publishers as well as e-reader creators. As said in the open letter at, “library staff will develop customers for you. Librarians are great at helping the public learn about technology and will help readers learn about e-books and e-book readers … Libraries buy lots of books, spending about $2 billion annually.” As libraries gain success in more e-book rights in the future, they can then focus on providing more service to their patrons. This could include greater ability to provide actual e-readers to their patrons, which could be borrowed by their patrons for a specific loan period. This is already happening at the River Forest Public Library, where patrons can borrow Kindles for a loan period of three weeks with no renewals. The Kindles have been very popular, and also allows the patrons to try out the device before purchasing it (Polanka 69). By having this ability, libraries could better provide equal access to patrons when it comes to e-books. This would work along with one of the library’s value of allowing their patrons’ equal access to resources, and it would help fight against any digital divide that could occur due to economic situations. As noted by Laura Lent, “I don’t think we should be too quick to cede our role (valuable provider of books/ebooks to citizens) to market forces that could leave out broad swaths of our communities and leave even middle-class readers hard-pressed to afford their reading habits” (qtd. in Fialkoff et al. 18). Libraries will be able to focus on more their patrons and the new e-book technology that will be around by 2016. An idea that might happen in the future is the combining of vending machines with e-reader devices. Such a machine for books and DVDs, has been used at libraries before. In the book “This Book is Overdue! How Librarians and Cybrarians Can Save Us


All!”, there is discussion of this type of machine at a library in Oslo as “it had a machine she could visit any hour of the day or night … Hay described it as ‘a small automated library branch—in a box. It’s robotic on the inside, uses RFID, the radio frequency tags, all robotic arms, and you can borrow books and DVDs from it’” (Johnson 44). With the popularity of the RedBox model where one can pick up and return rental movies at a physical box location, this idea could maybe be applied to library items in the future. As “the number of e-reader devices will continue to grow, their capabilities will increase, and prices will decrease” (Duncan 53) and this will increase the likelihood of libraries being able to check out numerous e-readers. These more affordable e-readers could be placed in vending machines. Vending machines in libraries could also provide three positive aspects, “24/7 access to collections at minimal staffing costs … the ability to place a library outlet in high traffic locations … flexibility in locating library services” (Monley 133). This will hopefully be something that takes off in the year 2016. E-books have come a long way, and they will certainly make much progress in the future. There will be a fight for libraries to achieve progress in e-book accessibility for their patrons, and also to be able to keep up with the demands of technology and patrons. But librarians have remained steadfast throughout their history, and they will certainly stick with the issues that arise with e-books. It will be a hard fight over the next 5 years, but librarians should be able to pull through and get more rights for e-book lending in the future. Between now and 2016, there will certainly be interesting technological advances to keep an eye on. It will be interesting to see what layout the ereaders will take, and how they can become even easier to use. But with all the changes to come in the future, librarians will ultimately succeed. As said by Marilyn Johnson, “in


the first decade of the twenty-first century, at the intersection of rapid change and financial meltdown, some of its librarians carve out a niche, some get iced out, and some help plan the future of the libraries and how we use them” (171).


Works Cited
Buczynski, James A. "Library eBooks: Some can't Find them, Others Find them and Don't Know what they are." Internet Reference Services Quarterly 15.1 (2010): 119. Web. Crowe et al. "Librarians to Ebook Creators and Sellers: LIbrary Model Needed." Library Journal 5 May 2010 2010. Web. 30 Nov. 2011 <>. Duncan, Ross. "Ebooks and Beyond: The Challenge for Public Libraries." APLIS 23.2 (2010): 44-55. Web. Fialkoff, Francine, et al. “Our Ebook Challenge (Cover Story). 135 Vol. Library Journals, LLC, 2010. Web. Johnson, Marilyn. This Book is Overdue! : How Librarians and Cybrarians can Save Us all. New York: Harpercollins, 2010. Print. Monley, Bruce. "Vending Machine Collection Dispensers in Libraries." APLIS 24.3 (2011): 133-8. Web. Ojala, Marydee. "Challenging Ebook Lending Policies." Information Today 28.4 (2011): 1-37. Web. Polanka, Sue. No Shelf Required : E-Books in Libraries. Chicago: American Library Association, 2011. Print. Rich, Motoko. "Libraries and Readers Wade into Digital Lending." The New York Times 9

15 Oct. 2009. Web. 2009 3 Dec. 2011. <>. Sheehan, Kate. "Our Ebook Future: The Digital Shift. Librarians and Publishers in Dialog." Library Journal 1 Oct. 2011. Web. 30 Nov. 2011 <>. SLJ Staff. "ALA Calls Penguin's Decision to Pull New Library Ebooks an Insult." School Library Journal 23 Nov. 2011. Web. 30 Nov. 2011 <>. Wexelbaum, Rachel, Plamen Miltenoff, and Susan Parault. "Ebook and Reading Comprehension: Perspectives of Librarians and Educators." Bibliosphere 13 (2010): 1-12. Web.