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Library link: The continued struggle over securing eContent

Libraries have long been a crucial part of communities, providing a hub for learning and literacy through a model of subsidized access for all people. More so now than ever, they are sources of free eContent, such as eBooks and eAudiobooks.

Libraries have long been a crucial part of communities, providing a hub for learning and literacy through a model of subsidized access for all people.

More so now than ever, they are sources of free eContent, such as eBooks and eAudiobooks. At Airdrie Public Library (APL), we have seen high numbers of digital downloads throughout the pandemic. The variety of eContent available to people through libraries is the result of partnerships with publishers.

Publishers, of course, are the companies that produce the books you borrow. However, Canadian libraries continue to face a crisis in their relationship with these publishers.

Even as the demand for eBooks and eAudiobooks has skyrocketed, major multi-national publishers are still not making several best-selling titles available to Canadian public libraries, including some prominent Canadian and Indigenous works.

Last year, APL participated in an aggressive national campaign directed at the big publishers. Led by the Canadian Urban Libraries Council, the argument was that a lack of availability and high prices stood in the way of open, easy access to eBooks and eAudiobooks for library patrons.

While the campaign brought awareness to the issue, the prices public libraries pay for digital copies continue to be exponentially high. In some cases, it’s as much as two to five times the cost of a physical copy.

Worse yet, certain digital copies – including from popular authors such as Trevor Noah, Harlan Coben, and Nora Roberts – are simply unavailable to Canadian public libraries due to restrictions by their publishers.

Libraries and publishers share the mutual goal of getting reading material into the hands of Canadians. Libraries, which have significant purchasing power, introduce their patrons to new titles and authors. This directly influences potential customers and fuels sales outside the library, as well.

Libraries want to share as many stories and ideas as possible in whatever format patrons want. But for this to happen, multi-national publishers need to work directly with libraries to make their titles more easily available.

We encourage readers to visit econtentforlibraries.org and join our social media awareness campaign.

With notes from econtentforlibraries.org.