The ALA this week released a “media kit” to help librarians take their case for e-books to the people, continuing efforts it kicked off in September to give the simmering e-book issue more public attention. Although the past few weeks have seen glimmers of potential progress on the library e-book question, with Macmillan acknowledging it was preparing a pilot program for get into e-book lending, for example, and Penguin expanding its pilot program to more libraries and vendors, including Baker & Taylor, ALA officials said the pace of movement was unsatisfactory.
“While there has been some movement by some publishers, it is not enough,” reads an ALA release. “Librarians and our allies must speak out more forcefully in communities across the country. Everyone needs to know that libraries offer e-books and 21st century library services, but we are unable to offer all the e-reading choices our patrons need because some publishers refuse to work with us. ALA provides this toolkit of resources to support your efforts to address this national problem.”
The media kit offers a variety of “templates” and guidelines for using them, including editorial and media contacts, “news hooks,” tips for “relationship building with media contacts,” and links to “examples of e-book-related editorials” and news stories. The kit also offers guidance on communicating the details of e-book lending policies to “patrons and community leaders.”
The release comes weeks after ALA published an open letter intended to ramp up the public pressure on publishers that are not permitting libraries to lend e-books, or overly restricting them. In the letter, Sullivan stressed that libraries can no longer “stand by and do nothing while some publishers deepen the digital divide,” or “wait passively while some publishers deny access to our cultural record.” She argued that readers should “rightfully expect the same access to e-books as they have to printed books,” and demanded publishers explore more creative solutions.
“We have met and talked sincerely with many of these publishers,” Sullivan writes. “We have sought common ground by exploring new business models and library lending practices. But these conversations only matter if they are followed by action.”
The letter, and the release of the toolkit indicate a continuing shift in strategy from ALA. After a year of mostly cordial talks between libraries and the big six publishers on the issue of e-book access, ALA is now taking the issue to the public, hoping to ramp up a level of consumer and media pressure on publishers. In addition to the letter, ALA has also begun the publication of a monthly pricing report for books on the New York Times bestseller list. Compiled by the Douglas County Libraries (Colo.) and published on the American Libraries Web site, it shows that many books on the New York Times lists are not available to libraries at all in e-book format, and, of those that are available, markups for libraries are up to six times the consumer price for the same title.