The American Library Association (ALA) has issued a statement urging Random House to reconsider its recent hike in the price of e-books to the library market. While ALA president Molly Raphael praised Random House’s “engagement with libraries and its commitment to perpetual access,” she urged Random House to scale back the price increase. “I am deeply disappointed in the severe escalation in e-book pricing,” Raphael said. “The American Library Association strongly urges Random House to reconsider its decision. In a time of extreme financial constraint, a major price increase effectively curtails access for many libraries, and especially our communities that are hardest hit economically.”
In response, Stuart Applebaum, spokesman for Random House, said the publisher welcomes “continuing discussions on the value we place on the unrestricted perpetuity, as well as the simultaneous release of our titles to retail booksellers and public libraries, the key differentiating factors determining our new pricing to library wholesalers.”
While Random House’s plan to revisit pricing was initially praised by librarians, as the price hike came with a commitment to library lending of e-books at a time when five of the big six publishers restrict e-book lending, libraries have reacted harshly to steep increase in Random House’s new prices—as much as triple the price of hardcover books.
In a post this morning on the PWxyz blog, PW contributing editor Peter Brantley criticized the increase. “Higher prices means that many libraries will have to cut back their book acquisition, further restricting access to digital books, which is an obvious publisher goal of this strategy,” Brantley observes. “Increasingly, the most popular titles are not going to be available at any library, and those that are, will be far more available in rich communities than poor ones.”