As of October 1, the world’s largest English language trade publisher will shift from a "perpetual access" model (where libraries pay a higher price but retain access to the e-book forever) to a metered model (with titles priced at lower levels, but expiring after two years).
Reaction to the change has been fairly muted among librarians so far. With the fine print of the new terms still not known, librarians are taking heart in PRH's vow not to embargo titles, and to remain engaged with libraries. That’s not an insignificant point—especially after Macmillan officials sent librarians the exact opposite message in July, when they announced a four-month embargo on new titles from its Tor Division without any consultation with or warning to libraries.
“Unlike the terrible shift in lending policy announced in July by Tor and Macmillan Publishers, PRH’s change is neutral or even a bit positive for U.S. libraries,” observed Alan Inouye, on the American Libraries web site. "One important conclusion from this change is that PRH has renewed its commitment to libraries. The company has been talking to librarians and evaluating the market."
But on the negative side, Inouye points out, is price. While PRH is lowering its price on e-books for the second time since 2016 as part of the shift, high e-book pricing for libraries remains a major issue with all of the major publishers, not just PRH.
Meanwhile, on a broader note, with two publishers making significant changes in two months, the library e-book market appears to be heating up again after years of relative calm. And what happens next, remains unclear.
“At the heart of the conflict is the effect of library e-book lending on the publishing ecosystem,” Inouye writes. “Multiple hypotheses have been proposed, but little solid cause-and-effect evidence exists.”
Inouye points to the recently launched Panorama Project as a potentially positive development that could shed light on the library/publisher ecosystem. With initial funding provided by OverDrive, the Panorama Project will track various data to gain insights into how libraries, publishers, booksellers, and distributors work together, as well as “the impact of library holdings on book discovery, author brand development, and sales.” Both Macmillan and Penguin Random House are participating in the project.
But one thing seems clear at this point: The Panorama Project can't be the whole ball game. And without the ALA’s Digital Content Working Group, which ended last year after its six-year charter expired, librarians will need to effectively re-engage with publishers on the e-book issue. More to come.
In other ALA News, the organization this week announced that it is exploring the sale of its headquarters buildings at 40 and 50 East Huron Street in Chicago. "The ALA Executive Board and staff are committed to the mission of ALA and its long-term ability to support its members as they serve their libraries and communities,” reports a post on the American Libraries web site. “The ALA headquarters are an important part of our history and have served members and staff well. But just as our communities, our libraries, and our work lives have changed, so have the needs of the Association—including those of our workplace.”
And while you're on the American Libraries site, check out this Q&A with Susan Orlean, author of the forthcoming The Library Book.
In Europe, Nature reports on the open access movement's taking another huge step forward this week, with a "radical open-access initiative" that "could change the face of science publishing in two years—and which has instantly provoked protest from publishers." Nature reports the plan would "bar researchers from publishing in 85% of journals, including influential titles such as Nature and Science," in favor of publishing in open access journals.
Twitter this week permanently banned Alex Jones. The last straw apparently came when the conspiracy theorist tweeted out a video of himself heckling a CNN reporter. The Atlantic called the banning an important moment, representing "a definitive stance after years of inaction and half-measures" by the company.
Elsewhere in the social media universe, Facebook's Sheryl Sandberg and Twitter's Jack Dorsey testified this week in front of the Senate Intelligence Committee. Google meanwhile, had better things to do, apparently. According to Wired, Senator Mark Warner, vice chair of the committee, is not pleased with Google.
In The New York Times, Siva Vaidhyanathan, author of Antisocial Media: How Facebook Disconnects Us and Undermines Democracy, has an op-ed on why Facebook may never be fixed: "Facebook has put impressive effort into reforming itself around the margins. But considering the harm that Facebook has caused—sharing user data with unauthorized third parties, spreading propaganda that sets off ethnic violence, hosting attacks on elections around the world—exterminating most of the pests is not good enough. Stopping all of them is impossible. Facebook is too big to govern and too big to fix. We might just have to accept that."
Over at the EFF's Deep Links blog, Cory Doctorow has a piece calling on citizens to defeat the new EU Copyright Directive. "In exactly one week, the European Parliament will hold a crucial debate and vote on a proposal so terrible, it can only be called an extinction-level event for the Internet as we know it," Doctorow writes.
In June, we reported that the EU's 2016 Directive on Copyright in the Digital Single Market was headed for a key committee vote this week, which later passed. At the time, Wired had a piece on how the measure could "screw up the whole Internet." Doctorow agrees, calling the measure's "extreme, unworkable proposals" a "grave danger to the Internet."
In July, we reported on Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh's baffling take on net neutrality. This week, Gigi Sohn takes up that fight in an op-ed for NBC News. "His decided opposition to net neutrality and any oversight of big broadband and cable companies like Comcast, AT&T and Verizon represent another incredibly problematic aspect of his judicial rulings that could have a broad impact on Americans for decades to come.
The University of North Carolina is trying to figure out what to do with some Confederate monuments. According to a report in The News & Observer, the UNC librarians don't want them in the library.
And we close on some good news. Well done, James Patterson! The mega-bestselling author just donated another $2 million to classroom libraries.