Librarians this week held a press conference urging the public to support them in their bid to get Macmillan to abandon plans to embargo new release e-books in libraries. And now the work begins.
Among the speakers at the press conference, Nashville Public Library (NPL) director Kent Oliver told reporters that the “most troubling” part of Macmillan's e-book embargo, which is set to kick in on November 1, is “the indirect message” is sends: “that only those who are able to and willing to pay for literature and information deserve to have it as soon as it is available.” That goes against everything we stand for.” And I personally was taken by Columbus (Ohio) Metropolitan Library CEO Patrick Losinski, who pointed out to reporters that the issues facing libraries, authors, and publishers in the e-book world are eminently "solvable."
It's true. Librarians may not like high prices and term-limited licenses, as Losinski suggested, but libraries understand the market, and fundamentally accept that there are trade-offs to be made in the digital realm. Losinski concisely, effectively made a key point: libraries are willing to work with publishers, and can accept many restrictions, but basic access is not one of them.
“This is not the time to drive a wedge between the proven partnership for success that authors, publishers and public libraries have enjoyed," Losinski said. “Libraries are not competitors, we’re collaborators."
For me, the press conference represented an important moment for the library e-book market. No, not because of the ALA’s two modest actions announced this week—an online petition and a new e-book book club are hardly game-changers. Rather because librarians and library supporters will now be put to the test—can they sustain the pressure needed to change the minds of Macmillan executives? Can they hold the line on access, and perhaps draw the attention of legislators?
Or will this movement burn bright at the start, and burn out? I'm guessing Macmillan executives are betting it’s the latter.
Among the many outlets picking up on the e-book issue, following ALA's press conference this week, Slate raises a key point. "What’s unclear is whether the association can get the public to understand a byzantine-seeming dispute over electronic files and the right to download them."
From American Libraries ALA's Alan Inouye updates librarians on the next stage in the e-book realm. "Looking ahead, the two prongs of librarian criticism and public outcry will be supplemented with political ones. ALA has already begun work on this issue and is contemplating further possibilities."
Here at PW, we are already hearing (and seeing) proof that lawmakers are engaging with the library e-book issue, both at the federal and state levels. No doubt e-books will be on the agenda for the ALA at 2020 National Library Legislative Day, which ALA announced this week is returning this coming May. The event took a a year off as the 2019 ALA Annual Conference was held in DC this past June.
From Fast Company, a look at Amazon's announcement that it is publicly launching a program called Alexa Answers, "which lets anyone field questions asked by users for which Alexa doesn’t already have a response, " noting that the information is “according to an Amazon customer.” What could go wrong?
From Philadelphia Magazine, a look Inside Temple’s new $175 Million Charles Library. "The library, conceived as a public space as much as one for academic research, is instantly the most beautiful building on Temple’s campus. One trade-off: Most of the traditionally open book stacks are now a robot-only domain."
The Baltimore Sun, meanwhile, has a look at the renovation of the Enoch Pratt Free Library's central library building. "The printed word still matters here. The book collection has been emphasized and fills what seem to be miles of shelving on the ground floor. The placement of these shelves urges a reader to pick up a good book and start reading."
What on your walls? From the local Daily Record, reports on how a painting hanging for more than 60 years at the Dover (New Jersey) Free Public Library sold at a Sotheby’s auction for a cool $4.8 million. And, how that money will now benefit the library.
From The Charlotte Observer, a report that a Drag Queen Story hour will return to the Headquarters Library in Spartanburg, SC later this month, despite backlash from the some in the community earlier this year. A local resident told reporters that “the protest wasn’t as gigantic as we thought it was going to be the last time.”