COSLA Position on Access to eBooks

Position on eBooks
Prepared for the American Library Association eBook Summit, June 2018
Editorial revisions July 2018

COSLA has been involved in issues of eBooks and libraries for over 10 years. After some early activism that did not result in substantial changes in the attitudes of publishers or in garnering enough support for any federal legislative action, COSLA members chose instead to explore their own options within each of their states. Today many states offer a statewide eBook platform, but there is much variety in how this is being accomplished, ranging from known vendors to home-grown systems.   In March 2018 COSLA convened an eBook working group to explore whether there is more that it can do by leveraging its collective influence. The working group’s actions will include:

  • Identifying that the scope of its initial exploration is trade publication eBooks available to public libraries.
  • Taking an inventory of its member’s activities to determine how many statewide eBook initiatives there are and what the various models are.
  • Compiling member feedback to determine if there is a dominant solution, and if there is a compelling alternative solution that is working?  Also identifying the major issues and concerns regarding eBooks in libraries.
  • Following the activities of other library groups engaged in this discussion and looking for ways to support and amplify the messaging and actions of other like-minded groups.
  • Seeking ways to change how publishers offer their eBooks to libraries, for we know that libraries provide a reliable and high-quality recommendation and promotion service by encouraging reading, by promoting authors, titles and genres and by making all books free and available to all in the communities they serve. How can we get publishers to recognize the value of this contribution and to relax the strictures of lending models and high prices to the library market? Do we join Book Industry Study Group (BISG) en masse, open a new dialog with publishers, develop a media campaign to inform the public and policy makers on the issues?
  • Exploring all avenues, including legislative—there are members of Congress who would be interested in this issue, and there is an open question as to whether a change in the 1909 Copyright Law regarding right of resale needs to be amended to include eBooks. Would that change prevent publishers from charging more to libraries for the same content they sell to consumers at a third of the price?
  • Support alternative models and consider wide-scale adoption of a more equitable and library-friendly solution. Also, apply group pressure to vendors, publishers, distributors, if it can bring about changes in the pricing and availability of titles.
  • Work with all COSLA members and other library organizations to fight for more equitable and affordable solutions.