Ebook Pricing Hikes Amount to Price-Gouging

The Chronicle of Higher Education has published a letter to the editor by Susan Stearns, Executive Director of the Boston Library Consortium, and John Unsworth, President Elect of the Boston Library Consortium. The authors have expressed their frustration over the increased subscription prices for academic ebook titles for the 2015 fiscal year:

“In the BLC program, publishers charge libraries for ebooks based on a model that combines payment for short-term use of a title by a student or researcher with the purchase of the title after a few short-term uses. In this way, libraries pay full price for an ebook that meets the needs of multiple readers, and pay a fractional price for ebooks that are of use to only one or two people. This month the BLC was surprised to learn that a number of the publishers in this program planned immediate, significant, and unexplained increases in price”.

The authors cite the significant price inflation for electronic scientification journals as problematic, as it has far surpassed any increase in library acquisitions funding. BLC fears academic ebook pricing could go the same way, making subscriptions increasingly expensive to retain.

‘The Library ebook Situation is Appalling’

GoodEReader has published a story on the difficulties US libraries have had with ebooks. Jeanette Woodward, author of a number of books including The Transformed Library: E-books, Expertise and Evolution, sums up the problem:

“Trade publishers have always had an unrealistic idea of library circulation… They imagine that library books circulate 50 or more times, causing them to lose 49 sales. This attitude, of course, ignores the many books that circulate rarely and assumes that library readers would purchase every book they borrow. Because the industry is in financial difficulty, it may be even more anxious to lay blame on libraries.”

Woodward notes that individual libraries have limited power when dealing with ebook vendors, stressing the importance of professional organisations such as ALA in negotiating with publishers.

The article also applauds the 3M Cloud Library Service, which recently unveiled new tools that actually allow libraries to sell eBooks and make a commission. This puts money in the pocket of the library, the digital distributor and publisher. The article predicts that libraries as retail, is a trend that will continue to grow in 2014.