An open letter about eBooks and Douglas County Libraries

This is a time of great change in the publishing world. In the print world, public libraries are volume purchasers. Across the nation, we buy about 10% of all the books produced by commercial publishers.ereader We buy about 40% of all children's books. Because of the many millions of dollars we spend, we typically get significant publisher discounts. That's part of the cooperative purchasing value of the library, and it has benefitted both publishers and taxpayers for over a century.

Many of our patrons are also interested in ebooks. But lately publishers are changing the rules. Some -- four of the "big six" -- won't sell ebooks to libraries at all. The two that did, HarperCollins and Random House, unilaterally changed the terms. HarperCollins requires us to "buy" the book again after 26 checkouts. (It's really more of a license to read than a purchase.) Random House recently raised the price of a new ebook by 300%. So a fiction title might cost $80; a non-fiction title, $120.

That's neither sensible nor sustainable. While the Douglas County Libraries will continue to buy print copies of popular titles published by the big six, we won't be spending $120 for a single copy of an ebook.

In a free market, companies are free to set their prices. But we are free to seek a better deal - and we've found one. Instead of passively accepting what amounts to a 33% reduction in the purchasing power of the library, we'll be extending our network of electronic publishers to include those who are more responsive to our needs and budgets.

We have now identified some 12 groups of publishers, comprising over 800 individual companies. We have purchased from them over 7,000 ebook titles, which are now available from our catalog. We are buying the titles at discount, and we actually own them. This model of distribution, created by Douglas County Libraries, is now being picked up by hundreds of libraries across the nation. And we're signing up new publishers every day.

We encourage you to explore the offerings of those organizations which, like us, are pioneers in the 21st century world of publishing. You'll find fine children's books, reputable reference works, novels, histories, and romances.