After decades of selling books to public libraries, several of the largest publishers are now refusing to sell the latest format -- e-books. Some publishers do make e-books available, but at very high prices, and others impose onerous restrictions on lending. These obstacles add up to keeping e-books, including half of the New York Times best seller list, out of the hands of adults and children who rely on the public library for reading material.
E-books are here to stay. A study by the Pew Research Center's Internet and American Life Project found that 20 percent of adults had read an e-book over the past year. And libraries are already responding to the demand. Today 76 percent of public libraries offer e-books to patrons and are looking for ways to purchase more e-books with fewer barriers.
How does it make any sense in the United States for publishers to refuse to sell to public libraries? Libraries represent some of the core values of this country -- the freedom to read, the freedom to learn, and universal access to books. How does it make any sense to withhold e-books from people who depend on libraries? Americans lives are increasingly dependent on electronic tools. Why would we accept that Americans will not have access to e-books via the public library?
Public librarians can't resolve the e-book issue alone. They need citizens and leaders to lend their voices of concern about the importance of the freedom to read and learn through your public library. What can you do? Make your local and state elected officials and members of Congress aware of publishers’ refusal to sell e-books to libraries. Join your local librarians and ask elected officials to tell publishers that everyone deserves the freedom to read their way -- in the 21st century.