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Libraries Boycotting Random House over eBook Prices? No, Not so Much

There’s an interesting story on the CBC website today. South Shore Public Libraries,  a consortium based in the province of Nova Scotia, has declared a boycott. They won’t be buying anymore ebooks from Random House while prices remain unreasonably high.

"We’re not trying to pick a fight with Random House. We just want them to be good partners and they need to really stop seeing public libraries in this country and elsewhere as a threat. I think there’s been a long history of that over the years and this is the latest chapter in that story," said SSPL Chief Librarian Troy Myers.

This boycott comes as a response to Random House hiking the prices it charges libraries for ebooks. Early in March RH announced that it would now charge libraries 3 times the going retail price for ebooks. Naturally this did not go over well in some quarters. "The sharp price increase instituted by Random House will limit the number of ebooks SSPL can purchase for our borrowers' enjoyment," Myers added.

While I’m sure that some libraries are boycotting RH, I seriously doubt that it’s more than a handful. I was at a library conference a couple weeks back, and Random House’s ebook prices were a hot topic.

I overheard at least a half dozen conversations on this, and none of the librarians mentioned any interest in a boycott.  All were cutting back on the number of RH ebooks they purchased, but most still bought them. The attitudes ranged from mild frustration to acceptance, and none were annoyed enough to call for a boycott.

What’s more, there was even one librarian who justified the prices. She’s a librarian for the US Navy, and she saw the price increases as simply more of the same. Libraries have always paid more than consumers for better quality books, and the pricier ebooks simply expanded that into digital, as she saw it. After all, library ebooks are bound to last longer  and be used more than when the same title is purchased by consumers, so she thought it made sense for them to cost more.

Now, when I covered the price hike last month, I was livid. I thought then that the prices were extortionate (I still think that). But that’s not all that common of an attitude among librarians. I suppose that a lot are thinking about the other major publishers like Penguin, Macmillan, or Simon & Schuster – you know, the ones who don’t allow library ebooks at all.

As bad as the price hikes might be, there are greater evils.


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If it’s Tuesday. . . | madgeniusclub April 3, 2012 um 9:34 am

[…] exorbitant price increases. The first is about a group of libraries that are boycotting RH and the second casts doubt on whether there is a large-spread […]

Vince Juliano April 3, 2012 um 3:39 pm

South Shore Public Libraries are NOT alone!
On March 20th, Libraries Online (aka "LION"), a consortium of 25 Connecticut libraries, voted to hold a moratorium on purchasing eBooks from Random House because of its outrageous and discriminatory price increase for libraries. The price increase does not provide libraries with better quality books. It provides libraries only with a license to lend. It does not guarantee ownership or the ability to retain use of the electronic file if publisher, distributor, or format changes. It ignores vital, traditional library services, like interlibrary loan, for example.
Nate, you should stay livid, and every librarian should get livid, now, while we can still make a difference in serving the public that depends on us.

Libarbarian April 3, 2012 um 4:44 pm

Nova Scotia is not an island. Part of it is, Cape Breton Island, but Halifax and the bulk of it are part of the mainland. As to boycott, what did this library do when HarperCollins instituted their 26 loan limit? A more heinous restriction in my mind.

Cindy April 17, 2012 um 7:28 pm

I have stopped purchasing Random House books from Overdrive. I refuse to spend the taxpayers' money on highway robbery. I prefer the way the Harry Potter books were handled, with a 5 year limit. Popular books can be pretty raggedy after 5 years (not 26 checkouts).

When is a Boycott Not a Boycott? – The Digital Reader April 19, 2012 um 7:51 pm

[…] libraries 3 times the going retail price for ebooks. That didn’t go over well, with first one library consortium in Nova Scotia and then another in Connecticut announcing that they were going to boycott Random House ebooks.It […]

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