publishers, ebooks, and libraries


One of the things that Jim mentioned in our interview was that, while it is important for libraries to be involved in the world of ebooks and it is important for ebooks to be made available, every publishing house has a different attitude toward selling ebooks to libraries.  I decided to do some research into this myself, so: the top seven publishing houses and ebooks.

  • Random House Inc., whose popular titles include the Fifty Shades trilogy, George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series (basis for the HBO television series Game of Thrones), and Stieg Larsson’s Millenium trilogy (basis for popular films in both Europe and America): willing to make their entire “frontlist and backlist” of titles available to libraries, so that’s good, but raised the prices they charge libraries for these ebooks “as much as 300 percent,” which is bad.
  • HarperCollins, many of whose best-selling ebooks were unfamiliar to me: willing to sell every ebook they produce to libraries, which is good, but making libraries pay again after a title has been checked out 26 times, which is bad.
  • Macmillan, many of whose best-selling titles were unfamiliar to me: not willing to sell any ebook to libraries, which is bad, with the exception of some academic texts, which is better.
  • Penguin, many of whose front page ebooks were unfamiliar to me: willing to sell some ebooks to libraries, which is okay, but limiting that number of titles significantly, which is bad.
  • Simon & Schuster Inc.: not willing to sell any ebook to libraries, which is bad, though they are willing to sell audio files, which is… okay.  Not great.
  • Hachette, whose popular titles include Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter (basis for the upcoming film of the same name), the Twilight series (basis for the films and for many adolescents’ misguided fantasy lives), and books by Jon Stewart and his Daily Show writing team: willing to make their backlist available and possibly considering an arrangement for the rest.
  • Scholastic Inc., whose popular titles include the Harry Potter series and the Hunger Games trilogy: exploring opportunities, which is good.

In short: the existence of print libraries didn’t make people stop buying print books, so publishing houses need to learn that making ebooks available to libraries won’t make people stop buying ebooks either.


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