Have you ever tried to download a bestselling novel from the library, only to find it wasn’t even listed catalog? You can find it in print from the library, but not the electronic version. What gives?
The short answer is publisher fear. Some publishers refuse to deal with libraries for fear their profit margin will shrink. Others impose a variety of restrictions that make purchasing an e-book far more expensive than purchasing a print copy. For an example, check out this post from Library Journal that explains why our library no longer judges purchasing titles from HarperCollins to be a wise use of taxpayer money. Still others, such as Penguin, have issues with Amazon, and libraries get caught in the middle.
For an excellent explanation of this convoluted mess, see this summary by the Times Colonist. Please understand that we, as librarians, would love to be able to purchase all of the e-books that you, our patrons want to read. We are doing are best to convince publishers that allowing library patrons to borrow their books may stimulate sales, rather than steal them. If you would like to add your voice, the publishers in question include HarperCollins, Penguin, Hachette, Simon & Schuster, and Macmillan. Contact them and let them know what you think about their policies concerning e-books and libraries.
After writing the first draft of this post, I saw an article in Consumer Reports about publishers named above, who are currently under federal investigation for fixing prices on e-books in the US and Europe. It will be very interesting to see how this plays out…