ALA vs. AAP: The Blow-by-Blow

ALA vs. AAP

The battle is heating up between two industries struggling to find their way in the digital world.  Publishers are trying to figure out the best distribution models for ebooks while libraries are shut out of providing ebooks by several major publishers.  The proxy battle is being fought by the American Library Association (ALA) and the Association of American Publishers (AAP).

The beginning stages in 2011 (see Eric Hellman’s blog post on 1/1/2012) were just the beginning.  Last month saw an aggressive ALA president issue demands to the publishers who responded quickly in an equally stern manner.

Here is a timeline of headlines and press releases which described blow-by-blow the actions and reactions of the two sides.

1/1/2012 – AAP: 2011: The Year the eBook Wars Broke Out [Go To Hellman]

2/2/2012 – AAP: Fair Trade: Random House Will Raise Library E-book Prices, But Commits to E-Book Lending [Publishers Weekly]

2/3/2012 – AAP: Random House makes history, says it will sell books to libraries with no restriction on number of loans [Melville House]

2/9/2012 – ALA: Penguin Group Terminating Its Contract with OverDrive [The Digital Shift]

3/2/2012 – AAP: Librarians Feel Sticker Shock as Price for Random House Ebooks Rises as Much as 300 Percent [The Digital Shift]

3/22/2012 – AAP: Video: Annual Meeting, Publishers and Libraries Panel [Association of American Publishers]

5/18/2012 – ALA: Ebooks: Promising New Conversations [American Libraries]

5/29/2012 – ALA: E-Content: The Digital Dialog supplement [American Library Association]

6/21/2012 – AAP: Penguin to Pilot Library E-Book Lending Program in New York, Windowing Front-List Titles [Digital Book World]

8/8/2012 – ALA: ALA Releases “Ebook Business Models for Public Libraries” [ALA Digital Content and Libraries Working Group]

9/14/2012 – AAP: Hachette Book Group’s New Library eBook Pricing [OverDrive]

9/14/2012 – ALA: This Just In: ALA Decries Hachette’s 104% Library Ebook Price Increase (Corrected) [American Libraries]

9/24/2012 – AAP: Macmillan Poised to Test Library E-book Model [Publishers Weekly]

9/24/2012 – ALA: An open letter to America’s publishers from ALA President Maureen Sullivan [ALA Press Release]

9/25/2012 – AAP: AAP Statement in Response to American Library Association President’s Letter [AAP Press Release]

9/27/2012 – ALA: Remarks by ALA President Maureen Sullivan at the Association of American Publishers Fall Meeting [American Libraries]

10/2/2012 – ALA: Focus on the Future [American Libraries]

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Microsoft Office 365 book
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Browse the two collections:

Does the Digital Public Library of America Have a Future?

Technology Review Library GraphicSeveral companies and organizations are attempting to make all printed books available online.  From Project Gutenberg (public domain books only), to Google Book Search, the HathiTrust, and the Open Library.  Now, Harvard’s Berkman Center for Internet and Society is creating the Digital Pulbic Library of America (DPLA).  But with issues of copyright, does the DPLA have a future?

From Technology Review:

It sounds straightforward. And if it were just a matter of moving bits and bytes around, a universal online library might already exist. Google, after all, has been working on the challenge for 10 years. But the search giant’s book program has foundered; it is mired in a legal swamp. Now another momentous project to build a universal library is taking shape. It springs not from Silicon Valley but from Harvard University. The Digital Public Library of America—the DPLA—has big goals, big names, and big contributors. And yet for all the project’s strengths, its success is far from assured. Like Google before it, the DPLA is learning that the major problem with constructing a universal library nowadays has little to do with technology. It’s the thorny tangle of legal, commercial, and political issues that surrounds the publishing business. Internet or not, the world may still not be ready for the library of utopia.

The DPLA still has to overcome fundamental issues of its mission, goals, and even its name and role as a library.

Read the article The Library of Utopia.

Justice Department To Sue Apple and Major Publishers

iPadThe fallout from the implementation of the agency model for ebook selling hasn’t died.  Today, the Wall Street Journal says that the US Justice Department is going to sue Apple and five major book publishers.

The five publishers facing a potential suit are CBS Corp.’s Simon & Schuster Inc.; Lagardere SCA’s Hachette Book Group; Pearson PLC’s Penguin Group (USA); Macmillan, a unit of Verlagsgruppe Georg von Holtzbrinck GmbH; and HarperCollins Publishers Inc., a unit of News Corp. , which also owns The Wall Street Journal.

[…]

The case centers on Apple’s move to change the way that publishers charged for e-books as it prepared to introduce its first iPad in early 2010. Traditionally, publishers sold books to retailers for roughly half of the recommended cover price. Under that “wholesale model,” booksellers were then free to offer those books to customers for less than the cover price if they wished. Most physical books are sold using this model.

There are several proposed ideas for settling the matter.  One idea is “to preserve the agency model but allow some discounts by booksellers” but it’s unclear how that would work.  Another idea is delaying the release of digital versions after the publishing of the printed version.

Read the article U.S. Warns Apple, Publishers.

Library Ebooks Lending Progress

Random HouseLast week we posted that ALA would meet with major publishers to discuss making their ebooks available in libraries.  Was there any progress?  Actually, there was.

Random House, the largest of the big six publishing firms, announced that it would sell ebooks to libraries again.  They are going to use a new model of (higher) library pricing but the ebooks won’t ever expire.  What’s implied here is a lending model based on the physical model of one checkout of an ebook at a time.  A Random House Spokesman said:

“Our commitment to libraries, as imperative to our momentum, if not to our existence as publishers, is greater than ever. The leadership of Random House grew up in large part loving libraries and we believe libraries are indispensable in bringing readers and books buyers to our authors’ works. It’s an emotional as well as a practical commitment in our support and our enthusiasm for libraries.”

An article from American Libraries made no mention of the change in policy at Random House.  It seemed most of the talks involved ALA leaders educating the publishers on ebook lending practices and trying to alleviate their fears.

In meeting with publishers who currently do not sell ebooks to libraries, we shared our profession’s concerns regarding the impact of these practices on library users, many of whom rely solely on the public library for their reading choices. In some instances, we found that there were misconceptions about how libraries operate that, once clarified, mitigated some of these publishers’ concerns. For example, some publishers had the impression that libraries lend to whomever visited their respective websites, thus making collections available virtually worldwide without restriction.

Further reading:

Proposed Global Library Consortium for Academic Ebooks

In another big meeting of publishers and librarians recently took place at Harvard during which the idea of a Global Library Consortium (GLC) was presented.  Here’s how it would work according to the Publishers Weekly article:

The GLC proposal would operate on a similar basis [to SCOAP3], with libraries pooling together into a membership coalition that purchases the rights to titles offered by participating publishers. Those books would then be made available on an open access basis, perhaps with Creative Commons license terms. Libraries would place bids for each offered title into a pool, in a fashion similar to the way Groupon works; if there was sufficient interest to hit the price trigger point, the publisher would release the title into the open access pool with costs apportioned among participating institutions. Once made open access, titles would be publicly readable through a web browser interface, but downloadable PDFs or EPUBs would only be freely available to GLC members.

The GLC proposal offers a number of very significant advantages. Primarily, it would stabilize the scholarly monograph market by compensating publishers for their fixed costs in producing their first copy. It also retains a measure of competition by specifying that the more attractive book delivery formats (PDF, EPUB) are sold commercially outside of the GLC membership. It also reduces press overhead by partially releasing marketing and sales staff from the vagaries of having to sell to an unknown number of university library buyers.

But as with all propesed ebook distribution models, there are concerns by the publishers on profitability.  They must figure out how to price items across the board when popular and more obscure are offered in the same pool.  However, with tighter budgets, libraries may not want to buy in to an entire pool.  Other challenges covered in the article include technical ones including online access versus download and full-text versus metadata searching.

Read the Publishers Weekly article Academic E-Books: Innovation and Transition.