The Friends of the Princeton Public Library are addressing the challenges faced by libraries in acquiring digital content for their patrons. They are aware of the library’s tight budget and effect of the pandemic in increasing the popularity of ebooks. Therefore, they are donating $300 to encourage others, particularly those who enjoy the library’s online materials to donate as well.
During the pandemic, use of e-books has increased. This is great news, but it also increases the need for libraries to provide more e-books. Pricing for e-books is very different from print books. The average book costs a library $14.14 whereas the average e-book costs a library $45.75.
Even at this cost, the library does not own that e-book title. Libraries enter agreements with the publishers to license digital content. Publishers determine the cost and length of time allowed with the license. These conditions vary from publisher to publisher. Usually, libraries rent the e-books for two years. After two years we have to pay again to keep the title. If libraries want to offer e-books to their patrons, they have no choice but to agree to these terms.
Some publishers refuse to offer digital content to libraries at all, meaning that an individual can purchase a bestselling title but a library cannot. Some popular authors sign lucrative contracts with these exclusive distributors.
Libraries try to stretch their e-book budget out as much as possible. This is why most libraries only offer the most popular e-books and why it can take a long time to get the book. Fortunately, we are able to offer e-books through Overdrive and eRead Illinois. Overdrive and eRead Illinois allow our library to pool our digital resources with other libraries. Participating libraries pay a fee for the service and agree to invest a certain amount to contribute to the collection. This helps somewhat, but it doesn’t soften the blow of the expense or limited use that publishers place on libraries. Donating to the library to purchase more e-books is helpful to expanding our collection. Another way to help is to let publishers know that you support more open usage licenses and lower e-book pricing.