eBooks and ALA’s (lack of) reactionAuthor: petercoyl | Filed under: Uncategorized
I want a professional organization that reacts reasonably but timely to controversial issues. The American Library Association has been eerily quite on the issue of eBooks and Harper Collins.
The only statement that has been issued comes from the ALA President Roberta Stevens. On her facebook pages she wrote:
“Message to the ALA Executive Board, Council, Division and Round Table Leadership, Equitable Access to Electronic Content Task Force and OITP’s E-Book Subcommittee:
“Recent developments in the e-book marketplace have underscored the importance of a model for e-book purchasing and lending that reflects the interests of all of the stakeholders: authors, publishers, booksellers, libraries and, ultimately, the public.
“At the recent Midwinter Meeting, my president’s report identified the names of the members of the Equitable Access to Electronic Content task force, which was created in response to a Council resolution. The task force, chaired by Linda Crowe and Michael Porter, will be meeting in Washington next week for a working retreat that is being financially supported by ALA. Among other groups, they will get assistance from OITP’s E-Book subcommittee.
“I do not take your concerns about changes in the e-book pricing approach lightly. However, due to the far-reaching and long-term effects, the task force deserves time to gather information and examine the complex issues involved in equitable access to electronic content, including e-books. We will receive their report at the Annual Conference and I look forward to our using it, as an association, to formulate actions that will ensure we have 21st century libraries to meet the needs of our users.
“Meanwhile, please feel free to continue communicating your viewpoints to publishers and e-book distributors.
“Thank you for speaking up.
While I appreciate the time and effort the task force has and will put into this issue, Librarians around the country (and the world) don’t want to wait for a committee report to tell us what we all know: this move by HarperCollins will be costly to Librarians and detrimental to the circulation of eBooks. It could also have far reaching effects on the rest of our circulation policies. It will block the free flow of information by requiring Libraries to expend more money on the eBook than on a print copy, thereby stifling what Libraries can do.
Matthew Hamilton wrote recently about a statement “Libraryland” could issue. His words ring true: we all know what needs to be said. So I ask, why is it not being said by our professional organization?
Because as much as the ALA is a professional organization, it is a political one. It does not want to offend the publishers to whom it depends on funding for conferences, events, etc. Its members are not mad enough to demand action, or perhaps they are too complacent (or busy feeding their cats or knitting, or both).
I want ALA to take a stand. I want ALA to see the dangerous road HarperCollins is on and to say something. I don’t want to wait 3 months til ALA Annual for a Committee report because by then Libraries will have been doing exactly what HarperCollins wants them to do: limit eBook checkouts. And if we allow them to do it for even 3 months, what’s the point of taking a stand. I fear it will be too little, too late.
- Other good posts on this subject:
- Andy Woodworth at Agnostic, Maybe: ”Now what? We do this.”
- Toby Greenwalt, at the analogdivide: ”Okay, Now what?”
- Barbara Fister at Library Journal: “Boycotts, Censorship, and Taking Action” “
- Sarah Houghton-Jan at Librarian in Black, “More on eBooks and Libraries.”
I am proud to be a member of ALA. But right now, I am ashamed at the “wait and see” approach they are taking. ALA members need to demand the ALA President and Council take a stand, quickly and forcefully about the restrictions HarperCollins has now decided to implement before we go along with it for 3 months and acquiesce.