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November 14, 2013

The complicated world of ebooks

The Daily Star

---- — It was a real pleasure to serve on a panel at Hartwick College this week for the Rasmussen President’s Lecture. 

The keynote speaker was Jade Roth, chief product officer, digital education and vice president of books and digital strategy for Barnes and Noble College. She gave an informative presentation about the direction that higher education is taking in regards to ebooks. It’s a complicated business model and has issues outside of the realm of public libraries.

Some of the challenges facing public libraries are the high cost of books in digital format and the disparate licensing structures imposed by the “Big 5” publishers. You may know that libraries don’t buy ebooks. We license them for a period of time or a set number of loans to patrons. 

Compared to two years ago when several of the big publishers wouldn’t sell to libraries and Harper Collins created the 26 loan model, libraries are in good shape. We can now lease ebooks from all of the Big 5. Unfortunately all of them have restrictions that limit the number of times a book is loaned before the publishers require that a library repurchase it. MacMillan only allows libraries to lease titles that are more than one year old and they limit the loans to 52 or the license to 2 years, whichever comes first.

The disparate licensing structure makes it difficult for libraries but the cost of ebooks is the real struggle. The Douglas Public Library in Colorado has been collecting price data on New York Times bestsellers and posts it to the Web on a monthly basis. Last month libraries paid up to 14 times the price that a consumer would pay for an ebook. One title was only double for libraries compared to the consumer price but the title was not a new release. 

Libraries need to convince the publishing industry that we aren’t a bad risk. We create opportunities for sales by enabling patrons to buy titles from the online catalog. The Pew Internet Project found that library users are more than twice as likely to have bought their most recent book than to have borrowed it from a library. Libraries serve their communities and as long as our patrons want downloadable ebooks, we will strive to meet their needs.


Health Insurance Marketplace Navigator assistance

A local Navigator who will help you through the online process of signing up for health insurance will be at the library on Mondays and Thursdays in November and December. You must call (800) 231-0744 to make an appointment. Oneonta is also home to two Navigators. If you would like to meet an individual in their office, please call 432-4500, ext. 205. Appointments take about 1½ hours and a Navigator will help you through the process but will not make decisions for you.

Antiques Program, Monday, Nov. 18, 6:45 p.m.

Kevin Herrick, owner of Lettis Auction Services, will present a talk on antiques and collectibles. Audience members are invited to bring one antique to the program. Herrick will discuss each antique and give its current value. The program is free and open to the public, sponsored by the Friends’ of the Library.

Story times are ongoing. Please stop by or call the library to register for one of our sessions for Tiny Tots, Lapsit, Toddlers & Parents or After-school programs.

Library Hours: 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Thursday; 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Friday; 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday; closed Sunday.

Tina Winstead is director of Huntington Memorial Library in Oneonta. Her column appears in the community section of The Daily Star every Thursday. Her columns can be found online at