A December city council motion from Councillor Paul Ainslie calls for an investigation into publishers' "restrictive" practices when it comes to e-publications and library access.
The formal request reads, "public libraries face many challenges in making e-books and e-magazines available because publishers either will not sell their content to public libraries or place special conditions such as significantly higher prices." The motion, directed at the Department of Canadian Heritage and the Ontario Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Sport, was adopted on December 16, 2013
In an email exchange with Masthead
, Ainslie expanded on his views. Here are some excerpts.
Masthead: Magazines Canada recently recommended that its members pull out from a deal with Zinio, effectively removing their digital magazines from libraries. Notably, Rogers Media has followed this advice, and the Toronto Public Library notes it recently lost access to e-magazines from other publishers as well (though it can't be confirmed if these were also a result of the Magazines Canada initiative). Was this motion a response to those developments?
Not specifically, as the issue is broader than magazine content, but we are concerned about continuing to see Canadian magazine content available to Canadian public library users. It is most unfortunate that we have access to strong international titles but not all of our own Canadian magazines. It is important that Canadian readers see their world and their issues reflected in what we offer. We will be meeting with Magazines Canada early in the new year to continue our discussions on how to change this situation.
Can you clarify the "significantly higher prices" some publishers are charging to libraries?
A number of pricing models have emerged as publishers test new approaches for pricing digital content for public libraries. Depending on the publisher, the prices can range anywhere from 30% to more than 700% above the consumer price. Some publishers also place restrictions on use. For example, Harper Collins puts a cap on the number of times copies of e-book titles can be borrowed (26 times).
Some feel that making digital magazines available through libraries results in too much free consumer access, eating into digital subscriptions. How you would you respond to those business concerns?
First of all, public libraries have a mission to ensure equity of access for all. We need to be able to continue to deliver on that mission in the digital age and we are confident that we can.
Secondly, public libraries are a legitimate market. We are willing to pay reasonable prices for content and we understand that pricing models need to be modified from individual consumer models. Digital rights management can address the concerns of publishers. Our experience with the e-book market demonstrates that publishers’ initial concerns have largely been addressed and they understand the value and legitimacy of the public library market.
Finally, we believe that public libraries are an important discovery tool for readers and an important part of the Canadian book and magazine ecosystem. Libraries often introduce readers to new titles and new authors and lead them to purchasing content. Research demonstrates over and over that library borrowers are also content purchasers, in both the book and magazine market.