Library Renewal and the Topeka & Shawnee County Public Library started a petition entitled simply, “eBooks for Libraries”. They set up a pretty slick website where you can see a video, read a bit about the issue, and (most importantly in any campaign) sign a petition. Their goal is to send publishers a simple message: if you want to reach the reader’s market, there is no better way to do so than to sell eBooks to libraries. Period. End of discussion.
The importance of not simply signing this petition but sharing it is twofold: first, in asking publishers to consider selling to libraries, it helps to demonstrate a market. Not just ALA entourages meeting with publishers, not just librarians lobbying companies to be more open with their selling practices, but putting forth an actual end user who will use and enjoy their work. This petition really isn’t meant for librarians to pass around to each other and encourage signatures; goodness knows how much librarians dig this kind of inside baseball. No, the target signees here are your library members. These are the people that organizations like ALA have shown to buy things that they originally borrowed from the library. The people who are the subjects of studies that indicate that people who borrow books tend to buy more books. While the common example that is kicked around is the “lost sale”, where is the talk about the “double dip” from people who borrow the book from the library (which the library purchased) and then bought a copy for themselves? It’s the simple demonstration that engaging in these kinds of sales can help the publishing market and increases its revenues.
Second, this is a good way to educate our public library members as well as provide them with a means to make a difference. To the first point, this is an issue in which the stakeholders (the taxpayers) are generally unaware of important nuances of this library issue. Every time I teach a class on how to download eBooks, I tell people that they may not see their favorite author or book because the publisher refuses to make it available for library lending. It never fails to get looks of astonishment and head shakes. People simply do not know the details and importance of their involvement; this petition puts it out there in easy-to-digest terms. As to the second point, it is imperative to provide people with a means of making a difference. Yes, an online petition might not have the same effect as thousands of people marching on these companies in protest, but this is one place where change starts.
Personally, I think a goal of 10,000 signatures is far too modest. I managed to get 70,000 by the time I ended my HarperCollins petition at Change.org, and about 50,000 of them came over the course of a week. The people who are readers and public library supporters are out there and I guarantee there are more than 10,000 of them. It’s time to go for the gusto and blow the doors off this goal. I encourage everyone to send this petition far and wide. Share this petition now so that people in the future can enjoy a greater share of the library eBook experience. Now, let’s do it.