Trish Klein, adult services co-ordinator at the Red Deer Public Library, inspects an ebook reader. Libraries across North America are concerned about the high charges and limitations publishers are putting on digital material. (Photo by LANA MICHELIN/Advocate staff).

Trish Klein, adult services co-ordinator at the Red Deer Public Library, inspects an ebook reader. Libraries across North America are concerned about the high charges and limitations publishers are putting on digital material. (Photo by LANA MICHELIN/Advocate staff).

Red Deer library won’t stay silent over e-book costs

Libraries must pay up to three times the price of a paperback for an ebook

Red Deer city councillors are the latest elected officials to throw their support behind a public library campaign against e-book “price gouging” by publishers.

Red Deer library patrons who want to borrow a bestseller in digital format could discover they are number 48 on the hold list.

That’s how many people are currently waiting for four e-audiobook copies of Mark Manson’s The Subtle Art of Not Giving a ****, the library’s most popular selection.

Meanwhile, readers who want digital versions of the No. 1 New York Times bestseller, Where the Crawdads Sing, by Delia Owens, also have a long wait ahead of them — 44 holds have been placed on three e-audiobooks, as well as 39 holds on six ebooks.

The blame for these long waits rests with book publishers, said Shelley Ross, CEO of the Red Deer Public Library.

Libraries are not only charged astronomical rates to buy ebooks — often three times the price of paper copies, but publishers also often limit the number of ebooks libraries can buy.

They also apply caps on the number of times a digital copy can be loaned out to library patrons before it must be repurchased, Ross added.

While she understands that publishing houses are trying to navigate market turbulence caused by new technology, and fierce pricing competition from Amazon, she feels they should not be unfairly trying to make up their profits from taxpayer-funded libraries.

While the average person will pay about $14.99 for Owens’ novel as an ebook, publishers are charging libraries $75 for the same digital title — compared to the $26 to $37 libraries have paid for various print versions of Where the Crawdads Sing.

Two publishing houses, Random House and St. Martin’s Press, who were called to comment on this pricing policy, did not respond Thursday.

Libraries were told they are being charged higher digital prices because ebooks do not undergo the physical degradation of paper copies of books, which means libraries do not have to replace them as often.

But Ross said publishers have already taken care of this concern by placing time restrictions (often two years) until each ebook purchase expires, as well as lending caps on ebooks. Some have to be replaced after being lent 27 to 30 times, said Ross.

She can understand some of these stipulations, but is most bothered by so-called embargoes that are starting to be put on newly issued bestsellers.

Some publishers will not sell a library more than one or two ebook copies of these popular books in the first two to six months of their release.

If the idea is to force people to buy their own book, many people can’t afford to — and that is why libraries exist, said Ross.

The Red Deer Public library has joined other book lenders across North America in protesting what the Canadian Urban Libraries Council is calling unacceptable price gouging by publishers.

Many elected officials from North American cities have signed the council’s statement on equitable public access to ebooks.

Red Deer city council added their voice to this movement by supporting a private motion, introduced this week by Coun. Dianne Wyntjes, who sits on the local library board.

Wyntjes is disturbed that public access to library reading material is being limited. She feels that ebooks will become even more popular as electronically plugged-in generations mature.

But Ross said young people aren’t demanding ebooks as much as older people with mobility issues, or who need to increase the font size of the text.

Getting to a library isn’t easy for snowbound seniors, or someone recovering from surgery on a farm, she added. For these vulnerable people, ebooks can provide a crucial connection to literature and the world at large.

Wyntjes said city councillors intend to bring these concerns to the attention of local MPs.

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Red Deer Public Library

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Alberta has 3,651 active cases of COVID-19.  (File photo)
Gov’t reports two more COVID-19 deaths in Red Deer on Sunday

Nineteen new deaths, including two in Red Deer, were reported by the… Continue reading

Andre Lemus, the owner of Las Palmeras in Red Deer, says he hopes in-person dining restrictions are lifted this upcoming Thursday. (Photo courtesy
Red Deer restaurant owner hopes in-person dining restrictions are lifted Thursday

The owner of a Red Deer restaurant says business has “dropped” since… Continue reading

The Town of Ponoka and the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees (AUPE) have ratified a new agreement, averting a strike. (File photo from Facebook)
Alberta gov’t ‘using pandemic as shield to lay off workers,’ says AUPE

The Government of Alberta’s “attacks on workers” is continuing with a new… Continue reading

Rocky Mountain House RCMP, EMS, Search and Rescue, STARS air ambulance and Alstrom Helicopters worked together to rescue a fallen ice climber Friday. (Photo contributed by Rocky Mountain House RCMP)
Rocky Mountain House RCMP help rescue fallen ice climber

Rocky Mountain RCMP helped assist a fallen ice climber Friday afternoon. At… Continue reading

Dwayne Buckle, 40 of Red Deer finished a 1,638-kilometre walk, in honour of his family. The 12-week, 82 day-journey wrapped up in Port Hardy, B.C. on Monday. Facebook photo
Red Deer man completes 1,638 km hike for cancer research

Dwayne Buckle, a Red Deer firefighter returned home Friday after his 12-week journey

A cat named Willow is shown in this recent handout photo. Victoria firefighter Capt. Tim Hanley says using a jackhammer and other home repair tools to save a cat stuck in a tiny basement drainpipe ranks as the strangest rescue call he's been on in his 20-year career. Hanley says he and three other firefighters spent more than two hours using sledgehammers and a jackhammer to break through Victoria homeowner Emma Hutchinson's concrete basement floor to free Willow, a nine-month-old kitten. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO - Twitter, City of Victoria
Victoria firefighters use homeowners’ jackhammer to rescue cat trapped in tiny pipe

VICTORIA — A Victoria firefighter says using a jackhammer and other home… Continue reading

Conservative Leader Erin O'Toole holds a press conference on Parliament Hill, in Ottawa on December 10, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
No place for ‘far right’ in Conservative Party: O’Toole

OTTAWA — Federal Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole says there is “no place… Continue reading

Alberta Energy Minister Sonya Savage addresses the attendees while Tom Olsen, Managing Director of the Canadian Energy Centre, looks on at a press conference at SAIT in Calgary on Wednesday, Dec. 11, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Greg Fulmes
‘Morally and ethically wrong:’ Court to hear challenge to Alberta coal policy removal

First Nations, ranchers, municipal officials and environmentalists hope to persuade a judge… Continue reading

Sub-Lt. Jeffrey Delisle arrives at Nova Scotia provincial court for a sentencing hearing in Halifax on Friday, Feb. 1, 2013. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan
Canada’s spy-catching system caused delay, angst in Delisle case: former FBI official

OTTAWA — The U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation’s former head of counter-intelligence… Continue reading

People wait to be screened before entering Little Mountain Place, a long-term care home that has had 41 residents die since a COVID-19 outbreak was declared at the facility in November in Vancouver on Sunday, January 3, 2021. Staff in long-term care homes across Canada are struggling to isolate elderly residents with dementia during COVID-19 outbreaks, accelerating the deadly spread of the virus, experts say. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Care home staff struggle to isolate dementia patients during outbreaks: experts

VANCOUVER — Staff in long-term care homes across Canada are struggling to… Continue reading

A passer by walks in High Park, in Toronto, Thursday, Jan. 14, 2021. This workweek will kick off with what's fabled to be the most depressing day of the year, during one of the darkest eras in recent history. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young
‘Blue Monday’ getting you down? Exercise may be the cure, say experts

This workweek will kick off with what’s fabled to be the most… Continue reading

Winnipeg Jets' Blake Wheeler (26) just misses the net against goaltender Laurent Brossoit (30) during  scrimmage at their NHL training camp practice in Winnipeg, Wednesday, January 6, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/John Woods
Jets return to practice a day after suspending workouts due to COVID concerns

WINNIPEG — The Winnipeg Jets have returned to practice a day after… Continue reading

Most Read