Thursday, April 26, 2012

Where Would We Be Without Libraries? Or An Open Letter to Publishers, by Leah Petersen

I mean, really, where would we be?

There’s this thing going on these days that baffles me: It’s the not-playing-nicely thing between publishers and libraries over ebooks. I’m a published author, so I am involved, but I’m guessing you know a whole lot more about it than I do since you’re in the thick of it.

The thing is, it really does baffle me. Granted, I know how important it is both to the publisher and the author to be paid for their work. I’m an author and I’m not stupid. But screwing the libraries? Libraries?

Did any of us ever, ever become a reader without the influence of a library? If nothing else, we were regularly herded into the library at school. If we were lucky, our parents took us to the local library. But there was always a library involved. Always.

How can the publishers forget this? Yes, yes, yes, all that technology and copyright and piracy stuff is scary and gets everyone’s panties in a twist, but I cannot believe, with all the fancy technology and smart people in the world, that there’s not a solution to this. I can’t believe it’s not the priority!

Where, as I asked before, would any of us be without the libraries? Where do the publishers think their customers came from, and where do they think their customers were taught and nurtured to become the people who buy their books today?

Get with it, publishing world. You need libraries maybe even more than they need you. (Those librarians are smart people, I bet they’d work something out.) Stop being stupid.

Pretty please and thank you.


I ask you, librarians, what do you think about this situation?

Leah Petersen is an author whose first novel, Fighting Gravity, has just been published. She blogs at, tweets @leahpetersen, and has a presence both on Google+ and on Facebook.


  1. I think that libraries pay for the books they buy, just like every other honest customer (and for ebooks, it's at a hugely inflated price), so it's a little confusing if publishers are worried about getting paid.

  2. I definitely understand that the world of ebooks is scary, uncharted territory, and publishers need to protect their own interests. So librarians need to be patient. But I have the feeling that most publishers are not willing to really sit down with librarians to work out a deal that would make all parties happy.

    Come on, everyone. We really need to work together on this one.

  3. Thanks for letting me post here, Jessica!

    Helgagrace, considering libraries have been buying and then lending books out for decades, I just don't see how this is suddenly a problem with the introduction of new technology. There are too many smart people out there would could figure out how to make this as safe as possible.

    Besides, I imagine if people were going to steal e-books, they'd do it in the privacy of their own home by downloading it off a pirating site.

    Surely we can trust libraries to lend in good faith.

  4. Graham,

    I totally agree that I think publishers are the ones who are putting a low priority on finding a solution. Which prompted the post. How can they not see how important libraries are? This should be a high priority issue.

    Though Tor going DRM free since I wrote this post seems to be a step in the right direction, even if it wasn't made with libraries in mind.

  5. Oh look what I just found:

    So, yeah, "screw libraries" is still apparently the publishers' stance.

  6. Ugh, sometimes I wish I could not think about it at all. These ebook contraptions are EVERYWHERE now! But I believe that what publishers are neglecting to focus on is the fact the libraries are purchasers first, loaners second. It scares the daylights out of me that Penguin was able to just pull all its ebooks from Overdrive--would they ever march into a library, collect up all the Penguin books and take them away? of course not--and publishers have a tendency that at the end of the day, these ebooks are still things that libraries have purchased and users are accessing them, there's just an additional intermediary between publisher and end user, which is the library.

    & sharing is caring, you guys! Spread the wealth.

  7. "But I believe that what publishers are neglecting to focus on is the fact the libraries are purchasers first, loaners second."

    GREAT point, Jess.