Leggett Urges Action on E-Book Prices for Libraries

Ike LeggettMontgomery County Executive Ike Leggett is urging residents to express — to all levels of government — their opposition to the pricing tactics employed by book publishers that result in public libraries paying more for e-books than general consumers.

“We need to act now to end this discriminatory practice and bring fairness back to the cost of licensing e-books for public consumption at our public libraries,” Leggett said. “We have a very strong lobby for public libraries in Montgomery County,” he said, “and I urge our advocates to call attention to this issue.”

Leggett expressed support for a County Council resolution, to be voted on next week, requesting a federal-level investigation of the issue and urging action from residents.

“I commend the County Council,” said Leggett, “on its pending resolution urging the [Maryland] General Assembly, the U.S. Congress, Justice Department and the Federal Trade Commission ‘to examine the issue and seek any appropriate remedy so that County library users will have the access to materials in a reasonable and non-discriminatory manner.’”

Over the past four years, the demand for e-books in Montgomery County Public Libraries has increased by an average of 87.5 percent. Leggett noted: “We as a government have a responsibility to ensure that the customers who use our libraries have ready access to materials in the formats they are most requesting. Yet, the pricing set by the book publishers for e-book titles is so high and out of line with the cost of other materials that it can become a financial burden for jurisdictions to keep up with requests from the public.”

In Leggett’s FY14 recommended operating budget, sent to the Council in March, he included $200,000 in the Public Libraries budget solely for the purchase of e-books to help meet the growing demand of the more than 720,000 cardholding customers.

“Recognizing, just as I do, the importance and popularity of our public libraries, the Council added another $100,000, bringing our commitment to $300,000,” Leggett said. “But, considering that our libraries often pay $75 or higher for an e-book, three times more than consumers would pay to purchase a particular e-book, can our seemingly generous allocation meet the demand from our customers?”

Montgomery County Public Libraries Director Parker Hamilton said: “Any and all attention that can be drawn to the issue of inequitable e-book pricing is most welcome. If not addressed by our elected representatives at all levels, this practice will adversely affect one of the oldest public services that government provides – free access to life-long learning for people of all ages and backgrounds.”

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