Rhode Island Library Association urges lawmakers to pass Ebook bills

Monday, April 08, 2024 2:08 PM | Anonymous

(Providence, RI) The Rhode Island Library Association (RILA) has worked with local lawmakers this legislative session to introduce bills in the House and Senate regarding the fair licensing of library ebooks in the state of Rhode Island. 

For many years, the publishing industry has been decimating public library budgets in Rhode Island and across the nation with high ebook prices and licenses that disappear over time. 

“Most major publishers are currently charging libraries up to nine times or more the cost of ebooks and audiobooks than they are charging consumers," said Lisa Sallee, Assistant 

Director of Ocean State Libraries. “The licensing terms of these ebooks mean they often expire after 12 or 24 months, or a certain arbitrary number of checkouts, which then requires our libraries to repurchase ebooks and audiobooks over and over again, often at the same high prices each time. It’s unsustainable.”  

“House bill 7508 and Senate bill 2514 attempt to use state contract law and consumer protection law to put us on a fair playing field in the marketplace,” said Julie Holden, Membership Chair of RILA. “We stand with our neighbors in Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Vermont, who have introduced similar ebook bills this year, as have the states of Illinois, Tennessee, and Iowa.”

“Most libraries have little, if any, bargaining power and are rarely able to change the terms of the contracts offered to them by publishers. As a result, many libraries face financial and practical challenges in making ebooks available to their patrons,” said Kyle K. Courtney, an attorney and librarian working as Director of Copyright and Information Policy for Harvard University. 

Over the past year, representatives from RILA have met with representatives from the Association of American Publishers, offering ideas and suggestions that would benefit both libraries and authors, but to date, nothing substantive has come from those conversations.  

“We know how much Rhode Islanders use and love their public libraries, so this creates a big problem for us; we have limited budgets and we cannot purchase enough licenses to meet the demand of our library users. People rely on the library to provide reading material that they do not have the disposable income to obtain themselves,” said RILA President Beatrice Pulliam. 

“Repurchasing library ebooks requires constant monitoring and analysis of the best way to meet patron demand with increasingly expensive short-term licenses. This leads to an additional cost - the cost of staff labor to review expired licenses weekly - diverting time and energy from other important services to library patrons,” said Stephen Spohn, Executive Director of Ocean State Libraries.

Limiting access to library ebooks disproportionately affects those with disabilities. Ebooks and digital audiobooks help Rhode Island citizens who have visual, motor, or learning impairments to enjoy books they could not otherwise. According to the CDC, up to 1 in 4 Americans have a physical or cognitive disability.      

RILA thanks Representative Lauren Carson (Newport) and Senator Victoria Gu (Westerly, Charlestown, South Kingstown) for being strong advocates and for their efforts bringing attention to this long-standing issue. 

The Rhode Island Library Association urges the General Assembly to pass the ebook bills this session.

The Rhode Island Library Association is a professional organization that serves its members through career development, education, networking partnerships and legislative action and seeks to inspire and promote excellence in library services, through training, innovation, and advocacy. RILA also supports libraries and library workers to meet the diverse needs of the populations they serve. More information is available at rilibraries.org 

"Rhode Island Library Association" is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization. Rhode Island Library Association, P.O. Box 6765, Providence, RI 02940

Powered by Wild Apricot Membership Software