Amazon under pressure to lift ban on e-book library sales | TheHill

“Amazon’s refusal to sell e-books published in-house to libraries is sparking backlash as demand for digital content spikes during the coronavirus pandemic.

Librarians and advocacy groups are pushing for the tech giant to license its published e-books to libraries for distribution, arguing the company’s self-imposed ban significantly decreases public access to information.

“You shouldn’t have to have a credit card in order to be an informed citizen,” Michael Blackwell, director of St. Mary’s County Library in Maryland, told The Hill. “It’s vital that books continue to be a source of information and that those books should be democratically discovered through libraries.”

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A petition launched last week by Fight for the Future, a tech advocacy group, calls for Congress to pursue an antitrust investigation and legislative action against Amazon for its ban on selling e-books to libraries. As of Tuesday afternoon, it had nearly 13,000 signatures….

Amazon has indicated it is in discussions to allow its e-books to be licensed by libraries, but so far the public institutions are unable to access Amazon’s digital titles.

Issues surrounding library e-books go beyond Amazon. Traditional publishers have become increasingly restrictive regarding e-books, Blackwell said, but they at least offer options for libraries to license and distribute those books.

The crux of the issue is how e-books are sold. Whereas libraries can lend out physical copies of purchased books for as long as they hold up, libraries must adhere to licensing agreements that constrain how long they can keep e-books in circulation.

The top publishing firms typically have two-year licensing contacts for library e-books, with options to extend for another two years, said Alan S. Inouye, senior director of public policy and government relations at the American Library Association.

But unlike their traditional publishing peers, Amazon does not allow libraries to purchase the e-books it publishes, leaving no option for libraries to access what Amazon says is “over 1 million digital titles” that consumers “won’t find anywhere else.”…”