Can’t find that new release e-book at the library? Amazon might be to blame.
As Amazon has become a major player in the publishing industry, it has made the decision to refuse to sell eBooks to libraries.
Since 2009 Amazon has been quietly producing ebooks under its own brand names and selling though their Kindle App.
Throughout much of that time, these eBooks have been made available to library patrons through Overdrive’s Libby app. If you’ve ever downloaded eBooks from the library, this is probably the app that you used.
Librarians have been no match for Amazon. Typically, when authors contract with a publisher, it’s that publisher who decides how to distribute the book. Each of the other big publishers sell e-books and audiobooks to libraries. That’s why you’re able to digitally check out bestsellers like Barack Obama’s “A Promised Land” at a library.
However, Amazon is the only big publisher that flat-out blocks library digital collections. Search your local library’s website, and you won’t find recent e-books by Amazon authors Kaling, Dean Koontz or Dr. Ruth Westheimer. Nor will you find downloadable audiobooks for Trevor Noah’s “Born a Crime,” Andy Weir’s “The Martian” and Michael Pollan’s “Caffeine.”
The reason that Amazon can refuse to sell e-books to libraries is because digital content is not subject to the First Sale Doctrine. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/First-sale_doctrine
That means that the company that killed bookstores is now interested in starving the American reading institution that cares for kids, the needy and the curious.
Lawmakers in New York and Rhode Island have proposed bills that would require Amazon (and everybody else) to sell e-books to libraries with reasonable terms. On March 10, the Maryland General Assembly unanimously approved its own library e-book bill, which now heads back to the state Senate. No doubt that Amazon will use their deep pockets to lobby other state and federal legislators to keep this kind of legislation from advancing across the country.
But we want to know if people like you care about ensuring that libraries can continue to provide critical literature to the American public.