April 10, 2012

25 Connecticut libraries announce Random House ebook boycott


Barely two months after Random House became the darling of librarians across the country by announcing they would not restrict how many times an ebook was loaned out (see the earlier MobyLives report), a boycott has broken out as a result of the prices Random is charging for those ebooks.

As Michael Kelly reports in a story on Library Journal’s Digital Shift blog, “Libraries Online Incorporated (LION), a consortium of twenty-five Connecticut public, academic, and school libraries, has imposed a moratorium on the purchase of ebooks from Random House.  The action, which was unanimously approved by LION members on March 20, is in response to the March 1 price hike put in place by Random House that doubled and sometimes tripled the price of ebooks for libraries.”

Nor is this the first boycott in response to the price hikes: As a Quill & Quire report by Natalie Samson details, a group of libraries in Nova Scotia have also announced a boycott of Random House ebooks. What’s more, that group of libraries — the South Shore Public Libraries — “say they plan on approaching librarians across the country about expanding the boycott.”

In response to the Canadian moratorium, Random House spokesperson Stuart Applebaum is quoted in another Digital Shift report, explaining that “We believe our new library e-pricing reflects the high value placed on perpetuity of lending and simultaneity of availability for our titles,” but that the company was operating with “far less definitive, encompassing circulation data” than it has for print formats. Thus, “We are requesting data that libraries can share about their patrons’ borrowing patterns that over time will better enable us to establish mutually workable pricing levels that will best serve the overall ebook ecosystem.”

Asked by MobyLives to comment on the newly announced boycott in Connecticut, Applebaum says …

“We are disappointed the consortium has taken this singular approach instead of talking with us, as have hundreds of other library systems. We will be reaching out to them to exchange views about library e-book lending.  Librarians across the country share Random House’s belief that our e-books belong in libraries, and we are listening and learning from them to better enable appropriate e-book availability for all.”


Dennis Johnson is the founder of MobyLives, and the co-founder and co-publisher of Melville House.