September 17, 2012
Hachette increases library ebook prices by 220%
by Ariel Bogle
Libraries can’t seem to catch a break on the problem of ebook access and pricing.
Just last week, according to Christopher Harris in American Libraries, Hachette was thinking of raising their backlist ebook prices by 220%, with severe consequences for library budgets. In no uncertain terms, he said, “By drastically increasing the price of backlist titles, all Hachette is doing is reducing the funding that can go towards purchasing its new titles.”
Harris questioned the move, saying that for libraries,
“Increasing backlist prices must either reduce the available budget for new titles or reduce acquisition of backlist titles—lost sales for Hachette either way. Furthermore, it reveals a lack of focus on the part of Hachette; instead of building profits on releasing the best possible titles every year, the company is stuck looking backwards. Finally, it shows a lack of understanding about the benefit of having more open access to backlist titles as additional entry points into new book purchases.”
Demonstrating the significance of the matter, ALA President Maureen Sullivan issued a statement:
“When Hachette announced it was stepping back into the library ebook market this past May with pilots that would bring a selection of its recent bestsellers to millions of library patrons, the ALA welcomed this news. Leaving our meeting with them, we were pleased that they recognized libraries as strong partners—as direct customers and marketers of their titles, as well as integral community institutions that must be supported as a fundamental cornerstone of literacy.
“After these tentative steps forward, we were stunned to learn that Hachette plans to more than double triple its prices starting October 1. Now we must ask, “With friends like these …’
“We are weary of faltering half steps and even more so of publishers that refuse to sell ebook titles to libraries at all. Today I have asked the ALA’s Digital Content and Libraries Working Group to develop more aggressive strategies and approaches for the nation’s library community to meet these challenges.
“Libraries must have the ability to purchase a wide range of digital content at a fair price so that all readers have full access to our world’s creative and cultural resources, especially the many millions who depend on libraries as their only source of reading material.”
Ariel Bogle is a publicist at Melville House.