Archives for category: Libraries

The Archdiocese of Southwark has cancelled a talk in a school it controls apparently because the proposed speaker is gay. They also fired some of the school’s governing board who objected to the policy. BookRiot has the story.

Rare is the school anywhere in which the teachers will strike in protest at censorship. It’s just too common. What is it about our times? We are in the middle of a frenzy of book banning. “PEN America, a nonprofit that advocates for freedom of expression, tallied 1,586 book bans in schools over the past nine months, targeting 1,145 books” The Washington Post tells us. The Library Association reports last year three times as many attempts to remove books and other materials from library shelves as in 2020. To hear the constant drumbeat of news about book banning you’d think everyone was utterly dissatisfied with their children’s schools — but an NPR-Ipsos poll announced a few days ago shows that 88% of parents think schools are doing just fine. The protests, mostly from the right, are made to seem more vociferous by being repeatedly reported on. (We are still innocents in techniques for dealing with social media. One day we’ll work out how to cope with filtering the nonsense.)

Now don’t you have to think your kids are pretty dumb if you can get yourself into a tizzy about their being preferentially directed towards a particular sexual orientation by hearing a gay man speak? I don’t need to speculate about the Archdiocesan council: these guys must rarely come out of the ivory tower, and Catholic education does tend to be rather “conservative”.* But lots of ordinary folks are allowing their knickers to get into a twist about something that’s not really anything. I suspect that many school board protesters are not really aiming to protect their children; they are quite simply trying to harass people who think differently from them. This is the same impulse that detects election fraud whenever someone with different political views from yours casts a vote.

In something of a counter-move New York Public Library is allowing free access to anyone over 13 to all books which have been banned. Perhaps it needs to be said that democracy mandates that it is absolutely justifiable for a majority of the people in a particular jurisdiction to decide to do this or that, however much a minority may object. If there’s really a majority supporting the opposite point of view, they need to get out there and vote. Not sure lawsuits suffice, but I’m no lawyer: CNN tells us “Seven residents in Llano County, Texas, are suing county officials, claiming their First and 14th Amendment rights were violated when books deemed inappropriate by some people in the community and Republican lawmakers were removed from public libraries or access was restricted.” (Link via The Passive Voice.) Well, they obviously got a lawyer to take the case, but . . .

I know there are lots of things we’d all prefer didn’t get too much of an airing, but surely we have to let divergent opinion be heard. A world in which we only hear what we already want to hear will stunt the intellect. No harm, I guess, in a group of academics deploring Oxford University Press’s decision to publish a book by Holly Lawford-Smith on Gender Critical Feminism, even if they are objecting before the book’s published, and thus they have not been able to read it. Opinion can and should be free, and OUP has published books the objectors approve of, so (in some sense) almost has an obligation to publish differing research. A second group made up largely of employees calls however for cancellation of the publication of the book — and this, to my mind, is a step too far. You can’t honestly argue against a particular viewpoint if you don’t allow that viewpoint to be expressed.

The basic problem might seem to be that it’s now so simple to express an opinion and instantly have an audience of thousands hear your rant. Not sure what we can do about this — just learn to accept it, and not overreact is no doubt the only option. In the meantime one source of comfort in this might be the reflection that these book banners are showing a vast respect for the power of the written word. And banning ideas is a pretty difficult thing to achieve. If my own youthful experience is anything to go by, I’d have to reflect that being told not to do something was always a strong motivator to make me want to go to considerable lengths to do that very thing, if only to find out what the fuss was all about. Banning a book may turn out to be a secret marketing weapon!

In indexing this post I find I wrote under this exact heading last year.


* I am put in mind of a striking event when, as a recent graduate, I was a supply teacher (substitute teacher) at a Catholic secondary school in Middlesex. One boy had done something wrong, so the entire school was gathered in a ring in the playground while the culprit and the biggest boy in the school were put in the middle. We then all watched the big guy beat the bejeezus out of the criminal. But don’t worry — it was all fair and humane — they were given boxing gloves!

Well, I suppose it’s appropriate in a way — but not I fear in the right way. These book-bollards are to be found in front of the University Library in Cambridge. Who is it, in a position of authority, who thought “Oh what a good idea. We’ve got lots of books in here. Let’s have some of these cute bollards in the shape of books out front”? As if bare bollards weren’t enough, one of the bollards even allows the top book to turn on its axis! — are we meant to think “Open sesame. Behold the key to all knowledge”? Books are (or can be), I’ll admit, fun; but books are not in the UL for fun; they are there as serious business — even the fun ones are there as serious business. The Library is a serious place, and whimsy like this is just out of place.

Of course I’m overreacting — probably most people never even notice these dumb bollards, though every library user has to go past them.

The University Library is a deposit library, and as such, I’d like to think, has certain responsibilities: primary among them a responsibility to act as a careful custodian of the books it’s getting for free. In Britain the copyright law includes a legal deposit requirement which requires publishers to provide a copy of every work they publish in the UK to the British Library, the National Library of Scotland, the National Library of Wales, the Bodleian Library (Oxford’s University Library), the University Library, Cambridge, and the Library of Trinity College, Dublin. This includes pamphlets, magazines, newspapers, sheet music and maps, as well as books. Wikipedia‘s article on legal deposit around the world tells us that in a reciprocal deal the five non-Irish libraries also get to receive a copy of every Irish publication. The requirement that in order to obtain copyright protection a book must be sent to each of these six institutions has existed in English law since 1662. Other libraries have from time to time been included, and have on their “retirement” been offered financial compensation to enable them to buy a like number of books for themselves. Since 2013 legal deposit regulations have also included digital publications. The stated purpose of legal deposit is to “preserve knowledge and information for future generations and ‘maintain the national published archive of the British Isles'”. Noble aims.

See also UL LCF.

“For popular e-books, libraries pay $55 for a copy that expires after two years, or $550 for a copy for 20 years, compared with the about $15 that a consumer would pay, according to the American Library Association (ALA).”

Clearly Sludge (link via The Passive Voice) thinks this bare assertion requires no discussion: case over, off with his head — unambiguous case of publisher profiteering. Why should a library be forced to pay so much more than an individual? — Well, because an individual can read their ebook, just as they can their print book, to themselves, or in rare cases out loud to a small gathering. They can reread their ebook as often as they like, but unlike the hard copy edition, they can’t resell the ebook, give it away or even (without difficulty) lend it to someone else. Such access as they have acquired is theirs and theirs alone. If a library were able to “buy” outright the same ebook, they could then lend it to as many readers as they liked, put it on the interlibrary loan system, give it away to all and sundry, and thus deprive the author (and yes, the publisher) of any more income from that publication. Librarians of course recognize that there is a problem here, but they often fail to recognize that the logic of their pricing gripes can lead to exactly this sort of situation.

That Sludge shouldn’t know exactly what they are talking about is perhaps understandable — their focus is elsewhere, as their banner “Relentlessly exposing corruption” indicates, but they quote a group called Library Futures which, given its name, should know better than to make this nonsensical assertion — “Libraries simply can no longer be forced to rent their e-book collections with restrictions and pricing that are designed to minimize the libraries’ ability to provide access to the public, while maximizing publisher profits over that library mission”. But hang on a minute: Libraries cannot do anything other than rent their ebooks. Ebooks are not available for “sale” in any other way. No purchaser can do anything other than rent their ebooks. Ebooks are available only for rent. When you “buy” an ebook you are in reality buying access to a website where the book is available to be read. If libraries don’t like renting ebooks, the answer is clear: save your money and spend it on some other stuff you can really own.

The Sludge solution comes about because they have seen that the State of Maryland passed a “law that aims to increase public libraries’ access to e-books, with support from a powerful copyright lobbying group”. What the law actually does (did, as it’s not going to be happening, as nor will similar laws passed by other states) is to order publishers to sell ebooks to libraries at “reasonable” prices — reasonableness to be determined by the state. We can all agree that it’s a wonderful thing that during the pandemic borrowing of ebooks from libraries increased, but it’s dishonest to yoke an argument justifying expropriation of property to the tragedy of covid. Just because lots of people enjoyed a free ebook during their illness or confinement to home, is, unfortunately, no argument for why their library should be allowed to get the things at a knockdown price.

We go back and forth on how much it is right for a publisher to charge a library for access to an ebook: it’s just impossible to predict how many library patrons will want to borrow this or that book, which makes it difficult to know what an appropriate charge might look like. The debate goes on. But, how about this as a response to all the carping about library pricing terms — let’s decide that ebooks should never be available at all through the library? Given the mechanics of what’s actually happening in the case of a library loan of an ebook, would it not make sense for the library just to get out of the way, and leave the lending to the publishers or their agents? Funding given to libraries could be redirected in part to the publisher or their agents in proportion to the amount of lending going on with each title — computers are after all notoriously good at bean counting — so all this could be arranged relatively easily. (And of course, in Britain at least, we already have such a system in place for library lending.) That library patrons should like to get free access to all sorts of books is understandable enough; that publishers and authors should be made to give away their products at a punitively discounted price is not. Nobody’s happy. Let’s see what the Gordian-knot-chopper argument about not letting libraries get hold of ebooks at all does to the concentration of minds.

See also Ebooks and libraries and Going into overdrive on library ebooks.

Let it never be said that we don’t care about purity and innocence in this country. We care deeply: it often seems to me that the less pure and innocent we as individuals are, the louder will we shout in defense of innocence and purity in others. There seems to be a concerted move on the part of ultra-conservative enthusiasts to take over school boards and ensure that no child be exposed to any radical political or social ideas in their school or its library. The idea that our youth could be exposed to ideas they might need to think about is just too terrifying for many Americans to contemplate. See here a CNN report on a recent book burning staged by a pastor in Tennessee seeing off such dangerous “accursed” printed matter as the Harry Potter books and Twilight. Thank god, we might sigh, that someone’s willing to step up and protect us from such evil!

Publishers Weekly has a historical piece on the subject of banning books by Harvey J. Graff. And here’s a second piece from the same source.

Calling for the banning of a book is one of the most efficient political acts you can carry out. Because the book in question is alleged to be evil, enthusiastic banners will know that the last thing you can afford to do is actually read it! Just keep it out of sight (and mind), or better, get rid of it, and we’ll all be safe, they seem to believe. The evidence — the book in question — which someone has asserted is wicked, should never be examined — that would be to encourage the very process we are all dedicated to avoiding. It’s all just like witch trials: chuck ’em in the pond: if they float they’re guilty, if they sink and drown then they were innocent. After all, these guys know that scientific research has proved to them that the only reason anyone might turn out to be LGBTQIA+ is because they read about it in a book! Is there a connection here between the lack of the ability to read a book, and an excessive respect for the power and effect of so doing?

Despite all the turmoil, we should note that a recent survey conducted by the American Library Association indicates that 71% of Americans oppose efforts to remove books for our libraries. That 29% make a lot of noise. (Who are those Independents?)

In 1982 the Supreme Court pronounced on the matter of banning books from schools in the case of Island Trees School District v. Pico, and reached a split decision ruling against the local school board and reinstating the books at issue, but leaving the legal issue tangled and unclear. In a broadcast at On the Media, Arthur Eisenberg, the lawyer who argued the case, regrets not having thought of arguing on the basis of the budgetary aspects of the school board’s activities, a money argument which might have created a precedent enabling us to avoid all today’s shenanigans.

The American Library Association keeps tabs on book banning. Their claim “Books usually are challenged with the best intentions — to protect others, frequently children, from difficult ideas and information” strikes me as going a bit too far. I cannot agree that protecting others from difficult ideas is in anyway a good reason for banning a book, and I think the ALA would really agree: they are just bending over backwards here to sound “fair”. One can see that a part (a good part) of the conservative impulse to prevent discussion of, for instance, gender identity is to spare children from distress. What also needs to be borne in mind though is the distress felt by a child who has to keep quiet about an issue which seems altogether fundamental to them. I don’t think people should ever be “protected” from ideas and information. We absolutely need to confront difficult issues and think (or discuss) our way through them. If a book exposes a child to ideas it is too young to take on board, then it won’t be able to take them on board. On the other hand, if the child can figure out what’s going on in the book, they’ll be perfectly able to deal with the ideas which are probably not altogether unfamiliar to them. What do parents imagine children talk about when they hang out together?

What real harm could anyone suffer from reading J.D. Salinger’s Catcher in the Rye, Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird, Toni Morrison’s The Beloved, or Maya Angelou’s I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, four much banned volumes? You may not like them. You may resent having to think about some injustices. You may even disagree. But harm?

TODAY: Penguin Random House is organizing a virtual event this evening. Ibram X. Kendi, Nikole Hannah-Jones, and Nic Stone will lead the discussion at their Banned Books Virtual Event. To register for this free event click here.

See also Book burning.

Trinity College Library sends us a detailed account of the conservation of a damaged manuscript pocket Bible. The parchment was so degraded by mould and moisture and the binding so tight that the book could hardly be opened without falling apart. Some repairs to the parchment involved straightening out little bent bits, and this was done with moisture and tweezers. In some instances it sufficed for the conservator to use just their breath to dampen the damaged spot using a straw to direct it.

The damage shown above was repaired by reconstituting the parchment. “The parchment leaves were consolidated and repaired with 2.5-3.5mm dots of remoistenable tissue cut with a Japanese screw punch and applied with very fine tweezers under magnification.” In spite of the conservators success in repairing the parchment it was judged that the leaves remained too fragile to be rebound into a book, or even to be turned in the normal way, so they were preserved as individual leaves placed between oversize pages of archival paper gathered into quires.

If you don’t see a video here, please click on the title of this post in order to view it in your browser.

Each repaired quire was bound as a paper-covered pamphlet and the whole bible is now stored in a box designed to hold the whole thing under slight pressure when closed.

Trinity College conservator Edward Cheese tell us “The conserved manuscript has been photographed and can be read in the Wren Digital Library. Those interested in the collation determined during the disbinding can view the diagrams.”

The whole process took three years to complete. It is inspiring to reflect that we live in a world where we can afford to do such work.

“Anybody can write a three-volume novel, it merely requires a complete ignorance of both life and literature”: Oscar Wilde 1890.

The idea of publishing a novel in three separate volumes was invented by Archibald Constable, Sir Walter Scott’s Edinburgh-based publisher, the first example being Kenilworth, published in three volumes in 1821. The novels were priced at 1½ guineas (£1 11s. 6d.), or ten shillings and sixpence (half a guinea) a volume, which remained the standard pricing for a triple-decker for the next seventy years. Single-volume novels tended to be priced at six shillings at that time so few individuals could afford the three-volume sets. So what was Constable’s motivation? Surely nobody would suggest that a publisher might be crass enough to have an interest in profiteering? Didn’t do him much good: he went bankrupt in 1826, bringing down Sir Walter too.

The triple-deckers were published for the subscription library business. Publishers would usually print an edition of 1,000 copies, and a year later bring out a one-volume edition. Many novels were also first published in weekly parts right at the outset. Today we see a similar layering of editions in the publication of hardback, paperback and ebook: publishers are determined in their belief that there are people who will pay more to get early access to their reading material.

Towards the end of their run triple-decker novels had become a bit of a rack on which authors were tortured. Because the circulating libraries of the late nineteenth century liked the format, as it enabled them to keep three patrons busy at the same time, publishers would insist that their authors wrote more words in order to bulk out their books so that each volume contained enough action to be worth its half guinea. One surprisingly blatant example may be found in Anthony Trollope’s The Bertrams. Not only is the book padded with travelogue-like descriptions, the obviously bored author makes a couple of snide references to the three-volume form.

The game kept going till 1894 when Mudie’s Select Library and W. H. Smith refused any longer to buy these sets at the price agreed. They had been buying the 10/6 volumes for 5/-, but now refused to pay more than 4 shillings. At the circulating library counts 5,167 novels (23% of their total count of Victorian novels) as having been published in three volumes. Maybe the last triple-decker to be published was The Lord of the Rings in 1954 and 1955.

Richard Menke’s “The End of the Three-Volume Novel System” at Branch Collective provides an extensive history of the format.

The Scholarly Kitchen has a piece about Google Books and their failed attempt to scan it all. It is a review of Along Came Google: A History of Library Digitization by Deana Marcum and Roger Schonfeld, published last September by Princeton University Press. (I wrote about Google Books a few years ago.)

Now of course it’s a pity we don’t have free access to every book published in the past — but our loss is surely fairly small in the scheme of things. And be it noted that often the scanning may have a flaw or two. This scan,

of the map of Galashiels in 1795 facing page 76 in Robert Hall’s History of Galashiels, is frustrating, but ultimately pretty irrelevant in a free Internet Archive version of Google’s scan. However if you had paid $65.32 for the Facsimile Publisher’s edition of the book, you might be less charmed to find this hand in place of the map. Of course, as I haven’t paid $65.32 I don’t know that they didn’t take some remedial action, but I suspect many a fly-by-night publisher wouldn’t even be aware of such an issue. See Forgotten books for some examples of publishing morality.

In a way, whether we have digitized versions of everything, or just bits of everything, is an archetypical librarian’s issue. For most of us the question is, is there a digitized version of book X, which I want to look at right now? If there is, great: if not, we move on. Having online access to everything ever written would be great, but can you not remember that there once was a time when if you wanted to see what someone had written you had to find a library, find the book, sit down and open it? Amazingly we somehow managed, and might I suggest, still can.

From Robert Hall: The History of Galashiels (Published on subscription by the Galashiels Manufacturers Corporation, 1898).

“The first library in the town was founded by Dr Douglas in 1797, and was termed the Galashiels Subscription Library. The first minute-book is lost; the first entry in that yet existing is dated 20th November, 1827. The rules provided that members had to pay an entrance fee of five shillings, besides an annual subscription of four shillings. Those falling in arrears for eighteen months were expelled, and fines were levied upon those who failed to attend the annual meeting, or who allowed a non-member the use of a book belonging to the Library. No books hostile to revealed religion or of an immoral tendency, nor those treating on divinity, law, physic, or politics could be acquired unless ordered by a majority of members at a general meeting. The Library was open even Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday, between the hours of nine and ten, morning; two and three, afternoon; and six to eight in the evening.

The Library was originally kept in the Old Town, and William Hislop was librarian. When it was located there, Sir Walter Scott was a frequent visitor, and, in answer to some question regarding it, David Thomson thus replied,—

'We hae nae many books in vogue,
As you'll see by the catalogue,
In truth our funds are rather spare,
At present we can do name mair,
We're ruined quite in oor finances
Wi' your bewitching, famed romances.'

On the removal of the Hislops to Bridge Street, William Gill was appointed librarian, and the books were transferred to Overhaugh Street. It would have been interesting to learn the nature and class of books in demand in the early years of the Library. The first mentioned list of new books occurs in 1827, when the following works were acquired:— The London Mechanics’ Magazine, the third volume of Byron’s Works, Tales of a Grandfather, Chalmers’ Pictures of Scotland, Travels and Voyages of Columbus, Nicholson’s Mechanic, and Gill’s History of Greece. What remuneration the librarian received is not stated till 1837, when it was fixed at £5, 10s per annum. In 1840 Mr Gill resigned on account of the members calling upon him for books at any time that suited their own convenience. Finding no one willing to undertake the duty, the committee requested Mr Gill to continue in office, which he did on condition that his salary was raised to £7. . . .

In 1843 there were 150 members, and in 1847 the salary of the librarian was increased to £10, 13s. In  1847 Mr Gill again resigned, and Edward Gray, painter, High Street, fulfilled the duties for the sum of £8 annually. Owing to a decrease in membership, the committee decided to admit readers on payment of one shilling and sixpence quarterly. The magazines read in 1850 were <em>The Dublin University Magazine</em>, Blackwood’s, Tait’s, Edinburgh Review, and Hogg’s Instructor. There were at this time one hundred and and two members and thirty-nine readers. Notwithstanding the large additions made to the number of books, the membership declined, till in 1854 it had fallen to eighty-four and sixteen readers. With the view of attracting members, the entry money was reduced to two shillings and sixpence, but this proved of no avail. In 1859 the committee resolved to wind up the Library affairs and divide the books, all members in arrears being debarred from participating in the division. The number of books amounted to 3000, which were put up in lots corresponding to the number of members. A ballot took place, and the Library was dissolved, a considerable number of the volumes finding their way into the Mechanics’ Library.”

The Mechanics’ Library had been established in 1837, and kept going till 1873, when it gave up in face of the completion of the free Public Library which had been established under the Public Libraries Act of 1850, but wasn’t opened till 1874. The building below dates from 1889, I think. On the map below it’s situated just to the left of the Corn mill at the bottom.

Galashiels Public Library

Galashiels was in the eighteenth century a little village on the edge of the flood plain of Gala Water a couple of miles from the Tweed, squashed in between the river and the Laird of Gala’s policies (estate). I think it’s quite impressive how serious the villagers obviously were. Here’s part of a map of the town in 1824 which shows only a couple of the big woolen mills which came to dominate the town by the end of the century.

Detail of John Wood’s 1824 map. From National Library of Scotland

Montaigne’s library was located in this circular tower at the Château de Montaigne, near Bergerac and Saint-Emilion. You can take a virtual tour of a reconstruction of the library — in the sense of a room — at the Musée d’Aquitaine’s website. Click on it and you can drag the cursor around to rotate the display.

Moving from the sense of library as a room, to its meaning as a collection of books, Cambridge University Library’s Montaigne’s library contains Gilbert de Botton’s attempt at assembling all the books in Montaigne had in that room. Their collection includes ten copies which were actually owned by Montaigne, and links take you to digitized versions of a few of them.

On 2 September The New Yorker published an article about ebooks in libraries. This was basically a portrait of OverDrive, a major force in the market. (Link via BookRiot.)

“Last year, more than a hundred library systems checked out a million or more books each from OverDrive’s catalogue, and the company reported a staggering four hundred and thirty million checkouts, up a third from the year before. (Barnes & Noble, which has more retail locations than any other bookseller in the U.S., has said that it sells about a hundred and fifty-five million print books a year.)” Digital purchases are consuming a bigger and bigger part of library budgets (taxpayer money) as time goes by. At the same time it becomes more and more common to “blame” publishers for something or other.

How do libraries buy ebooks and audiobooks? It varies, and of course they are not really “buying” ebooks: they are just licensing access to ebooks. By and large public libraries do not make deals with publishers: the publishers subcontract the right to sell access to their ebooks to a handful of companies, the largest of which is OverDrive. Amazon doesn’t sell to libraries either, and indeed they didn’t allow access to their ebooks for libraries until last May when they struck a deal with Digital Public Library of America. Academic books are often supplied to libraries in digital format as a subscription to a collection of books from one or a group of publishers. There may be a few such subscriptions at public library systems, but this publisher-library-direct business tends to be focussed on college and academic libraries.

Books are supplied to public libraries on a variety of terms, none of which seem entirely satisfactory to all parties:

  • One copy, one user
  • 26 check-outs, then rebuy
  • 2-year license with unlimited borrowing
  • Perpetual license
  • Multiple pay-per-use licenses

Maybe the one thing we can confidently predict is that the ultimate pricing model for library ebook purchases will not be a unitary one-size-has-to-fit-all deal: it will provide a variety of options which can be exercised now and then, on this or that title, in these or those conditions.

One of the problems with the boom in lending that took place during the pandemic is its cost. The New Yorker gives an example provided by the New York Public Library, which revealed “its January, 2021, figures for ‘A Promised Land’, the memoir by Barack Obama that had been published a few months earlier by Penguin Random House. At that point, the library system had purchased three hundred and ten perpetual audiobook licenses at ninety-five dollars each, for a total of $29,450, and had bought six hundred and thirty-nine one- and two-year licenses for the e-book, for a total of $22,512. Taken together, these digital rights cost about as much as three thousand copies of the consumer e-book, which they could get for about eighteen dollars per copy. As of August, 2021, the library has spent less than ten thousand dollars on two hundred and twenty-six copies of the hardcover edition, which has a list price of forty-five dollars but sells for $23.23 on Amazon.”

A rather more radical solution to the pricing of ebooks (basically just taking them) was discussed in Suing the Internet Archive, a law suit which still rolls on. And the States of Maryland and New York have also just legislated that ebooks must be made available to libraries “on reasonable terms”. Of course that means almost nothing: one man’s reasonable may be another man’s extortionate. Of course from a publisher’s point of view the big problem is that everyone knows that ebooks cost nothing to produce, and so almost any price north of zero must axiomatically be unreasonable!

Publishers Weekly reports on possible action in Congress. I suppose questions do have to be asked. Chunks of taxpayer money devoted to libraries (relatively small chunks it’s true) do have to be accounted for. There’s a fair (reasonable) deal out there waiting to be made, but it’s not going to be a deal which just appropriates the property of authors and publishers and gives it away to library patrons for free. The states are stirring. New York State has followed Maryland’s lead and voted to make licensing of ebooks to libraries “on reasonable terms” a legal requirement: though the bill has just been vetoed by Governor Hochul. The Publishers Association has also sued to counter Maryland’s law.

There is an argument to be made that ebooks sold to libraries are being sold too cheaply! And it’s not just an argument from greed. The costs involved in making a book — notably the author’s work in writing it and the publishers’ in whipping it into salable shape — do have to be recovered. Look at the figures above for the Obama book. 310 audiobooks and 639 ebooks bought for the same amount as 3,000 copies of the physical book would have cost. One would need to know how many New Yorkers had borrowed the audiobook or the ebook to know for sure, but 3,000 physical books might well not have been able to satisfy demand without long waiting lists. To go to a more recherché example — it might be possible to satisfy almost all the demand there was for Advanced Studies in Calabi-Yau Manifolds with half a dozen ebooks, maybe even a single one, so what becomes the reasonable price for such a thing? The author may have spent decades acquiring the knowledge of the subject and writing it down. Nobody can suggest that $9.95 might be the reasonable price — more like $9,999.95 which of course no library could afford. But, as I said, there’s a fair deal out there waiting to be made — different types of book will obviously require different terms of sale and pricing levels.

See also Mandatory ebook licenses for libraries? which was about the Maryland decision.