Open Letter: Authors for Library E-Books

Naturally the subject of e-books in libraries arose during the week at NELLS. For those who are unfamiliar with the issue, Maureen Sullivan’s open letter to publishers (9/28/2012) is a good place to begin. In it, she explains how libraries support publishers by improving literacy, instilling a lifelong love of reading, and aiding discovery of new authors and genres. E-books in libraries will no more cannibalize e-book sales to consumers than print books in libraries have (i.e., they won’t; research shows that most people who borrow from the library also buy books).


The Authors for Library E-Books campaign (@Authors4LE on Twitter; #A4LE) is an effort to encourage authors to speak out on this issue. Libraries and authors are natural allies, and we all need to speak up to bring this change about. To this end, I contacted a few authors that I have met over the years – through publishing or through author events at bookstores and at the library. I’ve included a template of my letter here; if you know an author (or two, or five, or twelve) who supports libraries, feel free to tweak this and send it along. I personalized each one by mentioning a recent reading of theirs that I’d attended, a program they’d done at a library, or a new book of theirs coming out soon.

An Open Letter to Authors for Library E-Books

Dear [Author],

I hope you are having a good summer so far. I know you are a strong supporter of libraries, and I thought you might like to join ALA’s “Authors for Library E-Books” effort.

I’m sure you’re aware of the ongoing discourse between publishers and libraries on this topic. As it stands, each publisher has come up with a different solution: HarperCollins, for example, licenses e-books to libraries at a reasonable cost, but those licenses expire after 26 uses. Other publishers, such as Random House, charge libraries more than three times the consumer price for e-books and digital audiobooks.

Author and library advocate Cory Doctorow has made a short (four minutes) video about why he supports the Authors for Library E-Books campaign. He says, “Libraries have been so important to the careers of writers, and librarians are such fabulous advocates for authors….Libraries should be able to buy books and they should be able to buy them on fair terms.”

Join Cory Doctorow, Jodi Picoult, Ursula Le Guin, and many other authors who stand with libraries on this issue. You can sign onspeak out, and learn more at the A4LE site, or of course feel free to contact me with any questions or feedback.


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