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West Hartford Library Patrons Asked to Contact Legislature Regarding eBook and eAudiobook Costs

Noah Webster Library. Courtesy photo

The West Hartford Library explains the exorbitant cost of eBooks and eAudiobooks and what that means for the community.

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The demand for eBooks and eAudiobooks has skyrocketed over the past few years, in part due to the pandemic and access to physical materials. West Hartford itself saw an increase of 166% in the last five years.

Libraries have been struggling to obtain and provide equitable access to eBooks and eAudiobooks for years. They are constantly facing the increased costs associated with obtaining digital resources that enable people to access materials in their town. According to the State Library, the cost for libraries to obtain an eBook license is two times what it costs to purchase a hardcover copy of the same resource. Additionally, these licenses often expire after a set period of time or number of checkouts.

Unlike a physical book, libraries cannot buy eBooks or eAudiobooks from any retail outlet and provide access to their patrons. There is technology required to securely manage digital content and libraries need to go through third party platforms to host their digital collections.

Additionally, publishers have set restrictions on the number of checkouts per copy. According to Library Director Laura Irmscher, “We have to buy the same titles repeatedly because licenses expire. Our patrons have to wait longer for access to books because our collection budgets cannot adequately support the cost of the materials.”

Recently, Connecticut has introduced a bill that would decrease the cost to purchase these digital resources. The bill would require publishers of electronic books to license such books to public libraries on reasonable terms. The bill in Connecticut is the sixth library bill now pending in state legislatures, and the eighth bill overall. Bills are currently pending in Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Illinois, Tennessee, and Missouri, and bills have already passed in Maryland and New York.

The West Hartford Public Library is asking all patrons to please write a letter to the legislature’s Planning and Development Committee expressing their concern on behalf of libraries. Please write of your frustration with long waiting times, missing books in long-running series, and share how valuable e-content is to you and your families. Their email address is: [email protected], the subject line can read: S.B. No. 131 Your Name, Town, Pro. Above the salutation of the letter, please write: S.B. No. 131 (Raised) AN ACT CONCERNING ELECTRONIC BOOK LICENSING. Thank you in advance for your support.

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