Montgomery County, Md., Pioneers Call for Fair E-Book Prices for Libraries

Despite pent-up demand for e-books, Montgomery County libraries are stymied by book publishing pricing practices that are straining budgets. A county resolution calls for a remedy to the problem.

by / July 24, 2013

The Montgomery County, Md., Council unanimously passed a resolution Tuesday urging state and federal authorities to help public libraries obtain fair prices for e-books.

The resolution makes Montgomery County one of the first state or local jurisdictions to make more equitable e-book pricing a formal policy. Another is the state of Connecticut where Gov. Danell Malloy signed this June a bill that called for an investigation into library e-book pricing in that state.

It asks the Maryland General Assembly, the U.S. Congress, the U.S. Justice Department and the Federal Trade Commission "to examine this issue and seek any appropriate remedy so that county library users will have the access to materials in a reasonable and non-discriminatory manner."

In their legislative analysis, county staff cited Governing's July cover story on libraries and e-book pricing. The story documented the obstacles that libraries face in procuring e-books from the major publishers: limited availability, onerous conditions and higher prices.

County officials said that the Montgomery County libraries had seen an 88 percent growth in e-book checkouts between 2010 and 2011 and another 87 percent increase between 2011 and 2012, which is in line with national trends.

The libraries set aside an additional $300,000 in their fiscal year 2014 budget for e-books to try to meet that demand, but the bottom line is, according to staff: "e-book pricing and distribution policies have placed a strain on the (libraries') budget and limited the access of e-books to library patrons.

This story was originally published by GOVERNING.com.

Dylan Scott, Governing

Dylan Scott (@DylanLScott) graduated from the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism at Ohio University in 2010. While there, he won an Associated Press award for Best Investigative Reporting for a series of stories on the university’s structural deficit. He then worked at the Las Vegas Sun and Center for Education Reform before joining Governing. He has reported on the Supreme Court’s consideration of the Affordable Care Act and various education reform movements in state and local government. When out of the office, Dylan spends his time watching classic films and reading fantasy fiction (most recently: A Song of Ice and Fire by George R.R. Martin).

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