The Canadian Urban Libraries Council (CULC), a coalition of Canada’s large public libraries, along with many U.S. public libraries such as the New York Public Library, are putting forth their demands for changes to the way e-book content is purchased and delivered, in order to improve access for customers.
Libraries have a responsibility to advocate for the public and ensure that users have the same open, easy and free access to e-books that they have come to rely on with physical books.
They currently face two major challenges. The first is that a number of major publishers are not selling e-books to libraries. The second is that the products currently offered by electronic content distributors, the intermediaries from whom libraries buy e-books, create a fragmented, disjointed and cumbersome user experience. To correct this, e-content providers must be willing partners, and offer products that allow customers to:
- Search and browse a single comprehensive catalogue with all the library’s offerings together, including e-books, physical collections, programs and blogs. Currently, content providers often only allow searches within the products they sell, depriving users of a seamless and comprehensive library experience.
- Place holds, check-out items, view availability, manage fines and receive communications within individual library catalogues or in the venue the library believes will serve them best, without having to visit separate websites (libraries, not distributors, should be enabled to manage all library interactions with customers).
- Seamlessly enjoy a variety of e-content. To do this, libraries must be able to choose content, devices and apps from any provider or from multiple providers, without bundling that limits a library’s ability to serve the content they purchase on platforms of their choice.
- Download e-books that are compatible with all readers, from the Kindle to the Nook to the iPad and so on.
The following Canadian public libraries, which in total serve over 12.5 million people, are supporting this endeavour:
- Toronto Public Library
- Bibliothèques Montreal
- Ottawa Public Library
- Mississauga Library System
- Edmonton Public Library
- Hamilton Public Library
- Fraser Valley Regional Library
- Vancouver Public Library
- Greater Victoria Public Library
- Halifax Public Libraries
- Markham Public Library
- Vaughan Public Library
- Vancouver Island Regional Library
- Burlington Public Library
- Kitchener Public Library
- Saskatoon Public Library
- Thunder Bay Public Library
- Cambridge Public Library
- Barrie Public Library
- Bibliothèque municipale de Gatineau
- Winnipeg Public Library
- Regina Public Library
In order for libraries to continue to function as key providers of information to the public, these basic principles must be followed. The libraries who signed this agreement are committed to holding content providers to this standard, and will prioritize these requirements when acquiring e-books and other e-content.
This statement advances the work of the CULC e-book taskforce, which released its Vision Statement in August 2010. Further exploration of this issue has culminated in a shared set of requirements for the development of a digital repository for Canadian public libraries. CULC will publicly release these requirements to companies interested in developing a hosted service for a Canadian digital repository in June 2012.