While I had a lot to say about ebooks in libraries last fall, I've since found it almost ridiculous to keep up with all the different news on that front. It's clear that things need to change, but there are so many possibilities for what direction that change is going to take.
However in the latest round of ebook developments I have to bring up a point that I think I first saw put forth by Jamie LaRue (although I can't seem to find the link now). Hachette recently decided to follow the example of Random House and dramatically raise its prices for ebooks sold to libraries. The argument here is that a digital file doesn't fall apart like a book and so libraries can lend them forever and never have to buy new copies of perennially popular titles.
While it's true that libraries do buy replacement copies of books that don't physically hold up, during my years in a public library it was more common that mile-long hold lists were the reasons we bought more copies of a title we already owned (which is something we'd still have to do with ebooks). Once the first rush is over, though, we have twenty copies of Twilight just sitting on the shelf taking up room that could be used for new titles. And with a physical book we can just weed those copies to make room for more relevant titles.
But libraries buying multiple digital copies of Fifty Shades today will still have multiple copies of Fifty Shades not getting checked out in a few years. I find it hard to believe that those extra copies sitting around not getting checked out will really be hurting the publishing industry's bottom line. Meanwhile libraries had to spend two or three times as much per copy to buy ebooks, so we either didn't fully support a new format our patrons are using, or we didn't buy enough copies in a long standing format the majority of our patrons are still using.
Yet again libraries are getting screwed by publishers and publishers are claiming that they're just trying to protect themselves from all those free-loading public library patrons. Did they not pay any attention to the growing number of surveys pointing out what voracious book buyers, ereader owners and public library users are?