Friday, November 9, 2012

Random House Says Libraries Own Its E-Books

Of all the "Big Six" book publishers, Random House is the only one that has held fast to its stance on libraries' ownership of its e-books. Last year, Ruth Liebmann, director of account marketing at Random House, told attendees at a library panel, "A library book does not compete with a sale. A library book is a sale." And just last month, Skip Dye, RH's vice president of library and academic marketing and sales, reiterated to Library Journal, "Random House's often repeated, and always consistent, position is this: when libraries buy their RH, Inc., e-books from authorized library wholesalers, it is our position that they own them."

        Book publisher Random House has not waivered in its long-held assertion that libraries own its electronic titles. (Image via

Random House's belief that libraries own its e-books is in stark contrast to the viewpoint held by the other big book publishers, especially Penguin, which feel "the ready download-ability of library e-books could have an adverse effect on sales," according to Molly Raphael, president of the American Library Association (ALA). As a result, they've developed an increasingly adversarial relationship with libraries, finding more ways to limit libraries' access to popular electronic titles, or even going as far as refusing to offer any of their e-books to libraries for fear of lost sales. That Random House has confidently allowed libraries continuous access to its electronic titles is commendable. 

Yet, this action doesn't completely absolve Random House of accusations of greed. Earlier this year, it drastically raised the prices of its e-books - in some cases, as much as 300 percent - eliciting both exasperation and consternation from librarians across the country and the world. The South Shore Public Libraries system in Bridgewater, Nova Scotia, Canada, actually  boycotted Random House e-books in the wake of the steep price increase. "I don't want to pick a fight with them," said Troy Myers, chief librarian of South Shore Public Libraries, "but their pricing's unfair and I think they need to change it." Despite calls from the ALA to reconsider the price increase, Random House has, as of yet, not done so. I doubt it will. After all, once prices go up, they're not very likely to come down.

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