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The truth about e-book lending at the Westmont Library

Published: Thursday, May 23, 2013 1:45 p.m. CST
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Anna Behm

It’s no secret that librarians love books.

More than that, librarians love connecting people with books. As a librarian, I am thrilled we can offer e-books to our patrons.

They are convenient, fun and part of the rapidly digitizing world. But I am frustrated, too. Many popular e-books are not available to libraries. Moreover, the process of checking out e-books is cumbersome and frustrating, making it difficult for patrons to discover and check out digital materials.


Right now, publishers control not only how we loan e-books, but also whether libraries even can purchase certain titles.

Each of the six biggest publishers has adopted restrictive policies toward library e-book lending. Random House, for example, charges libraries three times the commercial price for e-books. HarperCollins only will allow an e-book to be loaned 26 times before the library must repurchase it, and Penguin’s e-books expire after just one year.

All publishers require libraries to implement a one book, one user model for their e-books, meaning patrons can spend weeks waiting for their turn to download a digital book.


E-book lending in libraries is far from perfect, but things slowly are changing as the publishing world evolves.

Hachette, which never has sold e-books to libraries, announced May 1 it is jumping into the library e-book market. You can help speed up this change by visiting www.ebooksforlibraries.com and letting publishers know you want their e-books in your library.


In the meantime, the Westmont Public Library is here to help. If you have not checked out our e-books, we have many ways to get you started.

Visit our website, westmontlibrary.org, and take a look at our “Getting Started” e-book guides, or call the library to “Book a Librarian” for 30 minutes of one-on-one instruction.

You also can visit us when we roam to local businesses and WiFi hotspots in the community (check our online calendar for dates). Or stop by the reference desk when we’re open to get answers to your e-book questions.

We always are happy to sit down and help you discover and check out resources onto your e-reader, tablet or computer.

Anna Behm is a librarian at the Westmont Public Library.

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