Central Pa. libraries struggle getting e-books from large publishing companies

The convenience of e-books coupled with the library's wallet-friendly loan policy should optimize a reader’s experience.


Unless, of course, the title belongs to one of the big six publishing companies in America — Hachette, HarperCollins, Macmillan, Penguin, Random House and Simon & Schuster — who either restrict book sales with libraries altogether or price gouge up to a rate of 300 percent.


Just how many books fall into that category? Roughly two-thirds of the entire market.


“I find it unfortunate,” said Duffy Batzer, e-books specialist at the Cleve J. Fredricksen Library in Camp Hill. “They work with us to put books on the shelves, so I don’t understand why they won’t work with us to loan e-books.”


Batzer spends every Friday at the device kiosk inside the Fredricksen Library assisting residents with everything and anything e-book related.


“When we originally started this, it was just to help people with how to get e-books from the library,” she said. “Now, anything in the realm of online books, I’ve been trying to program for the library.”


Fredricksen Library’s e-book catalogue includes 2,500 fiction, 1,500 non-fiction and 1,500 audio titles as well as a laptop, iPad, Kindle Fire, Nook Color, Nook touch screen and touch screen Kindle for readers to test pilot before purchase.


“They can actually look at a device and use them without listening to a sales pitch,” Batzer said.


Batzer said every library in both Dauphin and Cumberland counties retains access to the same e-book and audio book catalogue, but their selection lacks big names authors, such as Patricia Cornwell, Bill O’Reilly, Rick Riordan and Nora Roberts.


In a combined news release from the Dauphin County and Cumberland County library systems, Cumberland County Library System Executive Director Jonelle Darr said of the contentious relationship between libraries and major publishers, “To deny library patrons access to e-books that are available to consumers — and which libraries are eager to purchase or license on their behalf — is discriminatory.”


Batzer said the lack of selection disappoints readers who depend on the library and can’t afford to buy books themselves.


“It’s the publishers, it’s not us,” Batzer said. “I think it frustrates the public.”


Libraries also find fault with the “disjointed and cumbersome” experience created by e-content distributors, who essentially act as middlemen between publisher and reader — an issue Batzer faces on a daily basis.


“It can get a little tricky because in the initial set up, you have to sign up for an adobe account if you don’t have one....” Batzer said. “And some of that can be a little intimidating to some people. But once you get through those initial steps, it’s very simple.”


Batzer periodically hosts instructional classes that teach people how to use iPads, Kindles or Nooks. She said she hopes to set a recurring schedule of classes at the library this summer.


“It’s free,” she said. “You don’t even have to live in Cumberland County — anyone who calls and signs up is welcome.”


As one of the first libraries in the county to embrace e-books, Batzer also works with other libraries to enhance their knowledge of e-books, including the Amelia Givin Library in Mt. Holly Springs.


“The reference staff here has a working knowledge and we are working to get that across the board in Cumberland County,” Batzer said.


The Cumberland County Library System is one of 200 library systems throughout the United States and Canada that has signed the ReadersFirst Initiative, demanding improved e-book services for library users that include publishers lifting restrictions on e-book sales to libraries.


Residents can take action at www.cumberlandcountylibraries.org/missingtitles.


Photo credit: Michael Bupp/The Sentinel

Fredicksen Library Ebook Specialist Duffy Batzer explains how the e-books kiosk and tablet station will benefit those using the library.


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