ALA disappointed in New York Governor's rejection of ebook equity legislation

For Immediate Release
Mon, 01/03/2022

Contact:

Communications and Marketing Office

ALA Media Relations

CMO

cmo@ala.org

WASHINGTON, DC — On Dec. 29, 2021, New York Governor Kathy Hochul vetoed legislation that would require publishers to offer licenses for electronic books to libraries under reasonable terms (S2890B / A5837B). The bills had passed the New York state senate and assembly with overwhelming bipartisan support in June 2021. ALA President Patricia “Patty” Wong issued the following statement: 

"Governor Hochul’s decision to veto S2890B / A5837B is unfortunate and disappointing. Protecting New Yorkers’ access to digital books through the library is critical to ensuring equitable access to information for all. We are grateful to the New York Library Association and New York library workers, advocates, and partners in the legislature who helped develop and champion this bill, and we will continue to work toward a solution that puts equitable access first."

The governor’s claim that federal law ties the hands of state lawmakers is incorrect in response to publishers' unreasonable attempts to discriminate against public libraries. 

The problem is clear: For popular trade ebooks, libraries often pay $55 for one copy that expires after 2 years (or $550 for one copy for 20 years). Meanwhile, a consumer will pay about $15 for perpetual use. By comparison, libraries can purchase hardcover books for around $18-20. The challenges don’t end there: non-price terms are similarly problematic, such as the ability to archive and preserve works or develop versions for people with disabilities. From the library user’s perspective, change is necessary. 

ALA will continue active engagement toward more reasonable access to digital books for libraries. While direct negotiation with the industry – with whom most of the decision-making and authority on library digital book pricing and access rests – is preferred, ALA will also work at the state and federal levels to extend some of the rights that libraries have in the print world to the digital environment. 

Too much power rests with publishing companies and their large multinational parents. ALA firmly believes libraries need to have more of a voice in the digital book market. America’s communities deserve to be heard and served through their libraries. Library groups, library advocates, and friends of libraries will not cease our efforts to ensure fair pricing for libraries despite this disappointing outcome.