but not at Amazon. Oh no. This time they are striking back at those subversive institutions called libraries. You remember them? Libraries were those buildings your mother warned you against going into. They had — gasp — books in them. Books are bad. They make you think. They let you imagine what like might be like on another planet or in another country. So now Random House is working to make sure you can’t bring those awful institutions into your home via your e-book reader.
Yes, the above is written with my tongue very firmly planted in my cheek. Well, not all of it. Random House has struck against libraries and, frankly, it stinks and is just another reason why I have to wonder about all those authors and others who are so quick to jump to publishers’ defense against Amazon.
In the continuing saga of Random House and OverDrive, the publisher has announced its new pricing for ebooks to libraries. In short, prices for Random House titles have been increased as much as 300%.
From The Digital Shift, e-book prices for RH titles through OverDrive will be:
- Titles available in print as new hardcovers: $65- $85
- Titles available for several months, or generally timed to paperback release: $25-$50
- New children’s titles available in print as hardcovers: $35-$85
- Older children’s titles and children’s paperbacks: $25-$45
Now, that’s a bit deceptive when you look at this example, also from The Digital Shift. Eisenhower in War and Peace went from $40 before the new pricing scheme went into effect to $120. Blessings by Quindlen went from $15 to $45. That’s not exactly what the RH price list shows, is it?
In all fairness, I will admit that RH is the only one of the big six (to my knowledge) that hasn’t imposed restrictions like an e-book can only be loaned 20 times before the library has to “buy” a new copy. But this is just as bad, in my opinion, especially in this day and age when libraries are fighting for their very existence due to decreased city and county budgets.
Now, the supposed reason RH raised the prices for their e-books this much was to align them with the price of RH audiobooks available for download. On the surface, that almost makes sense. However, if you scratch that surface just a little, you’d know how wrong that is. It doesn’t cost nearly as much to make an e-book as it does and audiobook. So there is no huge financial expense RH is trying to offset.
No, it all comes down to the fact that RH, like so many legacy publishers, hate e-books. They failed to embrace the new technology early on and now they are running scared. Why? Because more and more people are moving to e-books from paper books. The ease of carrying around your entire library with you wherever you go, space, environmental concerns, and economic concerns are all reasons why people are changing. But it is more fundamental that that. We are a technological society. Our kids are raised using computers more than pen and paper. Those kids are now young adults. They buy what they are comfortable with and that, friends, is digital.
So libraries, in an attempt to remain relevant to the next generation, as well as to their aging patrons who can’t get out of the house as much as they could and who have been given e-readers by their families, have to make the transition to digital as well. But the big six publishers, and the smaller publishers trying to act like their larger counterparts, are making it next to impossible for them to do so.
PublishersLunch sums it up very well: Random House announced their library ebook pricing, effective as of March 1, which will dampen some of the enthusiasm for the house’s commitment to the “unrestricted and perpetual availability of our complete frontlist and backlist of Random House, Inc.” in ebook form.
Don’t be fooled by the language in RH’s statement that they are open to input from libraries. The data they are supposedly asking for was there before the new pricing scheme was put into place. But RH either didn’t ask for it or chose to ignore it. What they are proposing is to let the libraries suffer for who knows how long before they have sufficient data to change the prices. And that assumes they ever have sufficient data to change things. Of course, I could be wrong.
Now, let’s see how long it takes for authors to take up the cry against these publishers for screwing libraries. Wait, what is that? Is that the sound of crickets? Of course it is. Those same authors who rail against Amazon as being evil won’t stir themselves to fight for survival of our libraries or for these same libraries to have these authors’ titles available for download. Instead, they’ll beat their chests and pump their fists all in support of the publishers that really aren’t looking after their best interests.