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Library Ebook Pricing and Controlled Digital Lending

What publishers charge libraries for ebooks to provide to patrons is out of control. Publishers will only lease ebooks to libraries through a middleman for a certain period of time (a year or two) and/or a certain number of patron checkouts (after the maximum number of checkouts is reached the library cannot circ the ebook anymore). The following are quotes from an NPR article.

The Internet Archive has countered this with controlled digital lending.

So from the perspective of a borrower, this doesn't really change very much from your e-book borrowing experience. But behind the scenes, it's very different. The Internet Archive doesn't pay to license the e-books in its Open Library project. Instead, the Internet Archive acquires a print copy of the book, and it then makes a digital version available to borrow one at a time. And this model is called controlled digital lending.

You have one physical copy of it. Then you loan out one digital copy, and the physical copy is sequestered. It's not made available for other people to come and get it.

Publishers sued the Internet Archive.

But the publishers sued the archive for copyright infringement, saying the website is copying and distributing books without compensating the people who created that work - the publishers and the authors.

We reached out to the Association of American Publishers. Their general counsel, Terrence Hart, said the Internet Archive is committing systematic theft.

Publishers don't like controlled digital lending. At all.

Part of the tension is for a publisher - they're looking at it and saying, now this thing is digitized, and we're not getting anything for that because you now are just using it and circulating it, but we haven't gotten any money for that. And then our response is, but there was money exchanged when we first bought the physical thing. We did pay for it.

But the publishers say, all right, well, you paid for the print book, but it is still illegal under copyright law to reproduce it, to distribute it or change it into a new format by digitizing it. And the publishers entirely reject the idea of controlled digital lending.

The Internet Archive lawsuit is currently ongoing.

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