|American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression:|
Slide image for Banned Books Week
In time for Banned Books Week, American Library Association president Maureen Sullivan spoke out on a systemic barrier: three of the world’s largest publishers — Simon & Schuster, Macmillan and Penguin — refuse to provide access to their e-books in U.S. libraries.
Sullivan released an open letter to America’s publishers on Sept. 28. In it, she stated that these publishers are denying e-book access to “112,000 libraries and roughly 169 million public library users.”
Those library users include readers in the County of Lake, who recently acquired access to the Overdrive e-book catalog through the Lake County Library.
If libraries’ digital bookshelves mirrored the New York Times fiction best-seller list, according to Sullivan, those libraries would be missing half of their collection any given week due to the three publishers’ policies:
“The popular ‘Bared to You’ and ‘The Glass Castle’ are not available in libraries because libraries cannot purchase them at any price. Today’s teens also will not find the digital copy of Judy Blume’s seminal ‘Forever,’ nor today’s blockbuster ‘Hunger Games’ series.”In her letter, Sullivan spoke to a benefit that I have relied upon all my life:
“America’s libraries have always served as the ‘people’s university’ by providing access to reading materials and educational opportunity for the millions who want to read and learn but cannot afford to buy the books they need. Librarians have a particular concern for vulnerable populations that may not have any other access to books and electronic content, including individuals and families who are homebound or low-income. To deny these library users access to e-books that are available to others — and which libraries are eager to purchase on their behalf — is discriminatory.”And while Sullivan referred exclusively to “librarians” in statements like this and others, the issue of bridging the digital divide is a matter of grave importance to me as a volunteer, user, advocate and student.
I urge Simon & Schuster, Macmillan and Penguin to follow the example set by hundreds of e-book publishers that, as Sullivan stated, “have embraced the opportunity to create new sales and reach readers through our nation’s libraries.”
Banned Books Week is being observed this year from Sept. 30 to Oct. 6. For information and resources, visit http://bannedbooksweek.org/.