Lawmakers Broaden Investigation of Library E-Books Market

Senator Ron Wyden (D-Oregon) and US Representative Anna Eshoo (D-California) this week Expanded their ongoing investigation into the Library eBook market, this time by asking a series of questions to nine major distributors. Lawmakers have asked for answers by December 9, 2021.

Investigation [read the full letter here] requests information, including: copies of standard license agreements and a description of restrictions; sales information dating back to 2018; information about the type of customer data that is collected and retained; whether any data breaches have occurred, including incidents that may have “unintentionally exposed” library or patron data; a description of any legal actions the companies may have taken; and information on the 100 best-selling or licensed works of each company from 2015 to 2019.

The request was sent to CEOs of OverDrive, Hoopla (Midwest Tape), EBSCO, ProQuest, Axis 360 (Baker & Taylor), Bibliotheca, Gale (Cengage), Elsevier (RELX), DPLA Exchange / Palace Marketplace (LYRASIS).

The latest probe comes after lawmakers asked a series of Big Five-like questions in September, referring to the “exorbitant costs and onerous restrictions” on e-book licenses which they say “are draining the resources of many local libraries. “. and “to force [libraries] make tough choices in trying to provide a consistent level of service “to their communities.

“We understand that these difficulties arise because eBooks are typically offered under more expensive and limited license agreements, unlike printed books which libraries can typically purchase, own and lend on their own terms,” ​​Wyden write. and Eshoo in a statement. this week. “These license agreements, the terms of which are set by individual publishers and aggregators of eBooks, often include restrictions on lending, transfer and reproduction, which may conflict with the ability of libraries to lend books. , as well as with the exceptions and limitations of copyright.

The Wyden / Eshoo investigation comes after a decade of tension and the past two busy years in the digital library market, evidenced by Macmillan’s controversial (and since abandoned) experiment with embargoing new e-book titles for libraries, and with the demand for library e-books booming in the wake of the pandemic.

Currently, two states, Maryland and New York State, have passed laws requiring publishers who make e-books available to consumers in the state to also make those books available to libraries on terms. “Reasonable”, measures opposed by the Association of American Publishers. And, a group of major publishers are suing the Internet Archive for its program of scanning printed copies of library books and lending the scans in place of printing under an untested legal theory known as lending. digitally controlled.

A spokesperson for Wyden’s office recently said TP that all major publishers responded to the legislator’s initial request, but declined at this point to characterize their responses or say whether the publishers fully answered the questions.

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