On September 24, the recently-elected president of the American Library Association, Maureen Sullivan, released a harshly critical open letter to the US publishing industry about e-lending. The following is a statement from the Association of American Publishers:
Publishers and local libraries have had a lifelong partnership dedicated to increasing literacy and nurturing the love of reading. The publisher members of AAP provide libraries with innumerable free resources, programs and services — all designed to serve their cardholders, inform their librarians and sustain the vitality of their institutions.
Publishers recognize libraries’ interest in serving their customers and we want books to have the widest distribution possible. The issues surrounding e-lending, however, are not as simple as Ms. Sullivan claims. Publishers support the concept of e-lending but must solve a breadth of complex technological, operational, financial and other challenges to make it a reality. Each publishing company is grappling individually with how to best serve the interests of its authors and readers, protect digital intellectual property rights and create this new business model that is fair to all stakeholders. And while the 9000-plus library systems’ non-profit status permits them to convene, debate and reach consensus on these issues, commercial publishers cannot likewise come together due to antitrust restrictions.
Within the narrow scope of our authority as a trade association, AAP has tried to help advance the dialogue on e-lending between libraries and publishers. The session we organized for former ALA leadership at our Annual Meeting remains our most-watched online video. In that spirit, AAP is set to host an event to be held in a few days welcoming Ms. Sullivan and providing her with a platform to speak to more than 100 members of the publishing community.
At a time when individual publishing houses are more actively engaged than ever in exploring viable solutions to e-lending, we are disappointed that the new leadership at ALA chose this path, with this particular timing, to criticize those efforts.