Libraries were on board with the eRevolution quite early, offering ebook downloads to their patrons. They embraced the Internet and in many communities are still the public’s only link to the global web. American libraries are also the fast becoming the first victims of eBooks.
Each community supports their libraries in different ways: with federal money, state money and local money usually via a tax levy. Funding is based on many factors including the amount of books in a library, the amount of card holders that library has, and the size of the community served. Of course, these factors vary widely, depending on the state in which the library is located.
The budget for a library is usually determined annually, and a percentage of their money is generated by late fees on books. While this money is a small amount of the operating budget, it does help purchase new books, both print and digital, support children’s programs and many other things.
With digital books, they automatically expire so there are no late fees associated with them. Also, each publisher has their own set of rules regarding the cost of digital books they sell to libraries, the amount of check outs they can have per title, and dictate how many titles a library can have and which authors they are willing to let libraries have in their collections. These titles also expire at this end of one year forcing the library to re-purchase them.
All this adds up to quite a significant loss of revenue for libraries. Many libraries are now finding that it costs more money to purchase a digital book than a print one.
To offset these costs some libraries are now charging non-residents for a library card. The GoodeReader.com in a recent article noted that: “Brooklyn Public Library charges $50, Charlotte-Mecklenburg County $45, Fairfax County $27, New Orleans Public $50 and Orange County Library System $125.”
Other libraries are turning to their communities for additional support. Libraries offer books – digital and print – to many communities that otherwise would not have access. Hopefully, publishers will determine a better system for library purchases and distribution and the communities these libraries serve will see the value in supporting them.