Society is moving from print to screen-based technology. Americans owning eReaders jumped from six percent of the population in 2010 to thirty-three percent in 2012. Twenty-three percent of all books sold in 2012 were in eBook formats. The eBook industry had $7.1 billion sales in 2012. Libraries must meet the changing demands or risk becoming irrelevant.
Major problems exist for libraries with the current eBook model. Libraries must obtain e-content from Third party suppliers. In doing so libraries have lost ownership, discounts and integration.
Loss of ownership is the largest issue facing libraries since libraries no longer own the materials they purchase. In the print world the rights and privileges of owning a book are rooted in English Common Law and entitle the user the right to use, lend, sell or otherwise control a book. None of these rights are extended in the eBook model. In fact, you do not own the book in a traditional sense; instead eBooks are granted certain privileges or rights. Libraries are either being forced to pay extremely high prices or do without eBooks. In the print model when a library wishes to access a book they do not own, they can Inter-Library Loan (ILL) the material from another library. Again, the right to ILL materials is lost through the current eBook model. Additionally, libraries face the extinction of book donations as people no longer own the eBook rights to donate them to libraries like they have print books.
Loss of discounts is the second issue affecting libraries. In the 1960’s the Senate passed actions granting libraries discounts for book purchases commensurate to what book stores received to make content available to the public. Under the current eBook model not only are libraries not receiving discounts, but libraries are being charged prices much higher than current publicly available eBook prices. The implications of this are obvious since libraries have limited budgets and must pay higher prices for eBooks resulting in limited material availability when compared to the print model.
Loss of integration is the third issue at hand. The current eBook model dictates use of third party servers—which in turn creates the need for multiple steps by library patrons to access content from their eReader device. Viewed cumbersome for some patrons they give up before any content is loaded on their device.
The Liberty eBook content management system strives to provide a successful way for libraries to handle the eBook needs of patrons. The initiative, led by John Brice, the director of Meadville Public Library and Crawford County Federated Library System Administrator, and Darlene Marshall, the director of Mengle Memorial Library and administrator for the Jefferson County Library System, began to untangle the hardships through the Liberty project in 2013.