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This is the latest article in the series I am writing about the frustrations around offering digital content in school libraries. I want to explain a bit about geographic rights and why we can’t always buy the titles our students want or need in digital format.
“Geographic restrictions made sense in the old publishing paradigm where print publishing was the only game in town. An author writes a book and with the creation of a book arises a number of rights known as intellectual property rights. Intellectual property is just a little bundle of rights that the author can sell individually or in a group. Think of the rights as a bouquet of flowers. An author could give one rose to the publisher in exchange for money or she can give a dozen or the entire garden”.
OK -so why can’t I buy that ebook here and now?
Firstly, the biggest barrier is the publisher. Does that publisher of the title you want sell or lease ebooks to libraries at all? or just in some parts of the world? Do they sell them to the ebook platform provider your school uses?
example 1 : Scholastic – sells to public libraries all over the world but NOT to school libraries ANYWHERE (unless you are signing up to their school specific products like Book Flix etc). You cannot buy single titles like the Hunger games in ebook if you are a school library.
Some NZ school libraries were able to buy Scholastic titles in error back in 2014 and the titles weren’t pulled from their collections – I don’t think that’s fair to the rest of us.
example 2 : Hachette / Hodder / Little Brown / Orbit / Orion (all ultimately owned by Hachette Livre – one of the biggest publishers in the world) – These imprints sell ebooks to school libraries in the USA, but local subsidiaries and imprints in our region (Hachette NZ/Australia) do not sell them to school OR public libraries.
Once you have more publishers available via ebook aggregators like OverDrive, then those who are are unavailable become as desirable as the rocket in the witch’s garden in Rapunzel…could I lend my first-born child in exchange for Daughter of smoke and bone and many other Hachette titles and series in ebook format?
Sometimes ebook providers have unique agreements with publishers that give them an advantage (usually temporary) over their competitors:
Example : Wheeler’s ePlatform sells titles from Oxford University Press, but OverDrive does not….
And OverDrive sells ebooks from Disney Hyperion, but Wheeler’s does not….
The second barrier is that even if the publisher does sell ebooks to libraries in your region you can’t always buy all of their titles.
example : I can buy Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell in ebook from Pan Macmillan, but I can’t buy Eleanor & Park because it’s published by St Martin’s Press (A subsidiary of Macmillan USA). For some quirky reason only NZ/Australian public libraries can buy the US subsidiary publications (so no St Martins; Roaring Brook; Farrar, Strauss & Giroux; Square Fish or Henry Holt books for us…yet..)
Lastly why do books published by the same company have different lending/ownership models?
Not all publishers and subsidiaries operate on the same basis as the bigger US company. The recent changes to the Penguin and Random House companies demonstrate this:
Penguin/RandomHouse US titles are available on the one copy/one user model…. but Penguin UK/Australia and RandomHouse NZ/Australia/UK titles are available on the 36 checkouts or 52 months model. And just to muddy the water more, DK titles with a UK imprint are only available for 12 months…
So some Penguin/RandomHouse titles are one copy/one user (i.e. one time purchase in collection in perpetuity)
and some are leased for 2 years (or 36 checkouts)
And so if we can buy all the Penguin & Random House titles why couldn’t I buy Diary of a wimpy kid : Old School by Jeff Kinney until this week (3 February 2016) when it was published on 3 November 2015? That’s because there is a 90 day embargo on the sale of the ebook to libraries, it doesn’t even appear as available for purchase until the embargo is lifted.
The embargo on Disney titles is slightly longer at 4 months, but at least you can preorder them….The force awakens junior novel became available in the Kindle store on 16 February 2016 – but although I can purchase it now and it will show in our Digital Library, it’s not available for download by students until 18 June 2016.
And why are some books from an author/publisher you can usually buy through your ebook provider suddenly only available in one platform but not another?
This sometimes happens when the rights information is loaded incorrectly in the purchasing platform you use. It’s annoying because trying to explain the situation (even when providing evidence) to your provider takes time and work.
example : Pan Macmillan titles are available in both OverDrive and Wheeler’s ePlatform but the title Andypedia by Andy Griffiths is only available through Wheeler’s. I’ve requested this via OverDrive but getting changes made when a mistake has been made is a lengthy process – in the meantime I have sent my student to the Auckland Libraries digital Library – something which helps the student in the short term but undermines the credibility of our own digital collection…
Trying to find out which publisher has the rights to sell an ebook in our part of the world…
I usually check to see if a book is available as an ebook in either the amazon.com.au or iBook store. If it isn’t there at all – it generally means that no one holds the rights to the ebook in this part of the world or if they do, then they haven’t chosen to make it available for sale at present.
A good example of this is Hatchet by Gary Paulsen. It’s available as an ebook through Simon & Schuster if you are in the USA but not available to a NZ or Australian purchaser (library or individual).
Once you know who holds the rights to the ebook title then you can lobby your ebook provider for access.
Unfortunately once I can see that a title is available in the amazon.com.au store but discover that it’s published by either the Hachette Book Group AU or Scholastic, then I know that is the end of my quest at least for now. All I can do is keep bombarding my digital content provider with requests to keep working hard to negotiate and gain access to these publishers. I’m occasionally driven to vent via social media. Some support from other school librarians would help here. If you see a tweet asking why @scholastic or @HachetteAus won’t sell ebooks to school libraries…please retweet and add your voice! I know I am a thorn in the side of my ebook provider by being so vocal and demanding but you won’t get anything if you don’t ask… (Recently I lobbied to get access to the Penguin USA imprints from Nancy Paulsen and Dial books and this worked – these ebooks are now available for purchase to NZ and Australian Libraries in OverDrive).
…I refuse to settle for only what is on offer, my students deserve the right to read everything they want in whatever format they want.
Now about the differences in the prices you see in the KindleStore and what a library is asked to pay…well that’s a whole other post….