ReadersFirst Initiative Joins Movement to Improve E-book Access

ReadersFirst Initiative Joins Movement to Improve E-book Access

Posted by Christina Powers on June 15, 2012 in Blog.

Library systems across the United States and Canada have signed a joint statement calling on publishers and digital content distributors to provide improved access to e-books in libraries. The statement, known as the ReadersFirst Initiative, proposes “that e-book providers offer products that allow users to”:

  1. Search and browse a single comprehensive catalog with all of a library’s offerings at once, including all e-books, physical collections, programs, blogs, and donor opportunities. Currently, content providers often only allow searches within the products they sell, depriving users of the comprehensive library experience.
  2. Place holds, check-out items, view availability, manage fines and receive communications within individual library catalogs or in the venue the library believes will serve them best, without having to visit separate websites (libraries, not distributors, should be enabled to manage all interactions with users).
  3. Seamlessly enjoy a variety of e-content. To do this, libraries must be able to choose content, devices and apps from any provider or from multiple providers, without bundling that limits a library’s ability to serve content they purchase on platforms of their choice.
  4. Download e-books that are compatible with all readers, from the Kindle to the Nook to the iPad and so on.

ReadersFirst is in many ways a concerted reaction to what Library Journal editor Michael Kelley has described as the “fractured nature of the lending experience.” In most North American libraries, third party e-content distributors such as OverDrive serve as intermediaries between libraries and publishers. The result has been that most libraries do not actually own the e-books or digital content that they lend out. For patrons, this can make for a confusing online experience, as they are often forced to leave their local library’s online catalog for a separate distributor-operated site when searching for digital content. ReadersFirst is also a response to the fact that four of the six major publishing houses currently choose not to sell their front-list e-books to libraries.

Ultimately, this call for improved access underlines the need for a collaborative effort between libraries, publishers, and distributors to reach an agreement honoring their fundamental purpose of serving the reading public. The ReadersFirst Coalition, comprised of those library systems that have signed the statement, currently includes 109 signatories. The coalition encourages more library systems to help advocate for improved e-book services by joining their list of partners.

Leave a Reply