Fair pricing for ebooks at public libraries


Canadian Public Libraries for Fair Ebook Pricing have formed a coalition to raise awareness of the high prices that multinational publishers charge public libraries for ebooks.

Demand for ebooks continues to grow rapidly–in fact, digital content is the fastest growing area of borrowing for public libraries–but multinational publishers impose unreasonably high prices, creating a barrier for public libraries to offer universal access to this content.

We want as many people as possible to visit www.fairpricingforlibraries.org to learn about the issue, let us know what they think, and spread the word on social media #FairEbookPrices.



Why are Canadian Public Libraries for Fair Ebook Pricing conducting this campaign?

The campaign aims to raise awareness of the high ebook prices that multinational publishers charge public libraries. Canadian public libraries face challenges in ensuring universal access to this content. We want to let more people know about these issues so they can understand why we’re not able to provide as many copies as we’d like of certain ebooks. We also want to collect information that can be shared with multinational publishers and other stakeholders as we work to achieve fair pricing.


Why is ebook pricing an important issue for public libraries?

The popularity of ebooks presents an exciting opportunity for libraries to connect with the public in new ways, but it also presents challenges.

In some cases, libraries pay three to five times more for ebooks than consumers. There are caps and time limits on ebook use. This means there are fewer titles and fewer copies for readers to discover. Major publishers have set pricing and terms that jeopardize libraries’ ability to provide universal access to content in all its forms.


Do many people read ebooks?

Digital content is the fastest growing area of borrowing for public libraries. Campaigns to raise awareness of the availability of digital content have resulted in significant increases in borrowing rates.

Public libraries have responded by reallocating budgets and opening conversations with publishers to resolve issues with supply and discoverability.


Why are ebooks treated differently than print books?

Print books are purchased as physical copies that the library owns. Rights holders typically license – rather than sell – access to digital resources. As licenses are contracts, libraries receive the rights articulated in the agreements including caps and time limits on ebook use.


What information is available at fairpricingforlibraries.org?

Issues facing public libraries are outlined on the web page. The page includes examples of the price gap between consumer and library prices, illustrated by a selection of popular titles. The page includes a poll, social media sharing with the hashtag #FairEbookPrices and email collection for those interested in updates on the issue.


How do you want people to respond to this campaign?

We want as many people as possible to visit fairpricingforlibraries.org to learn about the issues public libraries face with respect to ebook pricing. We’re asking people to respond to a poll and spread the word on Facebook and Twitter with the hashtag #FairEbookPrices so we can track the conversation. Those interested in updates on this issue can submit their email address.

We will share the response to this campaign with stakeholders including other public libraries, government and publishers.

We also want people to keep borrowing ebooks and other digital content from public libraries. The booming popularity of this content is one of the strongest arguments for increased access. 


Publishers are going through a tough time. Are the high prices justified?

We recognize publishing in Canada and around the world is undergoing great change, but imposing unreasonably high prices for ebooks is not the answer.

Public libraries play an integral role in a vibrant book industry. We promote literacy and a love of reading that encourage people to acquire more content of all varieties, both borrowed and purchased.


What is the status of these multinational publishers selling to libraries?

Please see our our Overview of Issues with Canadian Public Library Access to Ebooks, downloadable below.


Has anything else been done to achieve fair pricing?

Advocacy efforts for fair ebook pricing and access have been underway in Canada since 2010. There has been significant progress with much improved access to ebooks for public library customers. Many Canadian independent publishers make their content available as do the major publishers. However, multinational publishers continue to impose terms such as unreasonably high prices.


Who are the members of Canadian Public Libraries for Fair Ebook Pricing?

Canadian Public Libraries for Fair Ebook Pricing is a coalition made up of the Canadian Library Association, Canadian Urban Libraries Council, Ontario Library Association and Toronto Public Library to raise awareness of challenges faced by public libraries as a result of high ebook prices charged by multinational publishers.


Who are the multinational publishers the campaign refers to?

The “Big Five” publishers are Hachette, HarperCollins, Macmillan, Penguin Random House and Simon & Schuster. Together these companies control roughly two-thirds of the North American consumer book publishing market.


What about independent publishers?

Many independent and Canadian publishers make their ebooks available at reasonable prices and with reasonable terms of use.

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