Sunday, March 4, 2012

How much more can we pay?

The news that Random House publishers are doubling and tripling the price of their ebooks came as a shock to most librarians. Just as children's and YA librarians are developing their ebook collections to meet the requests of patrons, they suddenly become luxury itens. As the LJ/SLJ blog "Digital Shift" reports, children's books that used to be priced at about $20 will increase to $35-$85 per title. Librarians who have worked for months to persuade their administrators that even children's collections should include ebooks, will find their budgets severely strained. At the very least the number of copies of popular books will have to be reduced. And there are tricky questions to answer about whether a dozen paper copies of a new series title is better than a handful of digital copies. Which do teens and tweens really want?

Paper publishers are fighting for their lives now and not inclined to listen to the budgetary woes of librarians, but I hope they can be persuaded that we are all in this together. If young people don't grow up with easy access to books, they are unlikely to become lifelong readers. What will publishers do if their market for both digital and paper books shrinks away?

But talking to publishers is difficult for the average librarian. What we need to do right now it talk to our patrons. We need to open a dialog with kids and their parents to find out what they really want. How would they decide about which format to provide? The one thing a crisis may help with is establishing communication. Now's the time to rev up the Facebook page and liven up the blog so we can get plenty of input from the people who really matter--the children and teens we are hoping to provide with reading experiences.

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