Over the next 6 months the State Library System will be testing options for a statewide ebook library. If they work out then the Commonwealth of Massachusetts could soon be home to the single largest library consortium.
The MA eBook Project officially kicked off last Thursday, but was only announced yesterday. 51 libraries across Massachusetts will explore different models for eBook lending in this first pilot program, and they will be sharing ebooks acquired from 2 sources.
Baker & Taylor has agreed to license 3,000 titles from Axis 360′s catalog of more than 500,000 titles, and Bibliolabs has signed a deal to provide 30,000 titles. Axis 360 provides ebooks under a single user checkout license similar to that of OverDrive, and is used by around 400 libraries. Bibliolabs distributes content under a multi-user license. There was very nearly a third vendor participating in the pilot, but negotiations with EBL appear to have fallen through.
The Massachusetts SLS has been working towards this pilot for about 8 months now, having posted an RFP in March. In addition to developing a platform for libraries to check out ebooks en masse, the MA eBook Project will also be “working on a statewide collection development policy, including the mission and goals of the project, loan guidelines, reconsideration, reviews, suggest-a-title, and self-published guidelines.” Other goals include securing a source of funding on the state level and building support among legislators.
That last sounds to me like the Massachusetts SLS might consider pushing for a legislative solution to the current problems with library ebook pricing and licensing. If that does happen MA will be joining a growing group of librarians and state officials that are ticked at the exploitative policies of the major publishers and the resulting detrimental effects on communities.
At the moment all 5 of the major publishers license ebooks to libraries either at a high price or under an expiring license. That drives up the cost and consumes a larger share of libraries’ budgets which could have been better spent elsewhere, helping those members of the community who need library resources the most.