February 14, 2012
Leveraging the Collective Buying Power of Libraries: Report on ALA Talks with Publishers Regarding eBook Issues
In a not too subtle reminder that "libraries represent a significant amount of direct buying power," Molly Raphael, ALA President recently reported on meetings conducted by an ALA delegation consisting of elected ALA officers plus an association official and a task force chair and eBook publishers. She characterized the meetings as:
frank discussions related to library ebook lending and [the ALA delegation is] appreciative of the serious engagement by [representative of Penguin, Macmillan, Random House, Simon & Schuster, and Perseus].
By way of a reminder, the ALA delegation met with each publisher separately in NYC, Jan. 30 - Feb. 1, 2012. See LLB's earlier post, Consumer Advocacy by a Library Association: ALA asserts at Midwinter and in meetings with publishers "you need to deal with libraries and you need to do it as soon as possible." Senior executives attending the separate meetings included CEOs, division presidents, and other executives.
At issue with publishers who produce eBooks was their policies and practices with respect to library acquisitions and lending of eBooks. Quoting from Raphael's report of the meeting in Ebook Talks: The Details, published Feb. 8, 2012 on E-content blog, an official ALA web publications:
Our discussions with publishers who already sell ebooks to libraries focused on how to maintain and strengthen our relationships. Of course, libraries represent a significant amount of direct buying power.
Now wait just a minute. An association of institution buyers brings to the table the AALL unheard of concept of "direct buying power" as a backdrop for meeting with individual publishers. No doubt no threats were made during the "frank discussions." But the fact remains that collectively libraries do have a huge amount of buying power (particularly in this age of content commoditization with respect to legal resources).
And an elected official of a library association, in this case, the president, can use "direct buying power" language in an official blog post, one that is published in a timely manner no less. What planet do these people live on? What planet does AALL live on? (Pluto? My bad, not even a planet anymore.)
Also note that In meetings with publishers who currently do not sell eBooks to libraries, Raphael reported
[W]e shared our profession’s concerns regarding the impact of these practices on library users, many of whom rely solely on the public library for their reading choices. In some instances, we found that there were misconceptions about how libraries operate that, once clarified, mitigated some of these publishers’ concerns.
Raphael reported that "[m]any of the meetings extended for a longer time than scheduled, and all ended with the expectation of a continuing dialogue between each publisher and ALA." She ends her report on the eBook meetings by adding:
The biggest lesson is that there is nothing like direct communication. We didn’t leave New York with complete and perfect solutions; that wouldn’t have been a realistic expectation. But I am happy with the progress that we made on multiple fronts—establishing ongoing direct lines of communication and correcting misconceptions about libraries, to mention only two. Much work remains to fully grasp the rapidly changing context of digital content and libraries and to converge on solutions that all key stakeholders can live with. We must find these solutions so that libraries can continue to provide the best possible service to their communities.
In the coming days, we will be following up with these five publishers, initiating contact with other publishers and intermediaries, and pursuing additional activities within the framework of ALA’s Digital Content and Libraries Working Group.
Forum non conveniens, for whom? Let's end this blog post by saying "get off your official collective butt. If your official collective head is buried in the sand, then get out of the way because the membership knows what the hell is going on and can both act and report of actions in a very timely manner." I think you know who I am referring to. Only the utterly clueless need a clue: Time and duty to one's employer is "of the essence" in vendor relations; much less so for AALL and AALL's Biggest Blunder of 2011.
Let's "quote" 7th Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Richard Posner because there really is no difference between litigators' habit of ignoring court precedent and AALL's habit of ignoring established ways and means of advocating for its institutional members and their users as an association of consumers.