Amazon takes big step in eBook deal with libraries, but activists want more


Amazon reached a deal to license its e-books to libraries across the country shortly before a Maryland state bill becomes law that would require the e-commerce giant to make this material available to libraries. of State.

“The fact that Amazon works with libraries is to be celebrated. They held on, and now they are. Are there things that could be better, yes, “Michael Blackwell, director of the St. Mary’s County Library in Maryland, told The Hill.

While the deal is a big step, digital rights group Fight for the Future has said it does not go far enough and that lawmakers and librarians in other states are considering similar proposals that would exert pressure. further pressure on Amazon to make its e-books and audiobooks accessible. to libraries.

Maryland’s bill that would require any publisher who licenses an electronic literary product to also license the product to state public libraries became law without the signature of Governor Larry Hogan (R) over the weekend. end. It was passed unanimously by both houses earlier this year.

The law means that Amazon should make the books it publishes in-house available to public libraries in the state. The law doesn’t specifically call for Amazon, but traditional publishers have existing licensing options that they offer to content libraries.

Weeks before the state bill’s session deadline, Amazon signed an agreement with the Digital Public Library of America (DPLA) to make its approximately 10,000 Amazon Publishing e-books and audiobooks available to consumers. libraries nationwide through the DPLA exchange.

As part of the agreement with DPLA, Amazon offers access to all of its Amazon Publishing titles through four licensing models. The titles will be available to libraries and their clients through the DPLA Exchange, a library-centric content marketplace, and library clients will be able to access the titles through SimplyE, an e-reader application founded by the New York Public Library.

“Amazon Publishing is pleased to have joined DPLA in its work to develop flexible, accessible and fair digital library lending licensing models that support the interests of libraries, authors and patrons,” Mikyla Bruder, Head of Amazon Publishing Worldwide, said in a press release.

Amazon also won’t receive customer data through the deal with DPLA – an aspect of the deal that even Fight for the Future applauded.

“One victory advocates can really celebrate in this deal, however, is that these eBooks and audiobooks won’t be used by Amazon to spy on library patrons. The Digital Public Library of America has entered into a licensing agreement that protects library patrons from Amazon’s prying eyes by keeping all patron data in their app, instead of letting Amazon retrieve all patron data from public libraries. who choose to read an eBook on Kindle, ”Lia Holland, Campaigns and Communications Director of Fight for the Future, said in a press release after the announcement of the agreement.

While the deal is a measured step toward library access to Amazon e-books, it is a radical departure from the Seattle-based tech giant’s previous refusal to sell the e-books it has to offer. ‘he released to libraries for loan.

Unlike traditional publishers, Amazon had not cleared license agreements for libraries to purchase their e-books and received backlash from librarians and activists. The problem was highlighted last year when coronavirus restrictions on in-person interactions were put in place, and libraries of varying sizes across the country reported spikes in e-book requests.

“Amazon can dip a toe in water,” Blackwell said of the deal with DPLA. He said the tech giant could see how this deal works and try to develop from there.

“But the fact that they have come forward is good for libraries,” Blackwell added.

In particular, Amazon’s agreement with the DPLA lacks library access to thousands of original Audible audiobooks. Amazon owns Audible and presents its Audible originals on its website as “stories you won’t hear anywhere else.”

Audible’s exclusive audiobooks include popular content, such as host “The Daily Show” Trevor NoahTrevor NoahFox’s Gutfeld pokes fun at late-night hosts for LeVar Burton’s planned “Climate Night”: “Jeopardy!” Host Concert “Wasn’t The Thing” For Me The Hill 12:30 PM Report – Presented by AT&T – US Tackles ISIS Attack MORE‘s “Born a Crime” and Canadian Prime Minister Justin trudeauJustin Pierre James TrudeauCanada Marks First ‘National Truth and Reconciliation Day’ China Releases Two Canadians After Executive Release Huawei Equilibrium / Sustainability – Presented by American Petroleum Institute – Climate Change Transforms States United in the land of coffee PLUS‘s “Common ground”.

“When we first learned that Amazon had stopped blocking public libraries, we were excited about the victory, but we learned more. Nothing has changed in the fight for fairness in the distribution of eBooks and audiobooks, ”Holland said in the statement.

Holland reversed the deal due to lack of access to the Audible originals, as well as the thousands of self-published e-books.

Amazon declined to comment further on future plans to extend the agreement to allow access to self-published titles and Audible originals, as well as plans to create agreements to make content available through other distributors. popular digital eBooks or libraries, such as OverDrive.

Blackwell said the 10,000 or so titles, often from Amazon contracts with well-known authors, that will be made available through the deal are the books librarians are probably most interested in accessing. The deal would give libraries, through the DPLA Exchange, access to Amazon books by popular authors such as Dean Koontz, Mindy Kaling and Mark Sullivan.

“I don’t think we are necessarily excluded from everything [that] Amazon content, it will depend on the arrangements beyond our hands with Amazon, but I will say it will give us access to the things we want the most, ”he said.

Maryland’s law, the first in the country, requiring publishers of electronic literary content to make that content available to libraries, may, however, force Amazon to expand its policies to make more of its eBook content and Audible Original audiobooks available. for libraries. .

The bill includes “an audio recording” in the definition of electronic literary products. The legislation will come into force early next year.

The deal also comes as other states step up pressure on Amazon over its exclusive content.

Lawmakers in the states of Rhode Island and New York have proposed similar bills that would require publishers to offer e-book licenses to libraries on reasonable terms. And librarians in Connecticut, Washington and Virginia are considering proposing legislation, Blackwell said.

“I would expect to see other states follow, and I’m sure the librarians will try to work at the federal level to try to get some consideration as well,” he said.

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