The Montgomery County Council at 11 a.m. on Tuesday, July 16, will introduce a resolution that hopefully will lead to book publishers providing fair access to e-books for public libraries. Under current rules, publishers can force libraries to pay far greater fees for e-books than are paid by the general public. Publishers also can refuse to allow libraries to have access to certain publications.
The Council’s regular weekly session will begin at 10:45 a.m. in the Third Floor Hearing Room of the Council Office Building at 100 Maryland Ave. in Rockville. The morning session, three public hearings scheduled to begin at 1:30 p.m. and an afternoon meeting with the board of directors of the Montgomery Business Development Corporation will be televised live by County Cable Montgomery (CCM—Cable Channel 6 on Comcast and RCN, Channel 30 on Verizon). The broadcast also will be streamed through the County Web site at www.montgomerycountymd.gov
It will be repeated starting at 9 p.m. on Friday, July 19.
The resolution concerning library materials is sponsored by Council Vice President Craig Rice, who also is the Council’s lead member for libraries. Council President Nancy Navarro and Councilmembers Phil Andrews, Valerie Ervin and George Leventhal are co-sponsors.
The demand for e-books in the Montgomery library system, which has more than 720,000 cardholders, is increasing exponentially. There was an 88 percent growth in e-book checkouts between 2010 and 2011 and an 87 percent growth in demand between 2011 and 2012. During the Fiscal Year 2014 operating budget process, the Council added $300,000 to address customer demand for e-books.
However, Montgomery libraries—like libraries around the nation—are being severely hampered by the actions of the book publishing industry. According to the March 4, 2013, pricing comparison from the Douglas County, Colo., library, which compiles such statistics monthly, the top book on the New York Times fiction best seller list is unavailable to libraries in e-book format. Nine of the top 15 books on the fiction list are not available to libraries as they are to consumers. The No. 5 fiction book, A Week in Winter, by Maeve Binchy, costs libraries $80.85 to license, while consumers pay $12.99 for the same book. These prices place a strain on the library budget and limit the access of e-books to library patrons.
The resolution that will be introduced on Tuesday, and that is scheduled to be formally approved on Tuesday, July 23, urges the Maryland General Assembly, the U.S. Congress, the U.S. Department of Justice and the Federal Trade Commission to examine this issue and seek any appropriate remedy so that library users will have access to materials in a reasonable and non-discriminatory manner.
One of the public hearings concerns a $5.8 million supplemental appropriation to the Montgomery County Public Schools FY14 capital budget and an amendment to the FY13-18 Capital Improvements Program that would provide additional security systems in county schools. The Council is scheduled to vote on the appropriation following the public hearing.
The Council is scheduled to meet with the board of directors of the Montgomery Business Development Corporation at 1:45 p.m. The board advises the Council and the County Executive on economic development and related matters.
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