YOUR ROYALTIES AT RISK! Should Authors Get The Shaft When Libraries Get Greedy?

YOUR ROYALTIES AT RISK! Should Authors Get The Shaft When Libraries Get Greedy?

A reader sent this link to me last week from Fortune Magazine:

Local libraries are struggling as book publishers charge three times as much for digital books as physical ones—and they don’t even get to keep them

As with many things online and in the news now, headlines do not always accurately represent the article written underneath. The article provides lots of confusing numbers (if you’re not familiar with how the ebook/library process works), accuses publishers of charging libraries way more for ebooks than everybody else, and more.

Something didn’t smell quite right when I first started reading.

Then, I did the math.

The article states:
“Like many libraries, West Haven has been grappling with the soaring costs of e-books and audiobooks. The digital titles often come with a price tag that’s far higher than what consumers pay. While one hardcover copy of Cook’s latest novel costs the library $18, it costs $55 to lease a digital copy – a price that can’t be haggled with publishers.

“And for that, the e-book expires after a limited time, usually after one or two years, or after 26 check outs, whichever comes first.”

Gosh, that sure makes the publishers look greedy, doesn’t it? But, whip out your calculator, and dig in like I did.

If they pay $55 for 26 copies of the ebook, that means they’re only paying $2.11 per copy. That is more than fair! This article seems to imply that libraries should only have to buy one copy, and then be able to loan it to as many people as they want. I do have a problem with that because I don’t necessarily trust the software or security offered by some libraries. What’s to stop someone from sending a copy of that ebook to others? Furthermore, giving libraries the ability to share one copy of an ebook with as many people as they want, in perpetuity, is not fair to publishers or authors.

And this part:

“While e-books purchased by consumers can last into perpetuity, libraries need to renew their leased e-material.

Right! That’s because, when a consumer buys an ebook, it’s for that one consumer. It’s not for dozens, hundreds, or even thousands of people to read!

When a library orders a print copy of a book, they can only loan that book to one person at a time. If there is high demand, that library is likely to purchase multiple copies. Sure, they can loan that book out for years but, as with all books, demand will decrease over time and the book will eventually be sold at a library sale, or discarded. The publisher and author have earned a fair royalty for the sale of each copy of the print book purchased by that library.

With ebooks, the royalties are FAR smaller. While an author might earn a few dollars for the sale of each copy of his/her print book, they might only earn a few cents for the ebook. So, how is it fair if a library can loan out an ebook to as many people as it wants (including multiple people at one time) after only buying the license for one copy?

Furthermore, the article states:

“Librarians in several states have been pushing for legislation to rein in the costs and restrictions on electronic material…”

That legislation would conflict with copyright law. The United States is a capitalist, market economy country. Business owners should be able to charge whatever they want for a product, and to put security measures into place to prevent the theft of intellectual property.

If the information in this article is correct, that means some libraries are trying to get a lot of something for almost nothing AND that they want to the government to pass legislation so they can get what they want. NOT GONNA HAPPEN.

Oh, and this gem from the article:

“Imagine if a playground was built at a school with tax dollars, only to be taken down after two years of use,” librarian Colleen Bailie said at a recent public hearing.

A playground costs THOUSANDS of dollars! Not $2.11! What a RIDICULOUS statement!!!

And this one as well:

But Julie Holden, assistant library director for the Cranston Public Library in Rhode Island, said, “Taxpayers who fund our public libraries deserve better. Way better,” she said.

Actually, Julie, AUTHORS deserve better. When you start stripping authors of their royalties for “the greater good,” authors will stop writing good books. Then, you’ll only be able to offer “taxpayers” old good books, or crappy new ones. Oh, and I don’t see anything in your quote where you’ve offered to give up some of YOUR income for the greater good.

And, here is the smartest quote in the article!

“They (libraries) do have a funding problem, but the answer is not to take it out of the pockets of authors and destroy the rights of creators and pass unconstitutional legislation,” said Shelley Husband, senior vice president of government affairs at the Association of American Publishers, noting how more people than ever can access e-material that might otherwise have been purchased from booksellers.



Angela is not only the publisher of She is President & CEO of,
a self-publishing services company that has been in business since 1998. Ask her anything.


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2 Responses to "YOUR ROYALTIES AT RISK! Should Authors Get The Shaft When Libraries Get Greedy?"

  1. joe sixpak  March 24, 2024 at 7:52 pm

    yes and no
    a physical book can be lent hundreds of times

    libraries should never bother with ebooks, which are harder to read andmany folks cannot read
    REAL books are best and work well for everyone

  2. Antaeus  March 24, 2024 at 9:02 am

    Great article. Very informing.