Public libraries nationwide face e-book restrictions - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Public libraries nationwide face e-book restrictions

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Carnegie-Stout Public Library in Dubuque has seen the demand for e-books skyrocket. Carnegie-Stout Public Library in Dubuque has seen the demand for e-books skyrocket.
DUBUQUE (KWWL) -

The demand for e-books is sky-rocketing at public libraries across the US. That was a major theme of the Iowa Library Association's annual meeting, which wrapped up Friday in Dubuque.

Susan Henricks is the director of Dubuque's Carnegie-Stout Public Library, which is no exception to this national trend.

"We've had 528 percent growth in the checkout of e-books just in the last year," she said after the conference Friday afternoon. "We still have the demand for print as well as digital as well as on audio, whether it's CD or downloaded."

However, libraries nationwide are facing a major barrier to providing many popular e-book titles. At the Iowa Library Association's annual conference, hundreds of librarians from all over the state discussed this challenge.

"Over 50 percent of all the best sellers and the popular books come from one of six major publishers," Henricks said. "Not one of those publishers wants to 'play nice' with libraries, if you will."

She said those major publishers are either limiting or completely banning distribution of their e-books to libraries.

Michelle Hellmer was at the conference as well. She is Carnegie-Stout Public Library's adult services manager.

"If they [publishers] sell it to an individual, then the individual can't lend it to someone. It's the idea that the libraries are doing the lending, so I think they're worried about their bottom line," Hellmer said.

"That's the challenge that librarians not only in Iowa but nationwide are facing, is the inability to get access to the materials," Henricks said. "When there's a best-seller book in the e-format that we can't offer, our patrons want to know why, and when we explain that the publishers don't want to sell it to the library: 'Why? Why wouldn't anyone want to sell a book to the library?' That's the question we ask ourselves, too."

The Hunger Games, for example, is available at Carnegie-Stout in every format but e-book.

"It's a title that's not available because of publisher restrictions," Hellmer said.

While Iowa libraries try keeping up with technology, some e-book availability is out of their hands.

Meanwhile, hard copies of books are still popular, but Henricks said libraries are seeing the death of the VHS tape.

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