April 8, 2022

Sen. Haskell Co-Sponsors Legislation Requiring Reasonable Terms for E-Book Publishers Licensing to Libraries

Highlights bill during National Library Week

Legislation co-sponsored by State Senator Will Haskell (D-Westport) that recently passed the Planning and Development Committee would, if made law, make electronic books more easily licensed to local libraries, increasing access for library users while reducing costs for libraries in acquiring digital content.

“It was quite surprising to learn libraries often have to pay significantly more for ebook titles than physical ones. Even more so to learn that the higher cost for ebooks often comes with an expiration date,” said Sen. Haskell. “Libraries are designed to make entertainment, education and new knowledge available to the public at a low cost. When librarians are forced to agree to predatory terms to license out some ebooks, that needs to change. I’m proud of my colleagues for developing legislation that will ease this burden for libraries statewide.”

Senate Bill 131, “An Act Concerning Electronic Book Licensing,” would require e-book publishers to license those books to public libraries on “reasonable terms” considering libraries’ efficient use of funds to provide library services. Such licensing agreements are expected to allow limitations on simultaneous users of an ebook, days a reader can access ebooks, and technological protections preventing replication of the ebook.

Lauren Phillips, Collections Manager for the New Canaan Library, testified in public hearing that her library has dealt with “exorbitant pricing and restrictive licensing terms” imposed by publishers of digital media in the past. She said one book in high demand cost the library $16.50 per copy in physical format, but in ebook form, it costs $63.99 and must be repurchased every other year. Other comparable books in high demand cost the library reasonable costs for physical books, but the cost ranged from three to five times as much for ebook copies.

“When titles expire, we often can’t afford to repurchase them, so we just have to let them go, diminishing the size, quality and diversity of our digital offerings,” Phillips said.

Senate Bill 131 will head to the Senate floor for further consideration.