Amazon vs libraries

There’s an ebook struggle going on. Amazon is making it difficult for libraries to get a hold of ebooks because, obviously, they want you to buy them instead. That said, some governments are starting to step in on behalf of the people. Let’s hope more and more follow suit. We are in a strange place here in this version of reality: plenty of non-infinity-stoned corporate supervillains, but no superheroes so far. So we’re left with government. It’s very Canadian.

First introduced in January, the bill (HB518 in the House of Delegates and SB0432 in the Senate) would require “a publisher who offers to license an electronic literary product to the public to also offer to license the product to public libraries in the State on reasonable terms that would enable public libraries to provide library users with access to the electronic literary product.”

If signed by Governor Larry Hogan—and it is hard to see how a governor would have grounds to veto a bill that passed unanimously in both chambers—the bill would take effect on July 1 of this year.

Two more states (New York and Rhode Island) have also introduced similar legislation to ensure libraries have the ability to license digital content offered to the general public under reasonable terms.

As of 2014, most publishers make their full catalogs available to libraries in some form—though whether or not that access is “reasonable” is an ongoing debate.

Amazon, however, is a different story, and the Maryland law comes as the pressure ramps up on Amazon to make its exclusive digital content available to libraries. Libraries have long complained about Amazon’s refusal to license its digital content to them but last month a public advocacy campaign was launched on the issue, and this week Washington Post reporter Geoffrey Fowler also weighed in in favor of libraries.

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