The , the King County Library System and the Seattle Public Library have joined more than 90 libraries in supporting ReadersFirst, a coordinated effort to improve e-book services for public library users.
“The King County Library System circulates more e-book content than any other library in the country,” said KCLS Director Bill Ptacek. “We believe it is essential to offer current titles in digital formats as part of effective modern library services.”
ReadersFirst wants library users to have the same easy and free access to e-books that they currently enjoy with physical books. E-book vendors who sell to libraries currently restrict what titles they offer to libraries and control how patrons access e-books.
As one of the largest library systems in the country by volume and the busiest in the nation in 2011 (according to Library Journal), the King County Library System adds a powerful voice to the intiative to increase e-book title availablility.
To change this practice, ReadersFirst has four requirements it wants e-book vendors to offer library users:
- The ability to search and browse a single comprehensive catalog with all of a library’s offerings at once, including all e-books, physical collections, programs, blogs, and donor opportunities. Currently, content providers often only allow searches within the products they sell, depriving users of the comprehensive library experience.
- The ability to place holds, check-out items, view availability, manage fines and receive communications within individual library catalogs without having to visit separate websites (libraries, not distributors, should be enabled to manage all interactions with users).
- The ability to seamlessly enjoy a variety of e-content. To do this, libraries must be able to choose content, devices and apps from any provider or from multiple providers, without bundling that limits a library’s ability to serve content they purchase on platforms of their choice.
- The ability to download e-books that are compatible with all readers, from the Kindle to the Nook to the iPad and other devices.
"ReadersFirst is libraries banding together to encourage more publishers to get more matierials out to the public via libraries," said Mercer Island Librarian Vicki Heck.
She estimated that about 20 percent of Mercer Island Library's patrons use its e-books — but a majority don't even realize that e-books are available for lending.
"We want to get more publishers on board," Heck said. "Making it more accessible, more available and letting the public know that this is how their public library can help them — you don't even have to come into our branch."
Twice a month, the Mercer Island Library also offers e-book "drop-ins" that allows borrowers to use and handle e-reader devices like a Nook, iPad or Kindle on Library property.
For more information on e-books call the Mercer Island Library at 206-236-3537.
To read the full ReadersFirst statement and view a list of participating libraries, visit readersfirst.org.
--Information from King County Library System