Before getting the Weinberg Foundation grant, the Pratt system had already purchased 60 e-readers that remain in its collection today, said Sarah Kuperman of the Collection Management Department.
Publishers restrict usage
While the use of e-books has steadily increased, titles are expensive for the library system to purchase because publishers like HarperCollins, fearful of piracy, limit the number of checkouts libraries can allow per e-book, after which the libraries must repurchase them, Kuperman said.
Erin Crum, a spokeswoman for HarperCollins Publishing LLC, said in a written statement that the publishing house in 2011 set a maximum usage limit of 26 checkouts for most e-books, because, "we had concerns that selling e-books to libraries in perpetuity would undermine the emerging e-book eco-system, hurt the growing e-book (sales) channel, place additional pressure on physical bookstores, and in the end lead to a decrease in book sales and royalties to ensure that all of our sales channels, in both print and digital formats, remain viable in the future.
"We still consider this a work in progress but, given our concerns, we have yet to see a model that works better," the statement continues. "In practice, relatively few titles have reached the 26 circulation limit and we are getting positive feedback from libraries on the cost of circulation of our e-books."
A 2011 HarperCollins press release stated that e-book repurchases would be discounted to a paperback price point.
Such requirements drive up the cost of e-book collections across the country, Kuperman said. Publishers place no such restrictions on books and other printed materials, she said.
"Readers want to access the books they want to read," Kuperman said. "But they can't do that if the e-book collection does not contain enough copies of popular titles."
However, the library system, too, is cautious about guarding its new technology against theft. New patrons must have a library account open for 30 days before they are allowed to check out an e-reader.
Regardless of its investment in new electronic platforms, the Pratt library system will continue to collect printed books, and some publishings more commonly used for research purposes might never be purchased by the library for its electronic collection, officials say.
"Pratt is not saying (it) will be an electronic haven," Kuperman said. But she added, "The community is showing us that this is a format they are interested in."