Modernizing Our Libraries

May 29, 2013

With the arrival of warmer temperatures and the upcoming completion of classes next month, it is already starting to feel more like summer. This week also marks the final week of the 2013 legislative session, and many more bills will be coming up for a vote during the next seven days. In this week’s column, I would like to highlight one bill that I co-sponsored and could eventually make summer reading more accessible and enjoyable.

Each summer, public libraries around our state provide excellent services to residents who wish to read new books or take part in fun summer activities. In recent years, the use of electronic books, or e-books, has grown exponentially. These e-books are downloaded for reading on an e-reader or tablet, such as an iPad, Kindle or Nook.

According to the Association of American Publishers, e-books now account for about 23 percent of publisher net revenues. When the association first started measuring the e-book market in 2002, these sales accounted for only 0.05 percent of their overall net revenue.

As you can see, the ten year growth rate has been remarkable. This means that many more people throughout our country are downloading and reading e-books. And what better way to support this growing interest by making e-books more widely available for people to enjoy by taking them out and returning them much in the same manner as a traditional book.

This year, I cosponsored legislation that would make it easier to enjoy these e-books. House Bill 5614 would have required publishers to offer these e-books for sale to libraries on reasonable terms. The ultimate goal would be to allow libraries to provide residents greater access to e-books.

It would also have ensured the copyright protections of publishers by limiting the number of patrons who may access the e-book at one time, limiting the time period for that access and requiring the use of technological protection measures to prevent unauthorized access.

As with many other proposals in Hartford, this bill has undergone several changes since it was introduced. Thanks to an amendment in the State House of Representatives, the new bill would require the Commissioner of Consumer Protection to work with the State Librarian and the Attorney General to conduct a study regarding the availability of e-books for patrons of our public libraries.

This study would focus on how book publishers and e-book distributors currently sell, license or make their e-books available to public libraries, what problems currently exist regarding their availability and recommendations about how to increase their availability to patrons of public libraries. It will gather input from authors, representatives from public libraries, book publishers and e-book distributors. Despite these changes, I believe it still takes us on the right path to ultimately provide greater access to e-books at our public libraries.

Whether you have an iPad, Kindle or Nook, e-books are a new and innovative way to enjoy reading in the modern age. This bill now awaits further action by the State Senate, and I am hopeful that we will also pass this measure before the end of session on June 5th. Ultimately, I look forward to reviewing this study to understand how best to make these resources available for those who enjoy our public libraries.