Would you continue to purchase a product whose price has been arbitrarily hiked up 300%?

I am not a public librarian but I am a public library patron. Particularly for ebooks. I have a Kindle (and an iPad but I read books on the Kindle, I find it kinder on the eyes for long stretches). Not that I am a big fan of the way Amazon has handled their entry into the public library arena but that is another story.

As a patron of ebooks through my public library system I have often been annoyed at: 1) the lack of titles available and 2) the long waiting list for popular titles. Both reasons have, on occasion, forced me to purchase the book online so I could read it in a timely manner (frequently because I needed to read it before my next book club, but I digress again, as is my habit).

Early this month it was reported by many blogger that Random House has decided to raise it’s prices to libraries for ebooks as much as 300% (see David Lee King’s post for a comprehensive review from a public library perspective). Why would they do such a thing? Conventional wisdom seems to be that the publisher is trying to see how much they can get away with charging. Or rather, what is the threshold that libraries can stand to pay for ebooks?…with your tax dollars…mostly for people who can’t afford to buy the books they want to read.

I have a more sinister take on the situation. After the Amazon deal with public libraries. I was clearly left with the impression that Amazon is trying to get the public library patron to purchase their books instead of lending them by using the public library as its mule. In this same vein Random House has given me the sinking feeling that they actually are not interested in doing business with public libraries any longer. Although they may want to appear as if they are working on a new pricing structure that is more in line with their other models I am unconvinced. We are talking 300%! Lest we forget the public library is not buying the rights to own this book as they would a paper version they are buying the right to rent or “access” this book from the publisher.

Does Random House truly think that the public libraries, particularly in this economy, have the funding to purchase many of their books at these prices? Doubtful. It is more likely that they are hoping the patron who will not be finding his/her Random House title at their public library will go to their favorite online retail establishment and purchase it. As I would undoubtedly do. More money in their pocket. I feel preemptively duped.

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