Senator Rachel May’s Library E-book Access Bill Passes Senate

Syracuse, NY – Senator Rachel May (D-Onondaga, Madison, Oneida) is proud to announce the passage of her bill (S.2890B) to make e-books equally accessible to public libraries in the state on reasonable terms. This bill amends the general business law by adding a new section 349-nn that requires publishers to offer electronic books to public libraries under reasonable terms.

Public libraries provide equitable access to information for all. Many New Yorkers prefer digital content and libraries provide this content as a benefit to their communities. E-books are particularly useful for senior citizens, people with disabilities, and others who may find digital content more accessible and manageable than paper books.

As the market for e-books has developed and matured, publishers and libraries have worked to develop equitable models to ensure access to library patrons. Many of these practices are widely accepted and help ensure libraries are able to provide access. As markets continue to grow, however, some publishers are introducing practices that significantly interfere with libraries’ ability to continue to provide their patrons with equitable access. In particular, there are e-book embargoes in place that restrict the timely availability of e-books to public libraries. These embargoes place an unfair burden on public library systems that are forced to wait eight weeks to purchase more than one license for a title. Such embargos undermine the democratic and educational function of library systems.

This discriminatory practice will restrict access in ways that harm library systems and those they serve. Many library patrons are lower income or face barriers to other means of information access. These new licensing restrictions means patrons may be forced to wait much longer to borrow books, as only one title is made available per library system. Additionally, these restrictions will financially burden library systems that will have to purchase more titles to keep up with demand following the two-month embargo. Finally, it significantly restricts access to titles for New Yorkers who find digital content more accessible than paper books.

Rachel May

This bill establishes in statute what constitutes reasonable and unreasonable standards for e-book licensing to New York’s public libraries. It requires publishers who offer to license e-books to the public shall offer such books to libraries on said reasonable terms. In doing so, it ensures that widely accepted and effective industry practices remain in place while prohibiting harmful practices that discriminate against libraries and harm library patrons.

“New York’s public libraries are one of the state’s greatest assets,” said Senator Rachel May. “Libraries need to be able to provide the public with access to electronic books. I am proud to sponsor legislation that will ensure they are able to do so with respect to e-books. No publisher should be limiting the availability of e-books to public libraries, and I look forward to ensuring they are able to get materials on reasonable terms. I thank my colleagues in the Senate for supporting this bill and the New York library community for their support for this ground-breaking legislation.”