© 2022 WKSU
Public Radio News for Northeast Ohio
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

Library Director Warns Publisher Policy Change Threatens New Digital Divide

a photo of the library in downtown Youngstown
The main branch of the Public Library of Youngstown and Mahoning County in downtown Youngstown.

New restrictions on library access to ebooks is threatening to create a new digital divide, according to the director of the Public Library of Youngstown and Mahoning County.  

More and more people are checking items out of the library with their phones or tablets. Libraries soon may not be able to meet the demand for certain e- books. Come November 1st the publisher Macmillan, one of the big five, plans to limit libraries to buying just one digital copy when a title comes out. It’s a conundrum for library directors like Aimee Fifarek, who heads up the Public Library of Youngstown and Mahoning County.

"Do we buy the one copy we’re being allowed to buy and then have an enormous holds list? Or perhaps do we not buy it at all until we can buy the number of copies to satisfy demand?"  

That would be 8 weeks after the book is released. Fifarek is urging readers to sign a petition advocating ‘ebooks for all’ to try to get publishers to reconsider the new restrictions. She notes that libraries already pay much more than consumers for ebooks and are not able to purchase the books from Amazon, which refuses to sell any ebooks to libraries.   

Fifarek says the situation threatens to create a new digital divide.

“When we can’t even purchase at any price these materials which we already pay a lot more and don’t have permanent access to, it’s a problem and it’s really starting to create a new digital divide in information.”

The House judiciary committee has begun an investigation into competition in digital markets.

Besides Macmillan Publishers the other four that make up the Big 5 include Hatchette Book Group, HarperCollins, Penguin Random House and Simon & Schuster. The American Library Association noted,  “The Big 5 publishers control over 80% of the trade book business in the United States.”  

A Northeast Ohio native, Sarah Taylor graduated from Miami University in Oxford, Ohio where she worked at her first NPR station, WMUB. She began her professional career at WCKY-AM in Cincinnati and spent two decades in television news, the bulk of them at WKBN in Youngstown (as Sarah Eisler). For the past three years, Sarah has taught a variety of courses in the School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Kent State, where she is also pursuing a Master’s degree. Sarah and her husband Scott, have two children. They live in Tallmadge.