Libraries, publishers fight over eBooks

CREATED Apr 23, 2012 - UPDATED: Apr 24, 2012

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MILWAUKEE - A war over eBooks is brewing between Wisconsin libraries and book publishers. 

Audio: Click to hear Erik's report on Wisconsin's Afternoon News

With the Digital Age in full swing, it's no surprise that the popularity of eReaders and tablets is sky-rocketing. 

During Q1 of 2011, 32-thousand eBooks were checked out from Wisconsin libraries.  During that same time frame in 2012, 165-thousand eBooks were checked out.

"We've seen a tremendous uptick in interest," said Steve Ohs, the development coordinator at Lakeshores Library System.  "We've also seen a substantial uptick in the number of registered borrowers."

Libraries in the state are embracing the eBook age, but there have been some hurdles.

"There are some limitations," said Jeff Dawson, director of Lester Library in Two Rivers.  According to Dawson, publishers refuse to sell newly released books to libraries.  The books they do offer, are significantly overpriced.

"A person can use a Kindle and buy a book from Amazon for $9.99," he explained.  "A library would have to pay $35 to $40 for the same book."

One reason publishers ask for so much money is because eBooks last forever.  Printed books don't.

"We would purchase an eBook, and after 26 copies were checked out we would have to get the eBook replaced," Ohs said.  "Most librarians would probably tell you that number is a little low."

The eBook/Library relationship is in its infancy stage, but despite some growing pains Ohs feels both sides will eventually benefit.

"It's a complicated market, and will continue t be," Ohs explained.  "But I wouldn't say the future is bleak."

More Audio: Will print books remain relevant in the future?