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Over 2/3 of U.S. libraries offer e-books; 28% lend e-readers

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The majority of U.S. public libraries now offer e-books, but libraries’ relationships with book publishers are fraught, says the American Library Association in its 2012 annual report.

The 2012 State of America’s Libraries” (PDF) notes that over 67 percent of U.S. libraries now offer downloadable e-books and 28 percent lend out e-readers “and other mobile devices” to patrons, but “when Random House increased its e-book prices by 100% to 200%” the “dialogue between the publishing and library communities concerning ebooks…moved to a front burner.”

The report spends more time decrying Random House’s e-book price increases than it does on the fact that four of the big-six publishers offer no e-books to libraries at all. “No one is quite sure where the ebook–library relationship is going,” the report says. “Is this a marriage that‘s breaking up or an engagement that‘s just going through a rough period? Time will tell, and more data will certainly help.”

In the meantime, the report suggests library/publisher discussions are being hindered by the Department of Justice’s ongoing investigation of five big publishers and Apple for allegedly fixing e-book prices, and provides a quote from Hachette CEO David Young: “Publishers can’t meet to discuss standards because of antitrust concerns. This has had a chilling effect on reaching consensus.”