Um, does the author ever get paid?

A recent story in the London Free Press shows why authors are wondering about the way ebooks are rolling into libraries. The future is now, the story tells us, and more and folks are “taking out books electronically, downloading titles from the comfort of their own computers.”

At the London Public Library, which is just an example of a trend, the use of ebooks is growing exponentially, with more than 1,000 titles in the electronic catalogue, a number that may very well double in the next year.

“Now when librarians look to buy the latest best-sellers,” the reporter tells us, “they not only get a few dozen hard copies, but also the rights to two or three electronic versions that can be downloaded to one customer at-a-time.”

The e-books save libraries money: no storage costs, no theft, no losses.

The library, again typically, buys the rights to the books from an American company, an “aggregator,” rather than a consumer site such as Amazon or Chapters. Those latter sites do not offer the same discounts to librairies.

The only problem with this brave new world is that the author never gets paid.

If a library purchased an ebook through a consumer site or direct from the publisher, for example, an author would at least receive a small royalty. But the way the future is unfolding, if 10,000 people download an ebook through a library, the author never receives a penny.

Lots of room here for improvement. I wonder if, for starters, we should not expand the Public Lending Right Program to include ebooks?

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