CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- While more people continue to check out electronic books from the Kanawha County Public Library, the limitations set by publishing companies have become a threat to libraries buying the e-books, the library's director said.
Alan Engelbert said there are 30,000 e-books available through the West Virginia Digital Entertainment Library Initiative, an online database the Kanawha County Public Library and nine other libraries across the state have access to for checking out e-books.
Libraries could have access to more e-books, but publishing companies are essentially freezing them out of the electronic market by placing onerous conditions upon them, Engelbert told members of the Rotary Club of Charleston on Monday.
E-book checkouts at the main library have increased 25 percent since 2011 and have grown in popularity nationally as well.
Digital books represented just 1 percent of the publishing industry's sales in 2008, but claimed 23 percent of sales in 2012, according to the Association of American Publishers.
But publishers have created a "complex environment" with libraries, Engelbert said. For example, some refuse to sell e-books to libraries at all, he said.
"We couldn't pay any amount of money to get their product, which, when you think about a book publisher refusing to sell books to libraries, it's an amazing concept," Engelbert said.
Other publishers have set limits on the lease and license titles of e-books, he said.
For example, some publishers have a 26-use limit on library e-books. After an e-book is checked out 26 times at the library, the e-book isn't available anymore.
Engelbert said publishers believe a book wears out after 26 uses, and since e-books don't wear out, they limit how much one e-book can be read to "get more money for it."
Some publishers wait until a book has been for sale for six months before they release it as an e-book to libraries. Then, they'll enforce the 26-use rule, he said.