E-BOOK GOUGE: Local library feels sting of high prices

COLUMBIA CITY — One local library is being negatively affected by a suspected case of e-book price gouging, which has come on the heels of the launch of a lending system designed for the electronically-savvy reader.According to a report by the Jasper (Ind.) Herald, the U.S. Department of Justice filed a lawsuit against Apple and several book publishers last week, alleging that the popular electronics corporation conspired with the publishers to raise prices on e-books “by taking control of e-book pricing from retailers,” according to a statement.One local library is following the case closely.“The Peabody Public Library is a member of the Indiana Digital Download Consortium (Overdrive) and has felt the sting of rising e-book prices,” said Mary Hartman, director of the Peabody Public Library in Columbia City.“E-book circulation checkouts increase every month,” Hartman said. “To date, we have experienced a 500 percent increase in this format over the past year. Electronic devices are extremely popular with our patrons. Unfortunately, e-book pricing makes it difficult for us to purchase multiple copies of popular titles for our patrons’ use.”Hartman said competition among readers puts pressure on libraries such as hers to provide what members want.“There are 36 other small public libraries that are members of the consortium, and all of our patrons are clamoring for the same e-books,” Hartman said. “Many of the popular titles have multiple holds on them and patrons may have to wait a considerable time in order to get the e-books they want to read. It’s a shame that e-book publishers are driving costs out of the reach of public libraries and their patrons when we should be working hand-in-hand to provide the most current information using updated technologies in a cost-effective manner.“It will be interesting to see what comes out of the lawsuit,” Hartman said.