Pixel Envy

Written by Nick Heer.

Amazon’s Publishing Arm Prevents Digital Library Cataloguing

Geoffrey Fowler, Washington Post:

You probably think of Amazon as the largest online bookstore. Amazon helped make e-books popular with the Kindle, now the dominant e-reader. Less well known is that since 2009, Amazon has published books and audiobooks under its own brands including Lake Union, Thomas & Mercer and Audible. Amazon is a beast with many tentacles: It’s got the store, the reading devices and, increasingly, the words that go on them.

Librarians have been no match for the beast. When authors sign up with a publisher, it decides how to distribute their work. With other big publishers, selling e-books and audiobooks to libraries is part of the mix — that’s why you’re able to digitally check out bestsellers like Barack Obama’s “A Promised Land.” Amazon is the only big publisher that flat-out blocks library digital collections. Search your local library’s website, and you won’t find recent e-books by Amazon authors Kaling, Dean Koontz or Dr. Ruth Westheimer. Nor will you find downloadable audiobooks for Trevor Noah’s “Born a Crime,” Andy Weir’s “The Martian” and Michael Pollan’s “Caffeine.”

Amazon does generally sell libraries physical books and audiobook CDs — though even print versions of Kaling’s latest aren’t available to libraries because Amazon made it an online exclusive.

This is sadly true of many exclusive arrangements with digital publishers. Calgary Public Library has a huge video catalogue but, from Netflix, only the handful of TV shows that have been released on DVD are available. That’s right: DVD, not Blu-Ray, and not through the library’s streaming video service. The many documentaries that are Netflix exclusives remain solely available in that company’s streaming catalogue.