A Democratic senator launched an investigation into how publishers license ebooks to libraries on Thursday, calling on 9 main e book aggregators to supply particulars on the licensing agreements they make with libraries.

Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR), together with Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-CA), despatched letters demanding that aggregators like Overdrive and EBSCO present them with examples of ordinary e book licensing agreements for each main writer they work with, together with Penguin Random Home and Simon & Schuster.

“Many libraries face financial and practical challenges in making e-books available to their patrons, which jeopardizes their ability to fulfill their mission,” the lawmakers wrote. “It is our understanding that these difficulties arise because e-books are typically offered under more expensive and limited licensing agreements, unlike print books that libraries can typically purchase, own, and lend on their own terms.”

In September, Wyden and Eshoo first questioned publishers over the phrases they set for e book licensing. The COVID-19 pandemic compelled many public libraries to close down in-person service, and folks started utilizing on-line companies like Overdrive’s Libby app to borrow digital books in lieu of bodily copies. “Ensuring that libraries can offer an array of resources, including e-books, is essential to promoting equity in education and access to information,” the lawmakers wrote to Penguin Random House earlier this yr.

Main publishers have sued organizations previously over copyright violations for providing free copies of ebooks. In June 2020, Hachette, Penguin Random Home, Wiley, and HarperCollins filed swimsuit in opposition to the Web Archive for copyright violations associated to the Open Library mission. The mission launched in 2006 and allowed customers to borrow ebooks scanned from bodily copies of books.

In Thursday’s letters, the lawmakers highlighted how digital variations of books will be extra accessible to individuals with disabilities. “In recent years, e-books have been a growing part of library catalogs. Not only do many library users prefer to borrow e-books, but digital options can provide greater accessibility for Americans who have disabilities, face mobility challenges, or live in remote areas,” they stated.

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