Public libraries across the U.S. are getting into the online book-selling business, providing convenience for patrons but also raising concerns that the sales threaten to commercialize taxpayer-supported institutions founded to provide information free-of-charge.
The practice is poised for a boost, as three of the largest library systems in the U.S.—all serving New York City—prepare to start selling print books through their online catalogs by July.
At least 75 of the 8,951 public-library systems in the U.S. are offering online patrons the option to buy new print copies of titles in their catalogs, and an additional three dozen are preparing to do so, according to book distributors, library officials and library-software developers.
Those selling print books online include libraries in Orlando, Fla.; Jacksonville, Fla., Burley, Idaho; Mount Laurel, N.J.; and Douglas County, Colo. The Boston Public Library is among those considering adding the service.