MBLC Doubles eBook Funding


October 23, 2023
Celeste Bruno
Communications Director

At its October board meeting, the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners (MBLC) doubled its funding to support Library eBook and Audiobook program (LEA) by approving $1 million in grants to Automated Networks for purchase of eContent for LEA. LEA gives Massachusetts residents access to eBooks, audiobooks, and more from 380 participating libraries from across the Commonwealth. The state-funded grants directly support the growing patron demand for eBooks and audiobooks. In June alone, checkouts through LEA totaled more than 140,000, up from 66,000 during the same period in 2019.

The ability to keep up with resident demand is constrained by high pricing to libraries and publisher restrictions, such as whether libraries can own or lease titles, how many copies libraries can get, and how long libraries have to wait after the book is released to the general public. Some titles are not available to libraries at all. To try keep pace with demand, Networks have also increased spending on eContent to more than double what it was five years ago, going from $4.3 million in 2019 to more than $10.4 million in 2023. Yet long wait times for people to access library eBooks persist. “It’s a question of access and equity. Libraries level the playing field and try to ensure that everyone has access to resources and technology,” said James Lonergan, MBLC Director. “Libraries are willing to pay their fair share to provide this kind of access, but current publisher practices make it unsustainable.”

In an effort to provide greater access through more equitable pricing, the Massachusetts Library Association is working with Representative Ruth Balser on Bill H.3239, an Act empowering library access to electronic books and digital audiobooks. The Bill has been referred to the Joint Committee on Tourism, Arts, and Cultural Development. A hearing for this Bill is scheduled on October 30, 2023. The chart below illustrates the issue.

Lessons in Chemistry: A Novel by Bonnie Garmus

Library pricing for eBook: $55.00

Consumer pricing for eBook: $14.99

Restrictions on library eBook:  License expires after 24 months

Restrictions on consumer eBook:  ownership does not expire

Library pricing for eAudio: $95.00

Consumer pricing for eAudio: $24.99

Restrictions on library eAudio:  License expires after 12 months

Restrictions on consumer eAudio:  ownership does not expire

The MBLC has awarded LEA Content Grants to Networks every year since 2020. The grants significantly supplement Networks’ own collection development purchases, help reduce hold queues and patron wait times, and increase the breadth of the collection. In addition to the eContent grants, Commissioners also approved $94,000 in LEA platform grants which offset the fee networks pay to use OverDrive, the software and app that delivers the eContent for LEA. Grant awards are listed below.



Award (Content)

Award (Platform)













Minuteman Library Network





North Andover

















Funding for the LEA Content Grant is possible through the MBLC’s Library Technology and Resource Sharing budget line 7000-9506 which received a 30% increase for FY24, a request made by the MBLC in part to continue strong support of statewide eBook lending. LEA platform grants are made possible by the federal Institute of Museum and Library Services. Residents can find more information and start using LEA on

About MBLC

The Board of Library Commissioners ( is the agency of state government with the statutory authority and responsibility to organize, develop, coordinate and improve library services throughout the Commonwealth. The Board advises municipalities and library trustees on the operation and maintenance of public libraries, including construction and renovation. It administers state and federal grant programs for libraries and promotes cooperation among all types of libraries through regional library systems and automated resource sharing. It also works to ensure that all residents of the Commonwealth, regardless of their geographic location, social or economic status, age, level of physical or intellectual ability or cultural background, have access to essential new electronic information technologies and significant electronic databases.