The Book Publishers Association of Alberta and the Alberta Municipal Affairs Public Library Services Branch have teamed up to offer more than 1,000 ebooks for free to the province’s readers. Twenty-four of the province’s trade and academic publishers, including Freehand Books, NeWest Press, and Renegade Arts Entertainment, are participating in the Read Alberta Ebooks collection, which is the largest of its kind in Canada.
The initiative aims to give residents access to local titles of all genres, while offering support to the province’s publishing houses. “It’s almost every single ebook available from an Alberta publisher that’s a member of our association,” says BPAA executive director Kieran Leblanc. “Since the release [on Feb. 17], we’ve had lots of calls from other provinces that want to do it themselves. It’s a really good thing… for authors, publishers, libraries, and readers. And a big infusion of money into publishing houses.”
The ebook collection – made available at Alberta libraries through the Canadian-based digital-lending platform Cantook Station – represents a $200,000 investment by the government. The funding will continue long-term as more titles become available. The BPAA is also calling for a more stable investment in the form of the Alberta Book Publishers Fund.
“Looking at the investments different provincial governments make in the publishing industry across the country, where Alberta sits is pretty bad,” says Leblanc. Home to just one per cent less of the population than B.C., and with just over half the number of publishers, Alberta only receives 20 per cent of the total annual investment its neighbouring province sees. Publishers in Atlantic Canada have protested a similar lack of provincial funding, which they countered with the NS Books Start Here campaign.
Read Alberta Ebooks is currently being promoted at library conferences and through local media, focusing on rural areas with a lack of indie booksellers.