Like any commercial publisher, Ramsey Kanaan wants to make money and have as many people as possible read his books. But he says his company, PM Press, can do both by selling his books to the public and to libraries for lending – either in print or digitally.
While most publishers only license ebooks to libraries, PM Press has donated and sold both print and ebook versions of its titles to the Internet Archive to use in its Controlled Digital Lending (CDL) program. By owning the copies, the Internet Archive ensures that the press’s collection of publications is available to the public and preserved.
“We’re not above profit making. It’s with sales that we pay our salaries. Nevertheless, the reason we are also doing this is we actually believe in the information we are selling and we want to make it accessible,” says Kanaan. “We want our books to be in every library.”
Founded in 2007, PM Press has published between 30 and 40 titles a year. The books (all available in print and various digital formats) include fiction, graphic novels, comics, memoirs, and manifestos on topics such as activism, education, self-defense and parenting. “We’d like to assert or inject our ideas contained in the titles we publish as our modest contribution to making the world a better place,” says Kanaan.
From the beginning, Kanaan says the agenda of PM Press has been deeper than just making money by renting books annually to libraries. “The concept of charging multiple times to us is ridiculous and contrary to everything we are trying to do in publishing,” he says. “Our interest is in the dissemination, preservation and archiving of ideas…with no firewall.”
Kanaan says he doesn’t understand the objections to CDL by publishers that have sold their print books to libraries for decades. “If a library purchases a book or an ebook it’s going to be ‘borrowed’ by, ideally, lots of people. The industry has entered into this agreement with libraries for time immemorial – presumably access without further commercial transaction,” says Kanaan. “I don’t see the difference in a library making a print or ebook available for borrowing once it’s purchased. It’s the same.”
In donating to the Internet Archive in December 2019 and selling the other print titles and ebooks in the PM Press collection, Kanaan hopes this hybrid approach will help expand the audience for its titles. “The Internet Archive is not bootlegging materials. They are like any other library lending out one copy at a time.”
Kanaan maintains that companies against CDL as a way of doing business are “dinosaurs” and that digital lending is the future. “We see the Internet Archive as a partner in our endeavor to get our information out,” Kanaan says. “We want to achieve a better world for most of its inhabitants. We’re fighting against the 1 percent who only want a better world only for themselves. I’m hoping we are not just on the right side of history, but that we are actually going to win this one.”
The Internet Archive has been buying ebooks from publishers for more than 10 years, but the number has been limited because most publishers insist on license arrangements that constrain our ability to preserve and lend. If you would like to sell ebooks to the Internet Archive and other libraries, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.