Libraries and ebooks

A very good article from Benedicte Page on Bookseller.com give a very good insight into how publishers are negotiating and thinking about ebooks and library lending. The post includes a speech given by Stephen Page at the CILIP Public Library Authorities conference in Leeds. A portion of which is below.

The members of the Publishers Association have now created an agreed base line position on e-lending. All the major trade publishers have agreed to work with aggregators to make it possible for libraries to offer ebook lending. The following maximum controls were agreed, though I want to stress that some publishers will chose to be less stringent than others. This is merely a base position to ensure that we are able to start to make the complete, vast library of ebooks available for loan:
Firstly the fee paid by a library in purchasing a book covers the right to loan one copy, of one book, to one individual, for a fixed short term period at any given time – various licensing models exist to support this condition.

Secondly, robust and secure geographical-based membership must be in place for all library services, with permanent members required to demonstrate their residence within the locality and with provisions to cater for temporary membership for visitors.

Thirdly, the system works on a download model, whereby library users come on to the library’s physical premises and download an e-book at a computer terminal onto a mobile device, such as an e-reader, laptop or mobile phone.

Finally, a downloaded e-book will expire after a predetermined length of time (e.g. two weeks), after which it will cease to be available to read on the library user’s mobile device.

As I say, some publishers may take a more relaxed view, particularly of remote downloading, but the above criteria allow for a strong beginning that replicates physical lending. It is worth also saying that this may not be the only model. Subscription services are already emerging as in the academic world – Bloomsbury’s Public Library Online being a prime early mover.

We will now work with the digital library suppliers to ensure that this service can be quickly brought to libraries. What’s important is that we have been able to establish the principle of support for lending ebooks, and an environment in which this can be done that will put authors and publishers minds at rest while supporting the notion of universal access. It’s an important first step along the way and no doubt once underway we’ll work out further developments.

There are some good and some bad issues here. Firstly the contention about users having to enter the physical library to borrow is new and will have 2 effects, a nuisance for users, but a gain for library management who still insist that the only
statistic worth having is for people through doors.

That publishers are willing to engage at all and see the value in libraries is hopefully a good sign. However, initiatives like Bloomsbury’s Public Library Online are subscription models, whereby libraries will be forced onto annual contracts for books, and will never own any as of right. And, like any other subscription services, you will lose access to everything you previously had/have if you don’t renew.

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