E-Books in public libraries

There is currently no legal requirement for public libraries to supply e-books and, similarly, no statutory requirement for publishers to allow their borrowing.  For the full debate on e-books on public libraries see this page by lglibtech.
Demand Driven Access
This model is where the library purchases access to an e-book title when the public wants it rather than owning a copy.  See this post on Lis-pub-libs by Ken Chad (August 2013):

“I think PDA may be the wrong term (at least for public libraries). Tim Coates used the term ‘Demand Driven *Access*’ –this takes away the ‘acquisition’ idea. A library doesn’t need to own an ebook to provide users with access to it. There is a spectrum of different kinds of libraries. For some ‘ownership’ (and therefore acquisition) will be very important-one thinks of national libraries or perhaps some major academic research libraries. Others (and probably public libraries fit here) will be more about access.

There are two useful presentations on the  (Jisc project)  ‘Challenge of ebooks’ website (http://ebookchallenge.org.uk/. Although the focus is academic libraries you may find the presentation useful in unpicking the issues. (They are on the ‘case study’ page under ‘curation’ heading. Direct links to the presentations are provided below):

Ebooks: build or access?


Sue Polanka (US ebooks ‘guru’- runs the ‘no shelf required blog’) looks at the tension and trade-offs between building  a collection (acquire ebooks) and providing  access. It looks graphically at the issues and challenges around ‘fully curating’ as opposed to just providing access. She comments:

“When librarians ask me for advice about purchasing eBooks I always ask them what their goals are. For example, do they want to build a comprehensive research collection or would they rather pay for access. Some libraries prefer to build, others would rather spend their money by accessing more content for shorter periods of time, and others will want some combination of the two”.

Patron Driven ebooks


The example from  Royal Holloway, University of London is presented as a PDF version of a presentation by Anna Grigson (at the 2012 National Acquisitions Group -NAG- conference).”

“Without any changes to the 1964 Act we could find the principle of free access to public library services becoming a thing of the past”Ebook Acquisition and Lending Briefing: Public, Academic and Research Libraries – CILIP.
Ebook business models for public libraries – Library Journal (USA).  “The Business Model/Licensing Group has developed the following document describing the characteristics of possible business models to help public libraries negotiate contracts with publishers. While there are certainly other business model options to consider, and changing technologies will have a direct impact on the kinds of business models we may see in the future, the Business Model Group focused on characteristics of business plans that are viable today. ”  See also Three
essential features of any ebook business model for your library (District Dispatch, USA) which explains the report in an easy to understand manner.
Background Paper on E-Lending – IFLA.  May 2012.
Article from August 2012:
Three different MPs are claiming that a task book on ebooks in libraries was their idea.  These are Ed Vaizey (minister for libraries, claimed in Oliver Diamond’s weekly roundup of Conservative news), Justin Tomlinson (the chairman of the All-party Parliamentary Committee on Libraries) and Dan Jarvis (shadow minister for libraries).  If nothing else, this suggests that something may finally happen, even if everyone with the letters M and P after their name claims credit for it.
It all started with Dan:
” Dan Jarvis has called for the government to create a cross-industry task force to explore the issue of e-book lending in libraries. Jarvis said the taskforce should be chaired by an independent expert, to oversee discussions which he says are crucial to a 21st-century libraries model.” … “His calls come on the back of a meeting held between publishers, culture minister Ed Vaizey and Jarvis on Tuesday (3rd July) to discuss e-book lending and the extension of the Public Lending Right (PLR) scheme to e-books.”.  Task force to include librarians, authors and publishers. Jarvis calls for e-lending task force – BookSeller.
This statement by Mr Jarvis then resulted in an email from Justin Tomlinson explaining his views, including not only charging for e-books but also forcing users to physically go to the library to get them.  This, in turn, resulted in Phil Bradley (President of CILIP) making clear what he thought of such an idea.

Against free library e-book accessible at home (Justin Tomlinson)

  • Most publishers do not want e-book lending in libraries (DJ) therefore it’s better to charge to get them on board otherwise libraries are going to be left behind (JT)
  • This would “protect footfall” by encouraging people to go to the branches to lend ebooks.  Model preferred by Justin Tomlinson is for ebooks only to be available for loan by going to the branch (JT)
  • Charge for e-book lending profits would be divided  between library and publishers. (JT)
Arguments for free e-book lending from libraries at home (Dan Jarvis, Phil Bradley, Voices for the Library)
  • if most publishers don’t want e-books then the Government should use the legislation already in place, section 43 of Digital Economy Act 2010 which allows for the introduction of public lending right of ebooks (DJ). 
  • charging would deny universal access.  “Possession of an e-reader should not be indicative of the ability to pay for books loans” as many e-readers are gifts (PB)(Voices)
  • charging for ebooks is the thin end of the wedge as would reduce resistance towards charging for printed books.  The “idea of a free library would have gone” (PB) leading to a two-tier approach.
  • restricting access to ebooks limits access to housebound and those remote from nearest library (Voices)
  • restricting access is artificial and counter-intuitive (PB, Voices) making the librarian look silly and unhelpful (PB) and preventing libraries from taking full advantage of modern technology (Voices)
  • how would libraries work out how to allow distance access to ebooks for disabled, what criteria could be used? (PB).
  • library usage statistics should include visits to websites/downloads so that public libraries would still be able to justify themselves (PB).
  • “If libraries embrace the use of eBooks, by robustly promoting them, explaining to members how they are used and by making them freely available, library use will increase. Publishers will see better returns on their investments as library members often purchase the books they have read, or will buy others from the same author.” (PB)

This exchange then caused the Society of Authors to come on board with their views:

  • Society of Authors letter to Ed Vaizey (sent on 1st May) is concerned about providing ebooks to public libraries.  While accepting the importance of libraries and ebooks to them, it wants a deal based on the following rules:
    • Library ebooks do not compete with commercial sales of ebooks esp. in independent bookshops
    • Loans must be “controlled and limited”
    • Piracy is curtailed
    • Public lending right payment to author, including in volunteer-run libraries.

Documents for the above article

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *