At some point this week, Mr Vaizey will announce an independent review into e-book lending in public libraries. Do not make the mistake of thinking that this is not important.  Consider. E-books are likely, sooner or later, to be the effective replacement for printed books.  It may not happen this year, or in five years, or even in twenty.  But it is going to happen. 

As such, the current resistance by publishers is highly understandable.  Library e-books are different to printed library books because a library e-book and a bought e-book are not different to each other.  This is incredibly dangerous for the book trade. Yeah, sure, they can only be borrowed for two weeks, perhaps three, before they vanish from the screen but this is hardly going to deter the keen reader.  For, unlike printed books, the public does not have to make a special trip to get them.  Borrowing is instant. Unlike printed books, too, there is no notable difference between the quality of a borrowed or a bought item.  You know those people who refuse to borrow library books because other people have held them and there are nasty stains?  Well, they’re not going to have any such problem with library e-books.  They won’t even get the snob value of showing off their book collections in their dining room at parties.  For who can tell a bought or a borrowed e-book apart?  So why on Earth would publishers freely allow public libraries to give away (steal?) their property for free?  Yes, sure, borrowing one e-book might encourage the user to buy another by the same author – this is an excellent justification for printed library books after all – but why should they when the author’s next book is also available for free? And the next?

The booktrade may need to be strong-armed into a deal. After all, the main reason why publishers allow printed books to be borrowed from libraries now is because of the law.   They have to.  Public Lending Right is not a gentleman’s polite handshake.  It’s a handcuff on the publisher from the State forcing them to do what it is not in their interest to do. For the good of the country.  In the BookSeller today, the editor says that there is no God given right for libraries to lend out e-books.  He’s correct of course, although he neglects to say there is no God given right for lending printed books either. It’s going to be a State given right or not at all.

But forcing the book industry into this deal is hardly the current government’s style and nor, perhaps, should it be.  Blackmailing anyone is not good long-term practise. The State needs to work out a way to keep publishers and authors happy and libraries lending.  Yet another problem rears its head here.  It’s  going to mean money and this is the one thing authorities don’t have at the moment.  The BookSeller suggests 5p or 10p per loan.  That larger figure, based on the last figures available, is an an extra outgoing of £31 million per year when the time comes that all lending is electronic. That’s not much in the scheme of things but is worth bearing in mind for the future, with budgets unlikely to improve any time soon. It’ll probably need doing though. Either the book trade needs to be paid sufficiently for their products or there needs to be sufficient barriers in place to make e-book borrowing less attractive than purchasing.  This could include the weirdly counter-intuitive forcing of e-book borrowing only from physical branches.  Perhaps this would also mean the long-term saving of the buildings as well but it seems such an artificial thing to do that it is doubtful that it could be seen as the answer.

So, there’s no easy solution but something needs to be done.  For the alternative is the effective end of public libraries at some point in the future, and thus the end of free access to information for all, with an incalculable in future equality of opportunity.

Public Lending Right for non-council libraries update   

“Today we received an update from the PLR Registrar telling us that according to the DCMS the “community libraries” may be treated as “prescribed” libraries, as mentioned in the post above.  He did not share any details of the practicalities with us so we have asked him to answer the following important questions;

  • how are authors recompensed for the lending done by these libraries. Will DCMS be paying PLR now for private libraries?
  • If authors are NOT recompensed by prescribed libraries, how will this impact on the income of authors as this model of library becomes more widespread? also, why should public bodies pay if private libraries do not have to?
  • How would PLR in Gloucestershire be administered? The loaning of the community libraries here will be tangled up with the loaning statistics of the public libraries as they use the same system. Would they need “disentangling” as was said during our last communication?
  • do the libraries have to register as ‘prescribed libraries’?

The above questions are really those that Gloucestershire County Council should be asking but, given the fact they have not sought guidance from the DCMS or the MLA on this matter, and given the fact that DCMS seem to have no intention of making sure authorities are properly informed, we are once again taking it upon ourselves.”  Friends of Gloucestershire Libraries


  • Bookless Library – New Republic (USA). Long but thought-provoking and interesting article.The first is the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building, the main branch of the New York Public Library (NYPL). The second is an iPhone. Yet despite their obvious differences, for many people today they serve the same purpose: to read books. And in a development that even just thirty years ago would have seemed like the most absurd science fiction, there are now far more books available, far more quickly, on the iPhone than in the New York Public Library.”.  Storing books, especially those in the public domain, is being called into question. “Somewhat paradoxically, by drawing millions more people into serious reading and learning, the digital revolution has in fact created the need for more spaces of physical interaction.  And what institutions are better suited to serve this purpose than libraries?”
  • Ebook lending needs fixing – BookSeller (Editorial). Ebook lending increasingly important but publishers naturally fear it.  “To square this circle, culture minister Ed Vaizey is shortly to announce a review into the whole issue, comprising the librarians, authors and publishers. Unusually, his proposal will have cross-party political support, which perhaps augurs well for whatever solution finally emerges.” … “Librarians do not have a God-given right to e-books for free; indeed, in the long term it is better for them to safeguard the incomes of those who create the content they then distribute. The principle of charging borrowers within libraries is nothing new, and has been applied for decades to ancillary offerings such as audio and video.”
  • How about some public library statistics and rankings from around the world? Two reports to know about – Infodocket (USA).  Includes library stats from Canada and IFLA.
  • Library of Lost Books – Withdrawn books from Birmingham Central Library are being turned into art exhibits by a collection of artists. “The Library of Lost Books is a salvaged collection of old, damaged books and music scores, many over a century old, which have been discarded by Birmingham Library and Archive Services in preparation for its move to a new library in September 2013. These books will be re-worked by 50 emerging and established British artists; the result of which will be an exhibition showcasing some very exciting and innovative contemporary book art. The Library of Lost Books will be exhibited as part of the opening festival for the new Library of Birmingham in 2013 and will then tour to other venues across the UK.”
  • Open Library –  A free ebook-lending resource created by a consortium of mostly American libraries.

    “It’s quite striking that public library services will, in future, be benchmarked by an accountancy body. Where does that leave CILIP? And how will ‘best practice and innovation’ be defined if the criteria are not set by people with a background in librarianship, or education in general? … The really interesting comparison would not be within the UK (where public library services are being run into the ground wherever you look), but across EU countries. My personal impression is that funding for public libraries is far more generous in most other EU countries I know” Gerhard Bissels on Lis-pub-libs

  • Vaizey to announce e-lending review – BookSeller.  “The Department for Culture, Media and Sport is poised to announce an independent cross-trade review into e-book lending, which could potentially “break the deadlock” on the issue, The Bookseller has been told.”
  • Why Cameron must not abolish the culture department – New Statesman.  Dan Jarvis, shadow minister for libraries says that there are increasing rumours that the DCMS is to be abolished.  This, it is argued, would damage creative industries and thus lose the country money.
  • Why libraries are awesome – Savvy Daddy (USA).  “Today’s libraries are really different than from what I remember.  They’re on twitter. They’re running cool programs and partnering with local businesses & cultural institutions.  They’re doing stuff for autistic kids.   They’ve got online book reservations and local neighborhood pick-up/drop-off.  One library I talked to is even letting members borrow fishing poles.”  Some great reasons for libraries like “passionate staff”, “the internet has made libraries more relevant”, etc.

Local News

  • Brent – Preston Community Library now open – Preston Library Campaign. “Envious of the success of temporary libraries by our Brent SOS buddies at Kensal Rise and Barham Park, Preston Community Library, long in the pipeline, is up and running – in the doorway of our beloved library.”
  • Merton – Donald Hope and Raynes Park Library volunteers awarded for loyalty – Guardian series. “A volunteer who has dedicated 1,000 hours of service to Merton libraries was among those honoured at an awards ceremony.Merton Council hosted the ceremony at Morden library on Thursday, June 28, to thank their team of volunteers.”
  • Worcestershire – Thousands make a beeline for the Hive – Worcester Standard.  Queen has officially opened new joint public/academic library.  “A remarkable 17,000 visitors swarmed around Worcester’s new £60million library and history centre during its first week of opening.The Hive has been buzzing with activity since opening on July 2 with the county council revealing 13,300 books were issued to the public and students, while 800 new members signed up to the library service.”