So it has come at last. The findings of the independent review on e-lending has been published and it looks, at first blush, pretty good.  The Government has also, to its credit, not backed away in horror from it.  A summary of its findings are below with the (completely positive) response to it so far.  For myself, I think it is as good as could have been hoped for and, in its pragmatism, offers a way forward that was perhaps not there before.

There are a series of tests the results of the Review will now go through to see if it amounts to anything which include (a) the response to it by publishers, (b) the willingness of Government to push through the legislation and to knock heads together if either side refuses to play ball (and I’m looking at you Amazon and you Big Publishers) and, finally (c) how library services can afford to pay for both an adequate supply of e-books and printed books at a time when its budget is under threat as never before.  The devil is in the detail but the Review itself looks pragmatic and a solid basis to work on.

Far more sadly, and on the same day, it has been announced that the Public Lending Right unit will be absorbed by the British Library.  This is despite 948 out of 1015 responses being against this move.

Sieghart Review

The Review has been published as “An Independent Review of E-Lending in Public Libraries in England” with the official response being “Government Response to the Independent Review of E-Lending in Public Libraries in England”.  A very short summary of the Review is below:

“This review, published today, does not try to predict the future for the industry as a whole. It is more narrowly focussed on the issue of the lending of digital versions of books by public libraries, offering practical and realistic suggestions for how to manage this ‘revolution’ in a way that makes sense for all.” William Sieghart

Key recommendations

  • E-lending should be free at point of use.
  • Remote and on-site lending recommended.
  • “Frictions” should be added to ensure that library e-books do not have unfair advantage over purchased e-books.  The principle is to closely mimic printed book lending patterns – only one copy of a purchased title can be loaned at any one time, e-books to be deleted after an (as yet undecided) number of loans. Opportunities to purchase the e-book “should be encouraged”.
  • Public Lending Right to be extended to e-books, with recommendation that the PLR fund be increased.
  • Pilots should be set up, including all key players, to decide on the best model on how to do all this.  “A number of pilots in 2013 using established literary events should be set up to test business models and user behaviours, and provide a transparent evidence base: all major publishers and aggregators should participate in these pilots.”


“The public library service is changing. And e-lending represents one of many technological developments that can help it meet the increasingly high expectations of their membership. I welcome William Sieghart’s review, and hope that all those engaged in the sector can play their part in moving forward the proposed developments.” Ed Vaizey

  • An Independent Review of E-Lending in Public Libraries in England – Phil Bradley’s Weblog.  Welcomes report as “reasonably positive”.  Very pleased to the principle of free lending is upheld for e-books. “I hope that those libraries that are currently charging for ebooks will now have a very swift rethink!” … “more meat on the bones would help here” about how many loans will be allowed per ebook purchase.

“In summary, the review provides something for everyone; authors, publishers, booksellers, libraries and readers. It’s a positive document, embracing the power of digitisation, and not shying away from it. It views it as a force for good, rather than as a threat. Finally, it’s looking forward practically, encouraging exploration and new models.” Phil Bradley

“The review is an important recognition of the crucial role that libraries have, a role which will continue and expand in the digital age. It is very important that we work closely with publishers to ensure that the recommendations within the report are implemented and that we ensure that the outcomes from the pilots inform the future.” Janene Cox, SCL

“On quickly reading the report my comment is as follows: It is a very sensible report which should be widely welcomed. It is important that the principles outlined remain in place as the technology develops.” … “What is missing is a recognition that the public library service in England is fragmented into 151 library authorities and it will take considerable effort to ensure that e-lending does not become a post code lottery.” Desmond Clarke (via email)

Other News

  • Ed Vaizey announces transfer of authors’ Public Lending Right to British Library – Gov.uk.  “following a public consultation, the Government is to go ahead with the transfer of the running of the Public Lending Right (PLR) scheme to the British Library.”.  Running of the scheme will stay in Stockon on Tees but management will transfer to BL to save £750k per year.  Suggests savings will be used to for PLR payments rather than being clawed back. Existing management is to stay on to smoothe transition.  Hopes benefits of being part of a larger organisation will also help.  The summary of consultation responses shows that 948 out of 1015 respondents were against the transfer.
  • How co-operatives can help save our community libraries – Co-operative News.  Looks at results of Locality meeting in London on volunteer libraries.  “There are opportunities, in the chill wind that is blowing through our public services, to embed co-operation in a new way. But if a community group is at all worried about a local asset – a library or anything else – then they must apply to list it under the community value legislation, to get what protection there is. The rule is, don’t wait, or it might just be too late.”
  • LGA faces body blow as eight leading cities serve notice to quit – Guardian.  Birmingham, Bristol, Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester, Newcastle, Nottingham and Sheffield to depart, injuring the LGA.  The Government are also cutting £2m from LGA budget.  LGA has recently criticised Government for cuts as “Sir Merrick Cockell, the association’s chair, publicly warned communities secretary Eric Pickles that a lack of certainty about public funding would lead to “firesale decisions”.”
  • Nielsen Releases Book Production Figures‏ – Nielsen (press release).  There was a slight dip in the number of books published in the UK in 2012 compared to 2011 but it is still the second highest figure on record.
What are the more widely used formats? Of the 170,267 titles produced in the UK, here is a selection of the main formats:
  • 3,600 Audio books published in a variety of formats from cassette, disc and downloads
  • 26,732 books were categorised as hardback
  • 57,999 e-books in a variety of formats, including online, digital, DVD and CD, the largest proportion being categorised as e-books
  • 74,829 paperbacks/softbacks.
  • The remaining titles are of a variety of formats and include stationery, calendars and non-standard formats.
  • PLR transfers to British Library – Public Lending Right News. “The changes are expected to take effect from 1 October … Although the position of Registrar will disappear, the current Registrar will be retained by the British Library for an agreed period to help ensure a smooth handover.”.
  • Public Lending Right transfer – British Library. Official (and terse) statement. “Both the PLR and the British Library are keen to ensure a smooth transition and continued high standard of service for authors.”


Local news

  • Cambridgeshire – Sawston Library opens after inferno – Haverhill Echo. “Sawston library has reopened in a new temporary building after the old one was destroyed by a fire last year. The village had been served by a mobile library while the new facility is based at Sawston Village College (SVC), as was the old one.” Friends and local businesses have helped.  “Eight fire crews battled the blaze at SVC which gutted the library on September 6 last year, though the fire was prevented from spreading throughout the school.”
  • Denbighshire – Library will be a new chapter for Prestatyn town – Journal. “A new library is set to open in Prestatyn later this year. Work is continuing on the new facility, which will be located on Kings Avenue, and is expected to open in September.
  • Hull – Library’s future ‘is not sealed’ – This is Hull and East Riding. Councillor argues against Anlaby Park Library closure: “”A formal decision on any closure has not yet been made. As far as I am concerned, that should happen under a proper process, which would include a 12-week consultation. It appears this has not been properly thought out. Instead, it is turning into a shambles.”
  • Southwark – Fire at Walworth Town Hall updated 27 March – Southwark Council. Report of the after effects of the fire, cause still unknown, affecting Walworth Library.  An sit office has been set up in the children’s library.

captain underpants and the grabbits display

  • Suffolk – Look out for the Easter Grabbits – Suffolk Libraries (press release).  “Easy to ‘grab’ and read selections of books for children and young people will soon be available” … ““The idea of our Grabbit books is to provide ‘quick choice’ books for younger readers so they can get hold of popular books more easily and quickly. The school holidays are a good time to launch this as people may have more time to visit their local library with their children.” says Alison Wheeler, General Manager. Picture above shows a Grabbit display.
  • Wandsworth – New management for Wandsworth’s libraries after Easter – Wandsworth Guardian. “Greenwich Leisure Ltd (GLL) will take control of all 11 of the libraries and the Wandsworth heritage service, which runs out of Battersea library. The move is expected to save the council about £750,000 a year after GLL take over the contact from April 2.” … “The libraries will be closed from March 29 to April 1 while GLL installs new IT equipment with faster internet speeds.” … “York Gardens Library and Community Centre, in Battersea, is expected to still be ran as a direct services organisation with volunteers.”