An Independent Review of E-lending in Public Libraries in England – Report

The UK’s Department for Culture, Media & Sport has released the Independent report into e-lending in UK public libraries. This report is the culmination of the review announced in September 2012 and headed by William Sieghart.

The report’s main recommendations are:

  • Public libraries should be able to offer on-site and off-site e-lending services to clients that are free at point of use
  • That Public Lending Right should be extended to audio books and e-books loaned on-site and off-site through public libraries
  • That the interests of publishers and booksellers should be protected by extending the ‘friction’ present in print loans to the e-lending environment. i.e. Copies should only be loaned to one client at a time, copies should be securely removed at the end of the loan period, and copies of e-books should ‘deteriorate’ after a certain number of loans. (This is essentially the current model used to access Harper Collins titles through Overdrive)
  • Pilot research projects should be undertaken to test business models and user behaviour, and provide a transparent evidence base


The Government’s response
seems broadly supportive of these recommendations, although e.g. is careful not to appear to commit additional money to PLR.

The British Library Trust has already agreed to fund pilot research projects, and publishers have agreed to cooperate with the Society of Chief Librarians, Arts Council England and the Reading Agency to undertake pilots as part of existing initiatives such as World Book Night.

Press release – Review of E-lending Published

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Provincetown Public Press

Provincetown Public Library in Provincetown, Massachusetts has launched Provincetown Public Press. This initiative is a digital publishing imprint, which aims to empower the (presumably local) community in creating and distributing their own works, both in supporting creators to learn how to create and market digital works, and in removing some of the hurdles creators experience in trying to make their works available. The press aims to publish between 10 and 20 works in its first year of operation. Works will be chosen from submissions, the first wave of which closes on April 30, 2013.

An article in the Cape Cod Times quotes the Provincetown library director and marketing manager as saying that the initiative is related to the trouble libraries have with some larger publishing companies shying away from selling them electronic books, and that the Public Press will “level the playing field”.

Struggling to satisfy demand: the reality of the public library ebook marketplace reflected in usage data from a selection of public libraries

Struggling to satisfy demand: the reality of the public library ebook marketplace reflected in usage data from a selection of public libraries – Matt Weaver, Board Member of Library Renewal. Posted March 18, 2013.

This paper examines ebook lending data from 5 US public library systems using Overdrive from January 2011 to June 2012. It finds that:

  • clients’ acquisition of ereader devices drives their use of ebooks in libraries, particularly during the holiday period
  • slightly more than half of all checkouts were of titles from those Big Six publishers who made their content available through Overdrive
  • ebooks currently contribute a small percentage of libraries’ overall circulation figures
  • the majority of library patrons do not currently borrow ebooks, and up to 17% of patrons who registered to use Overdrive never borrowed an ebook

The paper goes on to conclude that:

The present ecosystem for ebooks in libraries does not represent a value for our members. While competitors to Overdrive have emerged, this competitive environment does not drive prices down, as prices are controlled not by vendors, but by publishers. Without the ability to own ebook content and migrate collections between vendors, then libraries cannot benefit from the arrival of new competitors in the marketplace. In the end, library ebook collections will remain fleeting, bound to vendors; and not only expensive to acquire, but also to sustain. An environment in which access to as broad a range of content as possible is secured for patrons, and affordable to libraries, will not emerge out of the current environment

Goodreads user surveys

Book recommendation website Goodreads undertook a number of surveys of its members – to find out what prompted them to read two of the top books on Goodreads for 2012, and a general survey of US-based members.

The results of the surveys show that friends’ recommendations were the strongest reason for reading the book, that most respondents read a mix of e- and print books, that three quarters of respondents shop around for the best price when buying ebooks, and by a long margin the largest number of respondents accessed the 2 targeted books (in both e- and print format) through a library.

Library Journal’s Infodocket also has a story on the surveys.

An Act [bill] concerning “e-books” and libraries

A bill has been introduced into the Connecticut General Assembly, proposing that

“the general statutes be amended to require publishers of electronic books to offer such books for sale to public and academic libraries at the same rates as offered to the general public”

The bill was proposed by Representative Brian Sear of the 47th District, and was referred to the joint Committee of General Law. A public hearing of the Committee reviewing this and other bills was held on February 7, 2013. Representative Sear and several members of the library industry submitted written testimonies in support of the bill. A transcript of the public hearing (with discussion of this bill intermingled with discussion on other bills) is available.

The Committee voted to draft the proposed bill as a committee bill on February 21, 2013, and the text of the expanded committee bill was released on March 6, 2013.

Future public library collections: how are we going to get there? – Shana Harvey, Brisbane City Council Libraries

Future public library collections: how are we going to get there? – presented by Shana Harvey, Manager Library Services at Brisbane City Council, at ALIA Information Online 2013

Brisbane City Council Libraries, which serve ~500,000 members, commissioned TNS Research to survey Brisbane residents (users and non-users) in 2011 and 2012 who had read at least one book in the last 12 months. The research had a particular focus on attitudes towards and use of ebooks

The research found that:

  • Libraries are an important driver for reading/book choice discovery
  • Library borrowers are also book buyers
  • Half of all readers are already downloading free ebooks (sometimes illegally copied, but also legitimately free ebooks), but only 12% borrowed ebooks through a library. This indicates a real opportunity for libraries to serve those users who are not willing to pay for ebooks, in such a way that some commercial return is still available to publishers for this segment of the market