Pilot Projects will test best business models

026/13

The lending of E-books by public libraries will enhance library services for users, but the interests of booksellers and publishers must be protected too, Culture Minister Ed Vaizey said today.

A Government-commissioned report, An Independent Review of E-Lending in Public Libraries in England by William Sieghart, published today, sets out the following principles:

  • Public libraries should be able to offer a remote E-lending service to their readers, free at the point of use;

  • The interests of publishers and booksellers must be protected through ‘frictions’ that limit the supply of E-books in the same way that physical book loans are controlled;

  • Pilot projects later in the year should test business models and help gather evidence of best practice; and

  • The Public Lending Right should be extended to on-site e-loans, with consideration further ahead to including remote e-loans.

A series of pilot projects between publishers and libraries this year, using established literary events, will test business models and user behaviours to help provide a solid evidence base for going forward.

Ed Vaizey said:

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.

William Sieghart added:

The UK publishing industry is undergoing a digital revolution, the full impact of which will transform the structure of publishing, bookselling and book borrowing, whether we like it or not. What this means for each participant, whether they are a writer, agent, publisher, wholesaler, retailer, librarian or reader, is as yet unclear.

What is certain is that the industry is changing very quickly and each one of these stakeholders has a right to feel anxious. It is easy to focus on the challenges posed by digital developments, rather than of the opportunities offered. 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.

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