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Vaizey launches review of e-books in public libraries

A clear strategy is needed if more libraries are to adopt E-lending across England, Culture Minister Ed Vaizey said today.

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

A clear strategy is needed if more libraries are to adopt E-lending across England, Culture Minister Ed Vaizey said today as he launched a review of the best ways of making electronic books available on loan to the public.

Ed Vaizey has asked William Sieghart, founder of Forward Publishing and the Forward Prize for Poetry, to lead a review of e-lending to help ensure that libraries and their users, authors and publishers can all benefit as this fledgling service grows.

The review will consider issues including:

  • the benefits of e-lending;
  • the current nature and level of e-lending and projection of future demand;
  • the barriers to supply of e-books to libraries; and
  • the possible consequences of e-lending, including the long term impact on library premises, the effect on publishers and the impact on those who cannot keep up with changes in technology.

Ed Vaizey said:

“E-lending is currently in its infancy but growing fast.  Just as e-readers are transforming the way people access books, e-lending could help transform the way people use libraries.  By acting now we can help influence the growth of e-lending to ensure that libraries, authors, publishers and the public all benefit from this potentially valuable new service.”

While some library authorities in England are already lending books electronically, others do not yet offer this service.  Currently there is no common consensus on the best way of making electronic copies of books available in public libraries:  popular e-readers are sometimes excluded from lending schemes; a variety of formats can be used; there is no universally agreed system for remunerating authors and publishers; and there are various ways of making content available - and ensuring that it is only accessible for a limited time.

Publishers can therefore be wary about making their books available for e-lending, meaning that provision is patchy even in libraries that have adapted to current technology.

William Sieghart said:

“E-lending is an exciting new development for libraries and their users but there are currently many unanswered questions about the best way forward.  I very much look forward to hearing views about how we can make the most of the growth of e-lending and will set out details of how people can submit their evidence and suggestions shortly.”

A panel of experts has agreed to help William Sieghart with the review.  They are: Janene Cox, President, Society of Chief Librarians and Commissioner for Tourism & Culture, Staffordshire County Council; Roly Keating, Chief Executive of the British Library and formerly Director of Archive and Content for the BBC; Caroline Michel, CEO Peters Fraser & Dunlop; Stephen Page, Chief Executive of Faber & Faber; and Joanna Trollope OBE, author. 

The review panel will issue a call for evidence shortly and has been asked to report back in the New Year.

Notes to Editors

  1. The review is intended to cover e-lending in public libraries in England. However, given that the public lending right scheme and Digital Economy Act 2010 are UK-wide, it may be necessary to consider the systems in place in the devolved administrations.

  2. The Digital Economy Act 2010 contains provisions (which are not yet in force) which will allow the lending of e-books (and audio-books) to be included within the public lending right scheme, but only where the e-book is downloaded within library premises. Any changes to this system to allow readers to download e-books online (for example, from home) would therefore require a legislative amendment.

  3. DCMS ministers will consider the proposals resulting from the Review alongside any recommendations which may emerge from Arts Council England’s ‘Envisioning the Libraries of the Future’ Project, and potential recommendations from the Culture, Media and Sport Parliamentary Committee Inquiry on Library Closures.

  4. The role of Chair and Panel Members is unremunerated, but travel and subsistence expenses will be paid.

  5. Biographical information

* William Sieghart: Chair   Philanthropist, entrepreneur, publisher and the founder of the Forward Prizes for Poetry.    

In 1986 William co-founded Forward Publishing, publishing magazines, children’s books and poetry books. He is the author of a best-selling book on golf, The Swing Factory.  William also founded Big Arts Week and Street Smart, the initiative whereby diners give a percentage of their restaurant bill to the homeless. He was a member of Arts Council England 2000-2006, and was chair of its Lottery Panel.  William is a Trustee of the Esmee Fairbairn Foundation, Free Word Centre and Reprieve. 

* Janene Cox    President of the Society of Chief Librarians (SCL) & Commissioner for Tourism & the Cultural County, Staffordshire County Council.   

Janene Cox began professional life as a librarian in the Central Library in Birmingham and has managed libraries in Northamptonshire and Staffordshire, where she became Head of Libraries in 2005.  Janene is also a Trustee of the Reading Agency.

* Roly Keating    Chief Executive The British Library.   

Before joining the British Library, Roly worked at the BBC, most recently as the Director of Archive Content with editorial leadership for the BBC’s online services, including BBC iPlayer.  He is also responsible for the development and implementation of the BBC’s strategy to increase digital access to its archives, including the new Arts Council England partnership The Space.  Roly’s former positions at the BBC include Controller of BBC Two and BBC Four.  Roly Keating is a member of the Barbican Centre Board, and a Trustee of Turner Contemporary.

* Caroline Michel   Chief Executive Peters Fraser & Dunlop   

Caroline Michel has been the CEO of PFD since 2007 and before that she headed up the William Morris Agency in London for three years. She has over 25 years of experience in the media industry and ran Vintage at Random House and Harper Press at Harper Collins.  Until very recently she was a governor at the BFI and now sits on its development board.

* Stephen Page    Chief Executive Faber & Faber  

Stephen Page began his career in bookselling before moving into publishing. In 1994 he joined Fourth Estate, becoming Managing Director in 2000.  In 2001 he joined Faber as CEO and in 2006 Faber was named Publisher of the Year.  He has been President of the Publishers’ Association.  He frequently writes and speaks on industry issues, especially the effects of fast-moving technological developments on authors and publishing.

* Joanna Trollope OBE    Author   

Novelist Joanna Trollope worked for the Foreign Office (1965-7) and held various teaching posts (1967-79), before becoming a full-time writer. She is the author of 30 bestselling contemporary novels, and was awarded the Romantic Novelists Lifetime Achievement Award in 2010.

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Published 25 September 2012