User Tools

Site Tools



Increase in ebook lending 2020

The Guardian

Library ebook lending surges as UK turns to fiction during lockdown. Caroline Davies The Guardian Fri 23 Oct 2020 .

Charity says ebooks borrowing up 146% from March to August, with crime thrillers popular. In total, more than 3.5m additional ebooks were borrowed between the end of March and mid-August, according to the charity Libraries Connected, an increase of 146%. Adding audiobooks and e-comics, there was an increase of 5m digital items borrowed.

Libraries Connected. October 2020

“Based on our survey, among the 100 services which provided data, ebook usage increased by 146%. Increases in individual services ranged between 38% and 714% ”

Ebook checkouts [p19] in Libraries in lockdown: Connecting communities in crisis. Libraries Connected. October 2020

Short overview

Ebooks in UK public libraries By Helen Leach. Surrey Public Library service and Shelffree 2013

A Presentation about the situation (at November 2013) regarding ebooks and e-lending in UK public libraries.

Competitions and Markets Authority report on Overdrive takeover of Aragorn/KKR

July 2020 report on the takeover of the company owning RBDigital by Overdrive has good information on library ebook market shares and suppliers in the UK.

The Ebook lending pilots

(see also the Library ebook lending -the debate section below)

Public Library E-lending Pilots Launched Today 03 Mar 2014

“The Publishers Association (PA) and the Society of Chief Librarians (SCL) have today announced the launch of a yearlong pilot for e-lending in public libraries. The aim of the pilot is to carry out real-time, real-world research into the impact of ebook lending in public libraries on authors, publishers and on the library service so that a suitable and sustainable model for all stakeholders can be found.A key recommendation of The Department for Culture Media & Sport's Sieghart Review, which was published in February 2013, was:

That e-lending should be permitted, including “remote” downloadable e-lending.

However, it also acknowledged there are concerns about the lack of sufficient information and data as to the commercial impact of e-lending. The pilot has been designed specifically to address this problem.The four library authorities participating in the pilots are Vivacity Peterborough, Newcastle City Council, Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead, and Derbyshire County Council.Library customers in these authorities will be able to access a list of over 1000 titles which are not currently available in other authorities for e-lending, including new releases which will be phased in during the pilot year. Loan periods will be for either 7 day or 21 day periods.A grant of £40,000 to fund the research has been made by the British Library Trust to the Society of Chief Librarians, who in turn are partnering with The PA on the project. Following a competitive tender MTM-London has been appointed as the research company”.

Discussion List

LIS-PUB-EBOOKS@JISCMAIL.AC.UK- A list for the discussion of ebooks and e-readers in public libraries. You can subscribe at

Articles and Papers


E-Lending for Libraries. IFLA, Ebooks and Access to Digital Content

'The availability of digital content, downloadable onsite at the library or remotely through online catalogues has the potential to develop a digital culture of reading that will benefit users, authors and publishers. However, the current situation facing libraries is anything but positive. There are presently many difficulties, as downloadable eBooks raise a variety of technical, legal and strategic issues which are leading to concern, confusion and frustration for libraries and their users, publishers and authors.'

IFLA Principles for Library eLending

Background paper on e-lending

Thinkpiece ‘Libraries, eLending, and the Future of Public Access to Digital Content’

The value of public libraries in the e-reading ecosystem. Christopher Platt. Panlibus Magazine Issue 24 Summer 2012 [p8-9]

From the article: '…the consumer shift to e-reading, and the economic downturn have all conspired to generate enormous challenges to the book industry – libraries included. These challenges create an opportunity for libraries to confirm our integral role in the reading ecosystem. To succeed at this, and indeed to be taken seriously, we need to better understand the needs of the supply chain, match our value to those needs, and offer genuine ideas for how libraries can be a partner, rather than a threat. Whatever the future may be, it has to be one that satisfies the needs of everyone in that ecosystem, the readers most of all.'

OECD Paper

E-books: Developments and Policy Considerations. OECD Digital Economy Papers, Number 208. OECD Publishing October 2012 ISSN :2071-6826 (online) DOI :10.1787/20716826

'Books have undergone a massive transformation from a physical object to something entirely different: the electronic book, or “e-book”. This report provides background on e-book markets and examines various policy issues related to e-books. These include differing tax rates in countries between physical books and e-books, consumer lock-in to specific platforms, limitations on how users can read and share their purchased content, and a lack of transparency about how data on their reading habits is being used'.

CILIP policy paper on ebooks

'Ebook Acquisition and Lending Briefing Public, Academic and Research Libraries'. CILIP Policy Dept August 2011

'This paper presents some of the legal, strategic and technical problems that arise from the addition of scholarly and trade ebooks to library collections, together with possible solutions. Some of the most common business models are briefly set out. The latest data on ebook usage is also included'.

Lending e-readers (devices)

Some US) public libraries lend e-book reader devices. eg see:

e-READER lending service Worcester public library (USA)

The following information was provided in a post to the LIs-Pub-Libs discussion list on 11 November 2015. There are some minor edits to the original post. The question posted on the list was:

“We're currently looking into offering our Home Library Service users the option to borrow eReaders/Tablets and were wondering if anyone else had done this and if so what the outcomes had been? Was it popular? Did you offer a selection of devices or just one? Did you go with eReaders or tablets? Did you pre-load the books on to the devices or not? Did you offer anything else alongside the device? E.g. a basic IT Course? What was your policy on loaning the devices? Did you have a procedure for dealing with

The responses were:


This is not something we've actually done, ..However, we have had some general discussions about the idea, and I seem to recall that one of the obstacles to an efficient service was that the terms of use in the contract for our ebook service (Overdrive) was that books had to be loaned against an individual borrower ticket, and couldn't then be loaned to another borrower without checking them back in first.This doesn't of course preclude preloading of titles onto a device, but it does mean that the account has to be completely cleared from the device and then a new account loaded up between each loan, all of which add to the time taken to process the loans (ie it becomes a more expensive service).

I also seem to recall that it is not easy to get a borrower history of loans to each individual borrower, so it's tricky to make sure you don't preload with something they have already read (unless you do the download at the customers' home - wifi access permitting).

South Lanarkshire:

I haven't been involved in the e-reader lending for a while, we gave up on it. Preloading could work and we may go back down this road. The problem we had was with Adobe Digital Editions, Adobe limit the number of registrations linked to each device and you can't clear and start again - this creates a problem if you are going to lend the device and allow the borrowers to upload their own choice of books. I think the limit is 6 registrations so 6 borrowers…..per device. The alternative is to set the devices up using the library PC and either preload by genre or whatever or ask the customer to select titles which staff preload before the device is issued.


At Surrey Libraries following the closure of our Mobile Library service we ran a pilot lending eReaders to our ex mobile library users (many of them were housebound). I have attached a report on the pilot that we ran however it was not successful as many of the readers were not confident PC users and had very old computers which had problems with downloading the Adobe Digital Editions Software required. At the end of the pilot the eReaders we had were about to go out of warranty and so we then gifted the eReaders to the readers that were still using them.

Libraries as ebook publishers

How the Seattle Public Library is helping authors overcome the Internet’s big lie by Frank Catalano GeekWire 3 August 2014

“As part of its ongoing Seattle Writes initiative, the library has partnered with self-publishing and distribution platform Smashwords to encourage local writers to package their writing for an audience. The eyeball icing on the finger-typing cake? A contest, open until midnight on October 15, in which up to three entrants who publish via Smashwords will have their eBooks included for circulation in the SPL eBook collection.”

Ebooks without Vendors: Using Open Source Software to Create and Share Meaningful Ebook Collections. By Matt Weaver code{4}lib Issue 25, 2014-07-21 ISSN 1040-5758

From the article:

“As libraries consider the impact/future of ebooks in libraries, so much of that energy is spent on the actions of vendors and publishers. Digitization of local content holds a lot of potential for all libraries. Vendor-driven solutions are expensive and can be overkill for many types of information that libraries might want to digitize and distribute.I came across some local cookbooks on my library’s shelves that represented a wide historical range, from a 2011 book produced by the city for Westlake’s centennial to one produced by a local church’s Sunday school in 1906, with several others in between. I wondered how we could capture that content, strip the recipes from their container, and create a database of local recipes. When looking for open-source digitization tools and processing tools, I realized that I could not only extract the recipes from the cookbooks, but also produce ebook copies. The result is The Community Cookbook, a recipe website and collection of ebook versions of local cookbooks”.

Summing up the value the author writes:

“Developing the skills to digitize, reshape and distribute content has the power to change our thinking with regard to electronic content, leading toward greater independence among libraries. By building projects/communities, we develop expertise in our communities that vendors cannot possess. Libraries of any type possess intimate knowledge of their communities. The system developed in this project has low technological and cost barriers, and represents the first step in the development of an open source publishing model for libraries. A logical next step would be to provide publishing assistance for organizations, families, churches, etc.,”

Can Libraries Survive the E-Book Revolution? Facing higher prices and limited access to e-books from the major publishers, one man has inspired a national movement to promote smaller, digitally based presses and self-published authors.By Dylan Scott. Governing. July 2013

From the article:

The situation has left libraries looking desperately for a way to make e-borrowing sustainable for customers in the future. But they have little negotiating power other than an altruistic appeal to the established relationship between library and publisher, both working toward the goal of a more literate nation. The bottom line is that libraries need to have e-books for their readers to check out, because that’s how people are going to read in the future. If they don’t have the goods, then what will a library be useful for a decade from now?

LaRue is turning his attention toward what he sees as the next frontier: libraries themselves as publishers. Now that Douglas County has the content management system for its direct-purchasing project, he thinks it would be easy to turn that into a self-publishing portal. The library would be the center of a local authors’ society, connecting self-starters to copy editors, cover artists and e-book distributors, and transforming thousands of Word documents sitting idly on neighborhood desktops into polished, professional products. LaRue hasn’t actually done this yet, but the idea is already attracting adherents. Officials at the Harris County Public Library say they’re interested in eventually starting a similar project.

'Libraries to become community publishing portals. The opportunity to help local writers become publishers. By Mark Coker | @markcoker 1 April 2013

'With the rise of ebooks, public libraries are at a crossroads. Some book publishers, fearful that library ebook lending will cannibalize retail sales of books, are reluctant to supply ebooks to libraries at the very time that library patrons are clamoring for greater access to such materials. Rather than standing idly by as publishers jeopardize their future, some libraries see an opportunity to take control by proactively cultivating a newer, more library-friendly source of ebooks. These libraries are developing community publishing initiatives in partnership with self-published ebook authors.'

‘South Ayrshire library service achieves worldwide first’. South Ayrshire Council News. November 2011

'The e-book, 'The Record of the Ayrshire Militia 1802-1883', is now available for sale on Amazon, making South Ayrshire's local history information accessible to a global audience for generations to come.'

Library as Publisher: A Massachusetts Public Library Will Soon Begin Publishing eBooks. By Gary Price. Infodocket (library Journal) 11 March 2013

'Under the new Provincetown Public Press digital publishing imprint, a dozen or so writers and artists will learn this year how to create a digital book of their work and market it on the Internet, library officials announced Thursday.Provincetown Public Press, a new digital book publishing operation of the public library, is offering writers and artists the ability to create and distribute a digital book on the Internet.This might be a first in the country, library director Cheryl Napsha said Friday. “We haven’t seen it anywhere. There are some libraries that are starting to print physical books using high-end copiers. To the best of my knowledge, no one has gone digital.” The library is starting the press as a public service, she said. It will be funded by a $3,000 donation'

Library ebook lending-the debate

January 2015

The Giant has stirred - public libraries could dominate Ebook reading.“ By Tim Coates Library Technology Guides 11 January 2015

Public libraries could dominate Ebook reading. More books are read out of libraries than out of book stores.

Abstract: Figures from Overdrive just released show that they handled 105 million e-book downloads in 2014 through libraries and schools. While this approach in libraries prevails the potential cannot be tapped – and it explains why the growth of e-books in libraries has been so slow. The same has happened to other print book based book companies – they have found it hard to strike the right balance – not losing their heritage while striving to offer the new technical digital services effectively to their customers.

November 2014

An Incomplete Report on a Flawed Pilot Program Suggests that Library eBook Loans Don’t Drive Sales 24 November 2014 The Digital reader

From the blog:-

“the UK Publishers Association released a 6 month status report on the small scale library ebook lending project which had been carried on in the UK for the past 8 months. If the report is to be believed, ebook loans don’t affect the lending rate for paper books, and they also don’t drive sales.

The 6 month status report released today found that:

  • An overall growth in e-lending. All four authorities have seen a significant increase in e-lending, with the pilot titles constituting a significant proportion of the overall e-book downloads.
  • A longer loan period leads to more titles being borrowed. Longer lending periods (i.e. 21 days) appears to have led to a higher number of different titles being borrowed and more patrons joining the waiting lists.
  • The increase in e-lending is not leading to a decrease in physical lending. The participating libraries do not appear to have seen a decline in footfall or in the lending of physical books.
  • No evidence of e-book lending leading to buying. There has been extremely low take up of the opportunity to buy the borrowed e-book through use of the “click to purchase” facility.”

April 2014

Caught at least three ways: e-lending and librarians’ dilemma. By by Ian Anstice. Public Library News (Twitter:

@publiclibnews) 17 April 2014

“The Chief Executive of the Publishers’ Association has had a bit of a go at the CILIP-backed “Right to E-Read” campaigned. I can understand his concern about the name (it’s not the right to e-reading, he points out, but rather e-lending) and fear that such unfettered and free access would cut down on author’s (and publishers, naturally) earnings. After all, there has always been a suspicion amongst booksellers that libraries could hurt them. It has always been the response of librarians (and some publishers too) that book-lending is a different and complementary activity to book-buying. The current e-book pilots in the UK come as an attempt by all parties, brokered by the DCMS, to see what works best and if publishers etc do have something to fear. I’m probably not alone as a public librarian in feeling conflicted at least three ways on this………”

The 'right' to read. By Richard Mollet. The Bookseeler (blog) 17th April 2014 (Twitter: @RichardMollet)

“What EBLIDA/CILIP really want is not actually the right for people to read e-books, but the right for libraries to lend them. These are, of course, very different things indeed”.

March 2014

CILIP calls for end to limits placed on library e-lending. By Joshua Farrington The Bookseller 6th March 2014

“CILIP said that libraries should have the same right to lend e-books in the same way that they can lend print books, in order to promote literacy and foster a passion for reading.

CILIP is supporting a Europe-wide campaign for the right to e-read, which is calling for libraries to have the right to e-lend as part of a revised European copyright framework, currently being consulted by the EU”.

Library e-lending pilot loans new releases.THE BOOKSELLER : 3rd March 2014

February 2014

Connecticut’s Dept. of Consumer Protections Releases Report on Availability of Ebooks in Public Libraries. by Gary Price. Infordocket [Library Journal] 14 February 2014

The report called for by a Special Act (No. 13-10) was released at the end January 2014

From the article:

”Investing in a State run e-book distribution platform [Douglas County, CO is mentioned] so as to provide the State’s libraries with greater flexibility in acquiring and managing their e-content and increased negotiating power when dealing with publishers or other owners of e-content”

Author David Baldacci weighs in on e-books, library budget cuts in @ your library video. ALA Press Release 6th February 2014

Author David Baldacci, who wrote the best-seller “Absolute Power,” said he believes publishers will provide libraries with greater access to e-books in a video produced by the American Library Association (ALA) Public Information Office (PIO) for the ALA’s website for the public,

Regarding the publishing Industry and e-books, he said, “There’s a shakeout period. Obviously I think greater access and granting access to libraries for books, e-books, any type of format – audio – is very important. I think the publishers are going to get there. They’re trying to figure out how they can do all of this and still make money. As we well know, they have a lot of challenges from enormous competitors out there whose main business is not books, and so it’s difficult to compete against behemoths like that. I think that at the end of the day, publishers will provide a lot more access . They just have to figure out how they can make money doing it and make sure the industry survives,” he said

August 2013

Library e-lending pilots take shape.By Joshua Farrington. The Bookseller 2 August 2013

From the article:-

The pilots are being launched as a result of the Sieghart Review into public library e-lending, which called for a series of pilots to gather evidence on how e-book lending could be expanded and the impact it would have on libraries, publishers and retailers. The Society of Chief Librarians, together with the Publishers Association, have awarded the contract to develop the pilots to MTM London, a research and strategy consultancy. Areas laid out for investigation in the tender document included the impact of e-lending on retail sales, its impact on library membership and usage, and how an e-lending offer changes the perception of the library service.

The next stage will involve inviting three to four library authorities to participate. Cox said: “We hope we can begin some of the schemes by the end of the year. We want to have some running throughout 2014, to take into account changing borrowing patterns throughout the year. The first findings could be in by the end of 2014, with full findings out in 2015.”

July 2013

'Frictionless ebook lending from public libraries'. By Ken Chad. Shelffree blog 26 July 2013.

The Sieghart review of ebook lending talked about the need to introduce ‘friction’ into ebook lending from public libraries-in essence so as not to challenge the current business model of publishers. They fear that easy (‘frictionless’) ebook lending from public libraries will threaten their business.Tim Coates of Bilbary will have none of this. In a blog he says: “There are other ebook models for libraries which do not require this ‘Friction’ – but no one seems to be exploring those. Not in the UK anyhow. In these models a library can offer all the ebooks in the world – with as little friction as they can manage- and a payment is made to publisher and author each time the book is read.” Ken goes onto explore the three main elements of the idea. Patron (or Demand) Driven Acquisitions (PDA), a national (ebooks) service and payment to authors and publishers.

Note further background the the Bilbary elending model alluded to in the above blog post is given in:

Bilbary E-Books Set To Reconnect Publishers With Libraries. By John Farrell Forbes 3 July 2012

Extracts from the article:

One of the vital connections between public libraries and the big publishers has been lost during the e-book revolution, and one new British company wants to get it back.

Well over 2 billion books are read from the collections in public libraries every year, according to Coates, while the number of books read from those bought in bookstores is 1 to 1.2 billion.

“What that means is that in terms of the population having access to books, the public libraries still make up an enormous part of reading,” he said. “And in a sense if you’re a publisher you don’t really see that in your day to day working routine.”

A publisher doesn’t see what he’s sold to libraries because it goes off through a wholesale network, Coates stated. ”He doesn’t see what is circulated, or what author has become popular through the libraries. He never sees the circulation figures. And this is true of printed books, of course.”

“Now we’ve got into this odd situation where all the big six trade publishers don’t want to supply libraries with their e-books –and that’s amazing to me. I can understand why they’ve got into that position, but it’s not satisfactory and someone’s got to sort that out.”

Bilbary has also come to an agreement with Califa, a consortium that provides services to libraries in California.

For Coates, the hope now is that the sales data from these arrangements will in time be enough to convince the big publishers that lending e-books is a way to grow and that they should work with libraries and not cut them off.

“We’ll be able to show them hard data and they can draw their own conclusions about each book and its numbers,” he said.

And this opens up possibilities for other models, especially for the convenience of young readers or older readers. The library might subsidize the purchase of the e-books from the publisher and make them available at no cost to certain readers, said Coates. The customer gets it, the publisher gets paid for it, and the library has done its job.

e-lending pilot projects: next steps on from the Sieghart review.By Ken Chad. Shelffree Blog 24 July 2013

Few people seem to be aware of the precise nature of the pilot projects that were a key part of the recommendations from the ‘Sieghart’ review of e-lending in public libraries. Fortunately the RFP (tender) document is available on the SCL website and [detail from the blog post] is taken verbatim from that:

March 2013

Comments on Sieghart review of elending

A miserable report about ebooks from William Sieghart. The Good Library Blog. 29th March 2013

'And this is his conclusion from the evidence he received… and so the report is full of ideas about how to restrict things and how to create 'friction' where none exists. How awful it all is..'

Lend an Ear on the True Challenge Facing Libraries

by Stephen Page.The thoughtfox (Faber) blog 28 March 2013

'It became clear to me that e-lending was far from the key issue facing libraries. While I feel confident that a sensible solution will be found for some form of e-lending, I am more concerned about the apparently recurring obstacles to the delivery of a thrilling future for a re-imagined library service.

I believe strongly that public libraries are one key part of the reading and writing ecosystem. They are a highly important route to readers, and to those beginning their reading lives. The public library should be an enjoyable place, one that has a physical community space in which librarians – vocational champions of writers and their work – can engage audiences directly. There is a thirst to develop these essential roles in large parts of the service (and among writers and publishers) but it is hampered by two related issues, the first structural and the second financial.

The structural issue is that no one individual or institution is in charge of the UK’s public library service.

A national body running our public libraries could plan a much more exciting future than one defined by the narrow notion of ebook lending.

('Sieghart review') Independent report An Independent Review of E-Lending in Public Libraries in England. Department for Culture Media & Sport. 27 March 2013

From the review:

Section 4: How should the industry move forward?

  • As far as is possible, the digital loan of a book should emulate its printed counterpart. So the first conclusion of this review is that the lending of digital books by libraries to their members should be a service that is provided free of charge and that the lending of digital books to their members at no cost should be an essential offering of the library service.
  • The second recommendation is that library members should be able to borrow digital books from their libraries remotely.
  • The third recommendation of this review is that each copy of a digital book should only be loaned to one reader at a time, just as with a physical book.
  • The fourth recommendation of this review is that digital copies of books should be deemed to deteriorate, ensuring their repurchase after a certain number of loans.
  • The fifth conclusion addresses the needs of the writers by recommending the extension of the Public Lending Right (PLR) to cover digital, audio and e-audio books……………..To extend PLR to the remote downloading of digital books will require primary legislation, but is critical to allow libraries to progress with their digital strategies. This review therefore recommends that the government find the necessary legislative space in its programme at the earliest opportunity to allow these changes.

Folding shelves. E-books mean a plot twist for public libraries and publishers. Electronic lending and public libraries Economist. 23 March 2013

From the article:-

Worries about the effect of libraries on the book trade are not new. But digital devices, which allow books to reach readers with ease and speed, intensify them. As Brian Napack, president of Macmillan, a big publisher, put it in 2011, the fear is that someone who gets a library card will “never have to buy a book again”.

A printed book can be borrowed only during opening hours and at the library, so many readers save themselves the hassle and buy their own copy. But e-lending is frictionless: any user with the right privileges can download a digital file instantly (at the end of the borrowing period it self-destructs). This raises big issues: must libraries buy many copies of an e-book, or just one? And what about security? A hacker who cracks the library’s system could pirate everything it holds.

'A fragmented reading experience: locally and anecdotally speaking' By Lorcan Dempsey. Lorcan Dempsey's weblog. 4 March 2013. From the blog….

'I have been interested in how my reading behaviors continue to shift. The pull of digital is stronger. The benefits of portability, availability, and search weigh heavier. However, my reading has become fragmented in ways that complicate my life as a consumer.

Anecdote 3: borrowing

I bought Information wants to be shared by Joshua Gans last year. I bought it on the basis of a blog entry by John Naughton, who bought it on the basis of the Amazon abstract. On, it appears to be only available as an ebook. Now, normally for this type of item - which I would like to read, but not necessarily buy - I would suggest to the very fine folks at the OCLC Library that they acquire it. However, acquiring an ebook for lending from Amazon is not an option. So, as it was just $4.99, I went ahead and bought it. This touches on major policy and business issues, but as a consumer it is a way in which previous behaviors don't map onto current options.'

November 2012

'ALA Launches E-book Media & Communications Toolkit to Assist Libraries. ALA Membership blog. 27 Nov 2012.

'As several large book publishers continue to deny libraries access to their e-books, and others make e-books available under difficult terms, libraries find themselves unable to provide the reading and educational materials demanded by their patrons. As a result, many librarians are asking, “What can I do to advocate for fair e-book lending practices?”

'To assist libraries in informing the public about e-book lending practices, the American Library Association (ALA) released today the “ALA E-book Media & Communications Toolkit,” a set of materials that will support librarians in taking action in their communities.'

'The library community cannot sit by while publishers openly refuse to sell libraries the e-books that they need to serve their patrons,” said ALA President Maureen Sullivan, who recently led several library meetings with publishers. “Librarians and our allies must speak out more forcefully in communities across the country. Everyone needs to know that libraries offer e-books and 21st century library services, but we are unable to offer all the e-reading choices our patrons demand and deserve.”

October 2012

A summit from the Libraries All Party Parliamentary Group. eBooks: the last page or a new chapter for libraries and publishers? Wednesday 24th October, House of Commons. By Rob Green, Senior Reporter, Update magazine, The Chartered Institute of Library Information Professionals October 2012

The summit explored how to respond to the growth of digital literacy and the rise of eBooks. How do we ensure that library users, the digital have-nots as well as the digital haves, can still access to the world of published writing. Are eBooks the last page or a new chapter for libraries and publishers?

Chaired by Justin Tomlinson MP, Chair of the Libraries APPG, the panel members were:

• Richard Mollet, Chief Executive of The Publishers Association

• Steve Potash, Chief Executive of Overdrive, a global leader in digital distribution of ebooks

• Olivia Cole, Literary Editor of GQ, Editor of Spectator Life, poet and contributor to The Standard

• Christopher Platt, Director of Collections and Circulation Operations at New York Public Library

E-books: Developments and Policy Considerations. OECD Digital Economy Papers, Number 208. OECD Publishing October 2012 ISSN :2071-6826 (online) DOI :10.1787/20716826

Ebook lending from public libraries is specifically addressed for page 56 (or the PDF version)

E-lending enigma. Desmond Clarke. Bookseller. 19 October 2012

From the article:

'Any effective solution is likely to require the setting up of a national e-lending service to allow all registered library users, whatever their postcode, access to a national “library” of e-books. At this stage there is no organisation with the necessary technical, operational and marketing expertise to develop and manage such a service. We cannot rely upon the 151 separately managed library authorities, in England alone, individually to get their act together. And what will happen in Scotland, Wales and in the single library service in Northern Ireland?'

e-Lending in libraries: what do you think?

Call for views on elending by DCMS sponsored panel

‘ should libraries respond to the challenges and opportunities that this new [ebook] technology presents? That’s the question being asked by an independent panel, appointed by Ed Vaizey to look at the issue of ‘e-lending’. The panel – headed by William Sieghart, and with representatives from all parties affected by e-lending – is issuing a call for evidence to inform their discussions.The panel are considering the following areas, and welcome submissions from any interested parties

1. The benefits of e-lending.

2. The current level and nature of demand for e-lending in English libraries, along with a projection of future demand. For example, will e-lending be in addition to traditional borrowing of print books, or is it likely to transform the way in which library users access services? What is the demand for downloading e-books remotely, that is, away from library premises? To what extent do owners of e-readers value public e-lending above what is freely or commercially available elsewhere?

3. Current supply models, barriers to the supply of e-books to libraries, and likely future trends.

4. Systems for remunerating authors / publishers for e-lending.

5. The impact of e-lending on publishers and their business models.

6. Any unforeseen consequences of e-lending. For example, the impact on those who cannot keep up with technology, the likely long-term impact on the model of highly localised physical library premises, skills requirements for librarians, etc.'

September 2012

Review of e-lending launched

From the Government (DCMS) Press Release

'Clear strategy could help more libraries to adopt the practice.

'The best ways of making electronic books available through public libraries in England will be examined, Culture Minister Ed Vaizey has announced.The review of e-lending will be led by William Sieghart, founder of Forward Publishing and the Forward Prize for Poetry. He will be helped by a panel of experts including Janene Cox, President of the Society of Chief Librarians, and author Joanna Trollope OBE. The panel will consider issues such as the benefits of e-lending, current levels and expected future demand, and possible consequences for libraries, publishers and the public. Although some library authorities in England already use e-lending, there is no common consensus on the best way and publishers can be wary about making their books available for e-lending.'

July 2012

E-books in Libraries: A Briefing Document developed in preparation for a Workshop on E-Lending in Libraries. David R. Obrien, Urs Gasse & John Palfrey. Berkman Center Research Publication. 29 July 2012

'Beginning with a brief overview of the history and the current state of the e-book publishing market, the document traces the structure of the licensing practices and business models used by distributors to make e-books available in libraries, and identifies select challenges facing libraries and publishers. Where possible, we have made an effort to incorporate stakeholder perspectives and real-world examples to connect analysis to the actual questions, issues, and challenges that arise in practice. The document concludes with a number of informative resources – including news articles, whitepapers, stakeholder and trade association reports, and other online sources – that might inform future conversations, investigations, pilot projects, and best practices in this space'.

Literary labours lent.The uncertain economics of lending virtual books, Economist 28th July 2012

'LIKE a tired marriage, the relationship between libraries and publishers has long been reassuringly dull. E-books, however, are causing heartache. Libraries know they need digital wares if they are to remain relevant, but many publishers are too wary of piracy and lost sales to co-operate. Among the big six, only Random House and HarperCollins license e-books with most libraries. The others have either denied requests or are reluctantly experimenting. In August, for example, Penguin will start a pilot with public libraries in New York.

Publishers are wise to be nervous. Owners of e-readers are exactly the customers they need: book-lovers with money (neither the devices nor broadband connections come cheap). If these wonderful people switch to borrowing e-books instead of buying them, what then?'

Should libraries charge for e-books? By Parliamentary correspondent. Monday 23 July 2012

“Local authorities will continue to invest in the wrong forms of technology, and we will miss out on the potential of e-books to attract new generations of readers.”

'A proposal for libraries to charge for e-books will be considered by the government, as part of a wider review into lending.The idea was put forward by Justin Tomlinson, a Conservative backbench MP, who warned that the future was bleak for town hall libraries without radical action. He said that 94 local authorities offered e-books, but told ministers they had little stock because the big six publishers would not release the books. That was, primarily, because the private label rights (PLR) [sic think he means Public Lending Right] arrangement which gives publishers and authors 6p every time a physical book is lent out does not apply to e-books.'

E-book lending needs fixing, By Neill Denny. Bookseller blog 16th July 2012

'The issue of e-book lending by libraries is gradually building a head of steam as ownership of reading devices spreads. Put simply, libraries are risking a new form of irrelevance if they fail to offer an e-lending option to today’s digitally-savvy readers—and policy makers are starting to take note. A considerable number of library authorities are already offering e-book lending, but coverage remains patchy and libraries are frustrated by their inability to offer a comprehensive service, both geographically and in terms of the titles they can offer'.

'Jarvis calls for e-lending task force' Lisa Campbell. The Bookseller 5th July 2012 [Extract] 'Labour shadow culture minister Dan Jarvis has called for the government to create a cross-industry task force to explore the issue of e-book lending in libraries. Jarvis said the taskforce should be chaired by an independent expert, to oversee discussions which he says are crucial to a 21st-century libraries model. “I am calling for the Government to convene an effective and credible taskforce to explore e-book lending—which should consist of librarians, authors and publishers and be chaired by an independent expert. If the Government wants libraries to move into the 21st century, and wants to protect the value of books, Ed Vaizey needs to act on this now.”Separately, the chairman of the All-party Parliamentary Committee on Libraries Justin Tomlinson has set out his thoughts for how e-lending in libraries should work, suggesting borrowers should be charged to borrow e-books. In an email to library campaigners, Tomlinson has suggested “in principle” that e-books should be borrowed through a physical visit to a library, “thus protecting footfall” and “a small charge” should be levied “with the money shared between the publishers and the physical community library”.Tomlinson also suggested publishers should be encouraged to release some stock for free access and that there should be one uniform e-book service, maintaining that traditional books should remain free. However the proposal was criticised by CILIP president Phil Bradley as “an amazingly short-sighted view of the future of the library and the provision of books”

May 2012

New ALA report explores challenges of equitable access to digital content

'E-content: The Digital Dialogue.' American Library Association. 23 May 2012

'The American Library Association (ALA) report examining critical issues underlying equitable access to digital content through our nation’s libraries. In the report, titled “E-content: The Digital Dialogue,” authors explore an unprecedented and splintered landscape in which several major publishers refuse to sell e-books to libraries; proprietary platforms fragment our cultural record; and reader privacy is endangered.

The report, published as a supplement to American Libraries magazine, explores various licensing models and the state of librarian-publisher relations. Additionally, the report provides an update on the ALA-wide effort to promote access to digital content (co-chaired by Robert Wolven, associate university librarian at Columbia University, and Sari Feldman, executive director of the Cuyahoga County Public Library). The effort includes meeting with publishers, distributors and other important stakeholders; championing public advocacy, and writing position papers that advance practical business models without compromising library values.

“Publishers, distributors and libraries must accept that new models of lending will not look like the old print model,” writes Robert C. Maier, director of the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners, and Carrie Russell, director of the ALA Program on Public Access to Information. “We are not just trying to solve a library lending problem, although that is the current emergency.”

'Libraries set out to own their ebooks' By LibraryLab, BoingBoing.10th May 2012

'Douglas County Libraries, in Colorado, is trying something new: buying eBooks directly from publi

shers and hosting them on its own platform. That platform is based on the purchase of content at discount; owning—not leasing—a copy of the file; the application of industry-standard DRM on the library’s files; multiple purchases based on demand; and a “click to buy” feature.

Its new DCL Digital Branch is one outcome of this strategy. As of this writing, more than 800 publishers have signed up, and their works are seamlessly integrated into and delivered from the library catalog, rather than from third-party sites.'

March 2012

Should Libraries Get Out of the eBook Business? By Bobbi Newman. Librarian By Day Blog. 7th March 2012

From the blog: 'When it comes to ebooks, we cannot give them what they want, not really, we cannot give them books from Simon and Schuster or MacMillian or new books from Penguin or Hatchet, and not more than 26 times from HarperCollins, and probably not many books from Random House. What we can do, what maybe we should do, is spend their tax money wisely, and I am no longer convinced that spending it on the current ebook system is a wise move.'

Librarians Feel Sticker Shock as Price for Random House Ebooks Rises as Much as 300 Percent.' By Michael Kelley.The Digital Shift. Library Journal. 2 March 2012

From the article:

'Random House, which first announced the price hike (without details) on February 2 when it reaffirmed its commitment to the library ebook market, provided the following breakdown for what it is now charging library ebook distributors:

Titles available in print as new hardcovers: $65- $85

Titles available for several months, or generally timed to paperback release: $25-$50

New children’s titles available in print as hardcovers: $35-$85

Older children’s titles and children’s paperbacks: $25-$45

“Simultaneity” means that Random House’s titles are available to libraries on the same date the retail edition is put on sale. It is not referring to simultaneous, multiple user access. The model remains one book, one user.

Applebaum [Random House] said that the publishing house, which is the only one of the Big Six to make its ebooks available without restriction for library lending, is setting the library ebook price with “far less definitive, encompassing circulation data” than the sell-through information used to determine retail pricing.

“We are requesting data that libraries can share about their patrons’ borrowing patterns that over time will better enable us to establish mutually workable pricing levels that will best serve the overall e-book ecosystem,” Applebaum said.

February 2012

Ebooks and Libraries Don’t Mix'. By Annoyed Librarian. Library Journal Blog. 15 February 2012

From the blog post:

'Apparently what the recent talks helped to bring into focus was that people could read Penguin ebooks without paying for them. “My god,” I can hear the Penguin representatives exclaiming, “do you mean that people can just log into a website and download our ebooks for free? This is the sort of frictionless socialism up with which we shall not put!”

'Timid, subservient librarians have been part of the problem all along. Librarians tend to whine about how hard they’re working to get ebooks to patrons, when really they’re not doing anything other than signing a contract with Overdrive.'

January 2012

If Libraries Didn't Exist, Would Publishers Be Trying To Kill Book Lending? techdirt blog 5th January 2012

From the blog posting:

'Against the background of today's war on sharing, exemplified by SOPA and PIPA, traditional libraries underline an inconvenient truth: allowing people to share things – principally books in the case of libraries – does not lead to the collapse of the industry trying to sell those same things. But publishers really don't seem to have learned that lesson'

The blog posting cite the following article in the New York times

December 2011

'Publishers vs. Libraries: An E-Book Tug of War.' By Randall Stross. New York Times (Business Day) 24 December 2011

From the article:

'Borrowing a printed book from the library imposes an inconvenience upon its patrons. “You have to walk or drive to the library, then walk or drive back to return it,” says Maja Thomas, a senior vice president of the Hachettte Book Group, in charge of its digital division.

And print copies don’t last forever; eventually, the ones that are much in demand will have to be replaced. “Selling one copy that could be lent out an infinite number of times with no friction is not a sustainable business model for us,” Ms. Thomas says. Hachette stopped making its e-books available to libraries in 2009'.

Ms. Thomas of Hachette says: “We’ve talked with librarians about the various levers we could pull,” such as limiting the number of loans permitted or excluding recently published titles. She adds that “there’s no agreement, however, among librarians about what they would accept.”

'Book Lending Ignorance' By Eric Hellam. Go to hellman [blog] 9th December 2011

Extract from the post:

'To what degree does library book lending complement book sales, and to what degree does library lending substitute for book sales? I don't think anyone knows for sure. (Well maybe Amazon, but they're not telling.)

Do libraries really believe that 91% of their circulations would have resulted in purchases if they didn't exist? There's no hard evidence anywhere that that's true. Every librarian can tell you about patrons who loved a book so much they went and bought the whole series, but there are also users who never buy a book they can get in the library. And what about those readers who never go to the library? Surveys are a cheap way to collect data, but they often don't reflect the real behavior of the people surveyed.

So much is unknown, and so much is to be gained by knowing more. What hasn't been done, as far as I know, is to try to compare and correlate hard data on book sales and library lending in any meaningful way'.

October 2011

Our Ebook Future. The Digital Shift. Librarians and publishers in dialog'. Library Journal. 1st October 2011

Kate Sheehan talks to Random House’s Madeline McIntosh

Katie Dunneback talks to HarperCollins’s Josh Marwell

Jim Carmin talks to Melville House’s Dennis Johnson

'The reading ecosystem is evolving fast, even as you read this. Facing the rapid transition to ebooks together, rather than in isolated camps, librarians, publishers, authors, and readers can ensure that we meet our missions on all fronts. This series of conversations is a start, aspiring to illuminate the issues and opportunities by placing librarians and publishers at the same table. The personalities here range from Random House’s Madeline McIntosh, who stresses a commonality between publishers and librarians, to HarperCollins’s Josh Marwell, who strives to emphasize openness, to Melville House’s Dennis Johnson, who illuminates the indie perspective'

August 2011

'Summary – eBooks Discussion' #UKLibChat

Instant Ideas and Collaboration. Thursday 4th August 2011

May 2011

Discussions "ongoing" over e-book lending. By Benedicte Page. The Bookseller (News) 2 May 2011

UK publishers are locked in discussions with librarians over ground rules for e-book lending, with librarians continuing to press publishers to allow institutions to loan e-books under the one e-book, one loan, model pioneered by the US digital content provider Overdrive.

March 2011

SCL and MLA Position on E-books. Society of Chief Librarians (News) 16 March 2011

SCL has signed a joint position with the MLA on e-book lending in libraries.

While we are pleased to see that the Publishers Association has been able to develop a consensus to supply public libraries with e-books, we feel that the baseline has been set at a level that may have very limited practical use for library customers. It also creates significant technical issues for libraries around on-site downloading of e-books. We hope that those publishers who currently supply remote e-book lending services will not retrench to this baseline position.

'Fury over 'stupid' restrictions to library ebook loans. HarperCollins's plans to limit libraries to 26 loans of each ebook declared 'backward-looking and retrograde' By Benedicte Page. Guardian 1 March 2011

Under the new policy, announced by distributor Overdrive in a letter to customers last week, libraries will only be able to lend out each purchased ebook published by HarperCollins a total of 26 times before the book's lifetime expires.

October 2010

'PA sets out restrictions on library e-book lending'. By Benedicte Page. The Bookseller website. 21st October 2010. Extract: The Publishers Association has set out an agreed position on e-book lending in libraries that will see library users blocked from downloading e-books outside of the library premises. Faber c.e.o. Stephen Page announced the new guidelines on 21 Octobe) at the CILIP Public Library Authorities conference in Leeds.Under the new scheme, library users would have to come onto the library's physical premises to download an e-book at a computer terminal onto a mobile device, rather than downloading the book remotely. The scheme would also see the fee paid by a library to buy a book covering the right to loan one copy to one individual at any given time, and would require “robust and secure geographical-based membership” in place at the library service doing the lending.Page told the PLA conference that the PA's new position on e-book lending had been forged after some library authorities mismanaged their lending. “Unfortunately recent activities by some library authorities have only confirmed how potentially damaging e-book lending can be if allowed to operate without controls,” he said.

Ebooks in public libraries - The Reading Agency response to the Publishers Association statement. 22nd October 2010

At The Reading Agency we have a long and important partnership with publishers through our Reading Partners scheme. Part of this has a digital strand, and we're exploring how publishers can work with libraries to take reader development work on line, with a special focus on shared digital marketing. We're holding a digital think tank about this later this year, and are working with the Society of Chief Librarians on plans for a Reading Groups for Everyone initiative which will have a strong digital element.

February 2010

Penguin terminates its contract with Overdrive

'ALA, Authors Guild, 3M Weigh In on Penguin-OverDrive Dispute.' By Michael Kelley The Digital shift (Library Journal) 10th February 2010

From the blog post.

'Penguin’s decision to terminate its contract with OverDrive has further fractured the library

ebook lending market, disturbed the American Library Association, and highlighted the difficulty in finding a single business model that all parties can be comfortable with.

ALA wants to help craft “stable and sustainable business models to connect readers and authors,”

It’s really hard to overstate the impact of Amazon’s particular deal with OverDrive and the shock wave that sent through the industry,” said Paul Aiken, the executive director of The Authors Guild. “The notion that public libraries, for the first time, would be sending their patrons to a commercial website for borrowing books — and not just any commercial website but the website of the entity that has a tight grip on the online marketplace for books — was bound to get a negative reaction,” he said'.

Business models & devices

Not such a radical idea anymore: it's a rental. By David Swords and Mike LoGreco (ProQuest). Rssearch Information. 30 January 2014

“Demand-Driven Acquisition (DDA) could do for libraries and books what Netflix has done for movie watchers and films”. “While perpetual purchase for archival purposes remains integral to the role of many institutions, the phenomenon many of us have enacted at home, of buying and storing, has mostly been replaced by renting and subscribing. So it’s not that far-fetched an idea for libraries, too – it’s a logical evolution”


Imagining a Swap Meet for E-Books and Music. By David Streitfeld, Business day Technology, New York Times

7 March 2013

Snipets from the article:

'The retailer’s button might say “buy now,” but you are in effect only renting an e-book — or an iTunes song — and your rights are severely limited. That has been the bedrock distinction between physical and electronic works since digital goods became widely available a decade ago.

That distinction is now under attack, both in the courts and the marketplace,

Libraries, though, welcome the possibility of loosened restrictions on digital material.

“The vast majority of e-books are not available in your public library,” said Brandon Butler, director of public policy initiatives for the Association of Research Libraries. “That’s pathetic.”

EBook Business Models for Public Libraries (US document)

New Full-Text Document from ALA: “EBook Business Models for Public Libraries” By Gary Price Infodocket August 5, 2012

'The Business Model/Licensing Group has developed the following document describing the characteristics of possible business models to help public libraries negotiate contracts with publishers. While there are certainly other business model options to consider, and changing technologies will have a direct impact on the kinds of business models we may see in the future, the Business Model Group focused on characteristics of business plans that are viable today. The Business Model Group will supplement this information with a matrix chart that ranks the features of business models'.

The full text of the Report is available

'E-books and libraries: which business model?'

By Ken Chad. CILIP Library+Information Gazette. 11th November 2010

'Ungluing eBooks Progress Report' By Eric Hellman. go to hellman (blog) 30 August 2011

From the blog:

“ungluing ebooks” is what I'm calling the process of raising money to make creative-commons licensed ebook editions of the books that you love, so that everyone, everywhere can read them. You betcha.

ebooks and devices to read ebooks

There is an interesting (March 2010) blog posting from Eric Hellman ('Go to Hellman') and subsequent comments that covers some of the business model issues around e-books here Eric Hellman also analyses trends in devices (Kindle iPad etc) to read e-books [There are] 'two possible evolutionary paths for ebook readers. One path, the tablet, is exemplified by the iPad. The tablet roadmap is characterized by a relatively constant price and ever increasing computer power and display functionality (color, speed, resolution). The other path, exemplified by the //Kindle//www.assoc-amazon.comeirtgotohe-20lbtlcamp213689creative392969o1ab0015t963c, is the dedicated ebook reader.

The reader roadmap is exemplified by //relentless price reduction//and gradually increasing accommodation for reading ebooks. If you believe my extrapolations, the dedicated ebook reader will cost as little as $25 in 2014, and the iPad will still cost $400'.

Ebooks and the threat to freedom

Personal Statement on “book tomorrow” by Richard Matthew Stallman

Tuesday May 31st, 2011

'E-books as currently used attack the traditional freedoms of readers.

For example, the Amazon Kindle Swindle denies its users the freedom to acquire books anonymously; to give, lend, or sell them; to keep them for as long as they wish; indeed, even the freedom to own a book. It does this through digital handcuffs (malicious software features to restrict the users) as well as through legal instruments. Encrypted e-books require the use of non-libre software, software that users do not have control over, because free software capable of reading them is censored in the US and the EU. We readers must defeat this attack. We must not be satisfied with a partial change to respect part of our traditional freedoms.For freedom’s sake, we readers must reject e-books, and campaign against them, until they respect our freedom. We must insist on e-books that can be bought (not just licensed); that can be bought anonymously; that do not demand acceptance of restrictive contractual conditions; and that are published in documented formats that are an open standard, so that people can freely write and use software to read them with'.

The following provocative comment was posted in response to blog posting by Eric Hellman. ‘Offline Book “Lending” Costs U.S. Publishers Nearly $1 Trillion’

‘E-book readers such as Amazon Swindle are designed to eliminate libraries as we know them: the Digital Restrictions Management (DRM) makes it impossible to lend books, resell books, even give them away. You can't buy them anonymously either. If you want to join in fighting against this, visit’

'Amazon Kindle Will Let You Lend Your eBooks. Once. Maybe.'By Audrey Watters Read Write Web October 24, 2010

Amazon's Kindle Team announced on Friday that it plans to make lending for Kindle available “soon.” The feature will allow you to loan your Kindle books to other Kindle devices or Kindle app users for a two-week period. This announcement brings to the Kindle one of the key features touted by the Barnes & Noble Nook: the ability to loan out your eBooks.

But there are restrictions, of course.

Some echo the restrictions of a printed, physical object: while the book is on loan and not on your bookshelf, so to speak, you don't have access to it. You can't read it til you get the eBook back. Why the laws of physics must hold for digital texts, I surely do not know.

But some of the restrictions are particular to the eBooks and are likely to frustrate book-lovers and would-be-eBook-sharers:

  • Some books will not be available to lend. This will be up to the publisher or the person who holds the rights to the book.
  • You can only lend the book once.

Want to pass around your well-worn, well-loved and highly recommended copy of The Illuminatus! Trilogy? (Sorry, that's just what comes to mind. Probably because someone borrowed my copy and didn't give it back.) You'd better select that one person who you are certain will actually read it. (I guess you won't have to worry about them running off with it, though. Hooray.)

These restrictions don't only apply to the Kindle. The Nook operates with the same set of guidelines. And while Amazon's Jeff Bezos criticized these limitations in the Nook in a New York Times interview last year, it remains to be seen if the new Kindle lending policies are any more liberal.

No word yet on any eBookseller working on a Used eBookstore. But we'll keep you posted

'Books and the iPad'

By Bryan Appleyard. (Originally published) The Sunday Times, 25th April 2010

an interesting piece from Byan Appleyard on the iPad, ebooks and business models. Here's an extract

First question: will people like ebooks enough to buy them on a large scale? There is, as Eric Morecambe used to say, no answer to that. Ebooks have, so far, taken 12% of the American market. That will rise with the iPad and its competitors. Bloomsbury’s Charkin estimates it will hit a ceiling at 30%. Others say the sky is the limit.

I think the answer is higher than 30%. Ebook sceptics all make the same mistake. They say, “Look at television — it did not wipe out radio, they now coexist happily. New technologies do not necessarily wipe out old ones.” But television is a different thing from radio. An electronic reader is not a different thing from a book, it simply delivers books in a different way. If people like that way, then the sky is indeed the limit.

Second question: how much will we be prepared to pay for ebooks, and will it be enough for publishers to make a profit? This is the big issue. In America, Jobs has been saying the iPad will save the book industry, and others have been saying it will save newspapers. Some speculation suggests this is a legacy issue for Jobs. He has had pan­creatic cancer and, last year, a liver transplant. Perhaps, they say, he wants to be remembered as more than a gadget god. Perhaps he wants to be remembered as the man who saved the written word.

Value of public libraries

The value of public libraries in the e-reading ecosystem. By Christopher Platt, Director, Collections and

Circulation Operations The New York Public Library. Panlibus 24 Summer 2012

'For too long we as libraries have been passive players in the Happy Reader Equation. The result is that authors, agents, wholesalers, retailers and especially publishers are making narrow assumptions of our role, missing the real benefit we can bring to their bottom lines. There is uncertainty, confusion, and apprehension throughout this group. We can step up to the plate with bold, innovative, and supportive initiatives that prove our value and cement our role. If we collectively excel at curated promotion, discovery and reader engagement, the others will not be able to succeed in their roles without us, and most important of all, the Happy Reader will have a true intellectual home'.

Ebooks in Libraries

The US experience

Ebook Collections Surging: New Data Available from LJ, SLJ Annual Usage Reports. By Matt Enis. The Digital Shift (Library Journal) 16 October 2012

From the article:

'Libraries are doing what they can to respond to the growing popularity of ebooks, but budgets remain tight. Large libraries serving populations over 500,000 said they expected to spend 7.5 percent of their total materials budget on ebooks in 2012, up from 4 percent last year. Similarly, smaller libraries, serving populations of less than 25,000 said that their ebook spending had reached 5.2 percent of their total materials budget in 2012, up from 2.5 percent last year. Among libraries that still do not offer ebooks, financial constraints were listed as the top reason.

To build these collections many libraries have had to reallocate funds that were formerly budgeted for print books or other physical materials. In 2010, only 38 percent of respondents said that they had reallocated funds to purchase ebooks, compared with 68 percent this year.

Yet librarians are still very frustrated with the pricing and availability policies of many major publishers. When asked to select factors that were deterring patrons from checking out more ebooks, the top three complaints were long wait times, a limited selection of titles, and in-demand titles that are completely unavailable to libraries'.

'Pew Internet Releases New Report: “Libraries, Patrons, and E-books' By Gary Price. Infodocket. 22 June 2012

From the posting:

'Top-Line Numbers

Some 12% of Americans ages 16 and older who read e-books say they have borrowed an e-book from a library in the past year. But a majority of Americans do not know that this service is provided by their local library. But most in the broader public, not just e-book readers, are generally not aware they can borrow e- books from libraries. We askedall those ages 16 and older if they know whether they can borrow e- books from their library and 62% said they did not know if their library offered that service. Some 22% say they know that their library does lend out e-books, and 14% say they know their library does not lend out e-books.' (A Comment by Gary Price)

For many years I’ve said that the bottom line is that people (including library users) can’t use something they don’t know about. This is the case for any product or service. It’s no different here. The Pew study makes this fact very clear.

While many might spin this report differently in the sense that it should be great to know that 12% use library user take advantage of library ebooks, I find the number very sad especially after all of the attention library ebooks have received in the past couple of years (especially since Kindle access became available via OverDrive).We need to do better not only promoting ebooks but all library services.It makes me wonder about the knowledge patrons have about library services including remote access to newspaper and periodical databases, streaming music, text reference, etc.'

The report

'Libraries, patrons, and e-books' By Kathryn Zickuhr, Lee Rainie, Kristen Purcell, Mary Madden and Joanna Brenner. Pew Internet 22 June 2012

**E-books and the Public Library: the Evansville Vanderburgh Public Library** Experience

Mollie M. Pharo and Marcia Learned Au

Information Standards Quarterly. NISO SPRING 2011. VOL 23. ISSUE 2.SSN 1041-0031

‘Much as the publishing industry saw e-book sales jump 164.4% last year, EVPL e-book use (downloads from OverDrive) increased over 500% from January 2010 to January 2011, with EPUB format e-book downloads increasing over 800%'

A (US) initiative by Sony 29th June 2010 'Sony Unveils Reader Library Program to Promote Digital Reading at Public Libraries'

'SAN DIEGO – June 29, 2010 – In recognition of Library Advocacy Day, Sony today unveiled the Reader Library program, a new initiative to support the work of public libraries as they expand and promote their ebook collections. The program provides public libraries with training on digital reading devices, educational materials to help readers learn about the eBooks and digital texts available to them through their local libraries, and digital reading devices for library staff use.“Libraries play an important role in our civic and cultural life, and Sony believes that it’s important to support public library systems as they expand their services and digital offerings, particularly eBooks,” said Steve Haber, president of Sony Electronics’ Digital Reading Business Division'

UK experience

public libraries.' By Megan Gilks Communications and Marketing Manager RNIB National Library Service. August 2011.

From the report:


Where an ebook service is not available, the reasons given in most cases are the high cost and financial pressures.

Where ebook services are available, the main findings were:

  • Difficulty logging on via council websites using access technology such as screen readers and magnification software. Web pages were often cumbersome and poorly designed.
  • Locating the ebook catalogue and then selecting titles to download. Navigating to the catalogue was tricky for many people and searching for books was difficult at first but became easier with practice and familiarity with layout etc.
  • The lack of a library PC equipped with access technology was mentioned quite a few times. Several people had to join at home rather than try in the library where support would have been available from a member of staff.
  • Staff assistance was essential for most people at the start, even for experienced computer users. The general feeling was that it would have been impossible or extremely difficult for people to manage on their own. Most library staff were helpful and supportive.


Overall, the experience for readers was initially frustrating and daunting, even for proficient users of IT, but with perseverance and help from library staff, most participants thought that ebooks are a potentially useful addition to the range of books they access.'

'e-Books in Public Libraries'. By Martin Palmer (Essex Libraries) . Cultural Heritage A UKOLN Blog. 4th October 2010

An extract……

'So, has anything changed in six years? Well, one would hope so – and a lot has. For a start, the Overdrive download service that we first offered all that time ago is now also available from around 20 other authorities around the country (with more in the pipeline) providing not only e-books but e-audio as well. In fact, growth in interest has been sufficient for the MLA to set up a ‘community of practice’ for librarians interested in sharing their experience, problem solving, requesting advice, and so on.

New suppliers have also emerged, including Coutts/Ingram’s MyiLibrary; Public Library Online (formerly Bloomsbury Online), which offers simultaneous on-line access to ‘electronic bookshelves’; and W F Howes’ Clipper material is available as e-audio downloads. Not only that, but a venerable name from the supply of print material to public libraries – Askews – is about to launch its own e-book service, too'.

ebooks are not for public libraries

**Good Library blog in September 2010**

' e books are not for public libraries. … just now anyhow.' there is a a lively discussion about e-books in public libraries. Lots of interesting and useful comments to the original posting

DCMS policy under labour

Ebooks –the [previous -Labour] UK Government's view in respect of public libraries The DCMS policy statement on the modernisation of public libraries has some interesting things to say.

  • Recommends libraries ‘assess the opportunity and demand of e-book lending….and develop strategies’
  • ‘Government expects e-books to be loaned for free…and government will make an Order preventing libraries from charging for e-book lending’
  • 'DCMS will work with stakeholders to develop ….legislation for the extension of Public Lending Right to non print books’ (When money becomes available) a national online catalogue’ (It's not clear if this is for all material but we should assume in will include e-books?)
  • ‘an opportunity to be a member of all libraries in England (so not UK) : easy to join, accessible…’ ( I guess we should assume this will include a national service for e-books too?)

There are all sorts of interesting issues here (not least about what definition will be used for an e-book). The PLR thing is interesting it will align the interests of (e-book authors) with library loans.

E-books helping surge in library members

Daily Telegraph article

Harry Wallop and Victoria Bell, 26 Oct 2009

“After years of library membership declining and fears that the public no longer wanted to borrow books, some institutions are reporting a spike in interest since they started to offer e-books. Only a handful of libraries have started to offer the service, but many in the library world are hopeful that the revolution in digital reading can help transform libraries' fortunes, and that the majority of libraries will soon offer downloads as a matter of course, alongside the latest Dan Brown paperback.”

**User experience**

'It can do yer 'ed in'. By Chris Batt ChB:PhD (blog) 5th June 2011

From the blog posting which recounts his difficulties trying to using his library ebook service:

'What I do want to suggest is that those adopting these services should do some proper usability testing and ensure that the entry route for the new user friendly and clear about what can or cannot be done and how the system will function in a wide variety of conditions and configurations'.

Ebook guidelines & practices

Ebook selection guidelines

July 2011. Selecting ebook: Guidlines from members of the LIS_PUB_LIBS discussion list In response to a discussion thread Luke Burton, Library and Information Officer, Information and Digital Team, Newcastle librarei (

Summaries the responses He says ‘there were really two distinct areas that appeared in the guidelines’

1. Guidance on “physical” selection of stock (e.g. cost, format, responsibilities)

  • Divide available budget between teams although individuals do not have to be restricted to their specialist areas
  • Within allocated budget decide an upper price limit and on the split of eBook and audiobooks
  • Only buy one copy of each title unless you wish to buy in a different format or an extra copy of a popular title
  • Do not buy abridged audiobook titles unless it is requested by a customer
  • Avoid anything too ‘American’
  • Preferred audiobook format is MP3 although this is not always possible (eg BBC audiobooks)
  • Preferred eBook format is EPUB but again this is not always possible (e.g. Dorling Kindersley)

2. How and where to find ideas for stock to add

  • Check top 10 download lists on your provider’s corporate site.
  • Check top 20 lists
  • Check the most downloaded titles and most reserved titles in your collection and see if there are any items you can purchase by the same author or of a similar genera/subject area.
  • Look for stock that compliments the new stock arriving in your department
  • Check titles listed in current reader development promotions
  • Try and ensure that there is a good range of titles in popular fiction areas
  • Try and ensure that there is a good range of titles in popular non-fiction areas and check subject areas that are under stocked
  • Check what’s coming on the television and cinema
  • Check customer suggestions

MLA 'best practice' briefing (based on the experience at Essex libraries) here

MLA case study

document is here:-

**Library ebook (website) pages**

The threat to public libraries

Non-library ebook lending services

Amazon launches ebook lending in US

'Amazon, Now a Book Lender. Kindle Owners Who Subscribe to Prime Service Will Be Able to Borrow E-Titles'

By Jeffrey A Trachtenberg and Stu Wu Wall Street Journal (Tecnology) 3rd November 2011

From the article: Inc. is launching a digital-book lending library that will be available only to owners of its Kindle and Kindle Fire devices who are also subscribers to its Amazon Prime program.

The program will be limited, at least at the beginning, in what is available to borrow. Amazon will initially offer slightly more than 5,000 titles in the library, including more than 100 current and former national bestsellers, such as Stephen R. Covey's “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.”

None of the six largest publishers in the U.S. is participating. Several senior publishing executives said recently they were concerned that a digital-lending program of the sort contemplated by Amazon would harm future sales of their older titles or damage ties to other book retailers.

Moreover, Amazon will restrict borrowers to one title at a time, one per month. Borrowers can keep a book for as long as they like, but when they borrow a new title, the previously borrowed book automatically disappears from their device.

The new program, called Kindle Owners' Lending Library, cannot be accessed via apps on other devices, which means it won't work on Apple Inc.'s iPad or iPhone, even though people can read Kindle books on both devices. This restriction is intended to drive Kindle device sales, says Amazon.

Transforming Universal Services: Transport, libraries and environmental services beyond 2015.

NLGN Report October 2011

'NLGN argues that the best way to democratise book access in future will be to make a radical shift to e-readers, online ordering and book vending machines in public places. This would make it much easier for the public to access books while freeing up library space for use by families and communities. Libraries would still hold the most popular titles and children’s books and act as a crucial community hub'

('NLGN is a dynamic and independent think tank committed to promoting the decentralisation of power, public service reform, enhancing local governance and empowering communities')

Farewell Libraries?

Newsweek article, citing Amazon’s report that e-books are outselling hardcovers, claims that book collections—personal and public—are about to get a drastic makeover.

'Farewell, Libraries?' By Malcolm Jones. Newsweek 5 August 2010

Extract:’s recent announcement that sales of e-books at the online megastore had overtaken sales of hardcover books came as no surprise. It had to happen sometime. But the news did conjure quite an interesting mental image: libraries that from now on will look smaller and less crowded. For the moment, let’s not argue with the proposition that people will read as much as they ever have, no matter whether they read an actual book or a book on a screen. The habits of readers may not change (if anything, people may read more, or at least buy more—several stories have quoted e-book owners who say they buy more titles for their e-readers than they did when they were buying hardcover books). But if readers aren’t changing, their environments will. Rooms that once held books will—well, whatever they hold from now on, it won’t be books. Or not as many books.

The comments on the article, as expected, take some well trodden paths. For example:

'I think it is premature to spell the demise of libraries but having said that ours is nearly empty constantly with a gaggle of employees watching each other. At a time when we need jobs some of these could go to reduce the burden on taxpayers.'


'I'm starting to get annoyed with all these articles about the wonderful, orgasmic experience of flipping the pages of a physical book. You are still holding the eBook reader. You can still write notes on the pages. You can still highlight. But you can also increase the size of the text, search the contents of the book, change the font or the text/background color. I can't wait for eBooks to finally take over. Deriving comfort from looking at dusty books sitting on shelves for years and years doesn't sound romantic to me but like a psychological disorder'.

'The Amazon “Kindle” tablet: A first look' By Richard Stephenson. FUTUReBook Blog 16th Sept 2011

From the blog:

'…reading itself takes centre stage.

If this is indeed an Amazon content device, it is impossible to ignore what impact it might have on the content it remains inextricably linked to – books, and in particular digital books.

Amazon – a name synonymous with digital reading'

'Ebook subscription services – are libraries screwed? by Sue Polanka. 15th September 15, 2011

From the blog post,

“Afictionado is scheduled to launch in January of 2012, and according to the site it’s only going to serve the UK market. There’s no word yet on which publishers will be participating,

In July at the New Jersey eBook Summit, Eli Neiburger made a comment about ad based eBooks stating, “when ad sponsored books come to be, libraries are screwed.” I followed Eli’s presentation and offered the first example of ad based eBooks, 24Symbols from Spain. They offer a freemium and premium plan for eBooks (to be read online). Currently they only have 1000 classic titles but are working to bring publishers on board. I don’t think publishers are jumping at the opportunity just yet. If it comes to be that more vendors offer subscription ebook or ad-based ebook plans, libraries will have some competition, but are they “screwed?” [Note, Eli coined the “libraries are screwed” phrase during his presentation at the Library Journal/School Library Journal eBook Summit in 2010.]

Agnostic Maybe Blogger, Andy Woodworth, offers his perspective in his post – Lending Books, Amazon Style. He states, “What does this mean for libraries? Nothing, really, as I see it. The library tax or fee is still cheaper than the Amazon Prime subscription, even if it is not by much. Later in his post, Woodworth writes, “I wonder if libraries are looking better and better to publishers with each passing eBook market development. They might not get the best deal compared to companies like Apple, Sony, or Amazon, but we’ll still respect you in the morning.”

Is Amazon about to move into the book rental business? Guardian Books blog Monday 12 September 2011

From the blog

'If I were a librarian, I confess, I'd be putting the career-change plan into action just about now.

There've been rumblings for a while about the possibility of Amazon launching an ebook rental service - but according to a report in the Wall Street Journal (which is, in turn, “according to people familiar with the matter”), Amazon is now “talking with book publishers about launching a Netflix Inc.-like service for digital books, in which customers would pay an annual fee to access a library of content'.

**The printed book is doomed**: here's why.' By Shane Richmond. Daily Telegraph 4th August 2011

'Our children will grow up with ebooks and they'll always view printed books as a less convenient relic…

It’s convenience that is drawing people to ebooks and that is what will kill printed books. Or, if not kill them, reduce them to the same minority hobbyist status that vinyl records now occupy.

My daughter’s generation will probably have ebook textbooks. They will never experience dog-eared, vandalised, outdated school books, shared one-between-two. They will enjoy books that are enhanced with video, interactive graphics and picture galleries. And they will see these things are the norm. Printed books will be strange relics from their parents’ generation. They might appreciate their form but they will approach them as fundamentally less useful. And useful always wins in the end'

**'E-books revisited: where are we now?'** (Link provides links to presentations and video) E-books and E-content conference at University College London. 11th May 2011

'The uptake of e-book readers has suddenly proliferated and 2010 has proved to be a milestone year for a consumer led boom in e-books and e-readers. Amazon reported that sales of Kindle editions of paperbacks have outstripped paperbacks in the US for the first time and the Apple iPad has also become ubiquitous for anyone wanting a general purpose notepad, leading to any number of imitations, many of which can serve as very effective reading devices. Moreover, all are coming with increasingly high levels of connectivity, moving them into the realms of general purpose computing. Whilst there are few figures that illustrate this growth, the sheer presence of these technologies on the street suggest that portable eBook readers have finally arrived'

‘Much as the publishing industry saw e-book sales jump 164.4% last year, EVPL e-book use (downloads from OverDrive) increased over 500% from January 2010 to January 2011, with EPUB format e-book downloads increasing over 800%

E-books and the Public Library: the Evansville Vanderburgh Public Library Experience

Mollie M. Pharo and Marcia Learned Au

Information Standards Quarterly. NISO SPRING 2011. VOL 23. ISSUE 2.SSN 1041-0031

‘ should libraries respond to the challenges and opportunities that this new [ebook]technology presents? That’s the question being asked by an independent panel, appointed by Ed Vaizey to look at the issue of ‘e-lending’. The panel – headed by William Sieghart, and with representatives from all parties affected by e-lending – is issuing a call for evidence to inform their discussions.’

From DCMS website: (

;e-Lending in libraries: what do you think?’

The panel are considering the following areas, and welcome submissions from any interested parties

1. The benefits of e-lending.

2. The current level and nature of demand for e-lending in English libraries, along with a projection of future demand. For example, will e-lending be in addition to traditional borrowing of print books, or is it likely to transform the way in which library users access services? What is the demand for downloading e-books remotely, that is, away from library premises? To what extent do owners of e-readers value public e-lending above what is freely or commercially available elsewhere?

3. Current supply models, barriers to the supply of e-books to libraries, and likely future trends.

4. Systems for remunerating authors / publishers for e-lending.

5. The impact of e-lending on publishers and their business models.

6. Any unforeseen consequences of e-lending. For example, the impact on those who cannot keep up with technology, the likely long-term impact on the model of highly localised physical library premises, skills requirements for librarians, etc.

Summing up the value the author writes:

“Developing the skills to digitize, reshape and distribute content has the power to change our thinking with regard to electronic content, leading toward greater independence among libraries. By building projects/communities, we develop expertise in our communities that vendors cannot possess. Libraries of any type possess intimate knowledge of their communities. The system developed in this project has low technological and cost barriers, and represents the first step in the development of an open source publishing model for libraries. A logical next step would be to provide publishing assistance for organizations, families, churches, etc.,”We're currently looking into offering our Home Library Service users the option to borrow eReaders/Tablets and were wondering if anyone else had done this and if so what the outcomes had been? Was it popular? Did you offer a selection of devices or just one? Did you go with eReaders or tablets? Did you pre-load the books on to the devices or not? Did you offer anything else alongside the device? E.g. a basic IT Course? What was your policy on loaning the devices? Did you have a procedure for dealing with

e-books.txt · Last modified: 2021/06/04 12:13 by