November 30, 2015

The Economist Reports on eBooks and Public Libraries

From The Economist:

In publishers’ eyes librarians are “sitting close to Satan”, declared Phil Bradley, president of the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals. He was addressing indignant librarians who recently gathered in London to swap tales of e-lending woe. Some publishers have refused to sell their e-books to public libraries, made them prohibitively costly or put severe restrictions on their use. Although 71% of British public libraries lend out e-books, 85% of e-book titles are not available in public libraries, according to Mr Bradley. In America the average public library makes available only 4,350 e-books (Amazon, an online retail giant, stocks more than 1.7m).


Some libraries have tried paying publishers each time an e-book is lent out. In Denmark libraries used to pay around 17 Danish kroner ($3) per digital loan, but even with a price as high as that the country’s largest publisher pulled out. It feared that e-lending was cannibalising print sales. Besides, in some countries it is illegal to charge people for library use. Some want the industry to offer subscriptions for bundles of books, much as universities buy their academic journals. However, publishers worry that this may degrade customers’ and libraries’ perceptions about the value of books.

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Note: All presentations from the event in London that’s mentioned in the article are available in this post.

Gary Price About Gary Price

Gary Price ( is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. Before launching INFOdocket, Price and Shirl Kennedy were the founders and senior editors at ResourceShelf and DocuTicker for 10 years. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.

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