January 22, 2022

Peter Brantley on a Collective eBook Lending Service for Libraries

Peter’s Latest Publisher’s Weekly Blog post is a very interesting thought piece and call to action about providing ebooks to library users using a collective approach that would work for both libraries and publishers. His ideas are more that deserving of your attention and worth sharing with colleagues. An excellent discussion starter.

Here are two paragraphs from Brantley’s post:

An effective library platform for the provision of contemporary frontlist e-books must be a collective, providing services to member libraries, through some kind of central administrative agent. This central agency (CA) will either directly establish or license the cloud based server infrastructure, with adjutant policies, necessary to securely hold and maintain frontlist intellectual property and provide it on widely accepted borrowing terms to the patrons of the collective. Libraries recognize that the artifice of one loan per purchased copy of a book is a flexible enough policy to be effective: purchased, because libraries have the right to own content, but have a responsibility to maintain market systems that support authorship; flexible, because it enables content selection by library members in the same manner as present consortia.


The most important strategic opportunity for publishers rests where it has never before existed: in essence, considering libraries to be their best retail outlet. To the extent that libraries encourage book purchasing by their patrons in addition to borrowing, publishers have an opportunity to redirect retailing to their preferred point of sale, which could be either direct to consumer or driven through the CA. The advantage of using the CA as a sales point is the aggregation of data for both publisher and reader; the benefits accrue to both. In return, the CA would receive a modest retailing fee to support operations.

Read Peter Brantley’s, “At close of day: the library alternative”

Two Comments

1. The challenges in developing a central agency are not only philosophical and technical but also getting agreement from enough libraries and publishers to make an agency worthwhile. Unfortunately, it’s not easy to get the groups involved to agree both amongst themselves let alone with others. If a central agency can be developed, it’s also essential (but also not easy) to make sure bureaucracy does not impede rapid change and innovation based on the market and technology at that specific time and in the future.

2. Peter uses the phrase, “maneuver through the hoops of library lending” to describe what he calls “freegans” or those “who insist on free content.” Our question, would a new service based on using a central agency also force users to jump through the hoops that exist today to access ebooks and other electronic content? In other words, in developing a service from the ground-up shouldn’t we do all that we can to make the service as easy, fast, and seamless as possible, UNLIKE it is for many users today? Developing a service that would continue to make it challenging for users to access content seems a bit counterproductive at least from the library side.

As we said earlier, Brantley’s post is well with your time if you like to think and envision how all of this might (or should) work in the future.

About Gary Price

Gary Price (gprice@mediasourceinc.com) 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 Ask.com, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.