November 27, 2020

England: Minister of Culture Announces Government Review of E-Book Lending in Public Libraries

You have to wonder if we’ll see federal government interest in e-book lending in other countries.

From the UK Department of Culture, Media and Sport:

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

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

The review will consider issues including:
+ the benefits of e-lending;

+ the current nature and level of e-lending and projection of future demand;

+ the barriers to supply of e-books to libraries; and

+ the possible consequences of e-lending, including the long term impact on library premises, the effect on publishers and the impact on those who cannot keep up with changes in technology.

Ed Vaizey said:

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

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

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

William Sieghart said:

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

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

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

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

Read the Complete Announcement (Incl. Bios of Expert Panel Members)

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.

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