May 20, 2022

UK: Findings from Study on Remote Library Lending of E-Books Published

Three organizations were responsible for the pilot and the just published report.

  • Society of Chief Librarians
  • Booksellers Association
  • Society of Authors and Association of Authors Agents

A full text copy of the report is available here (9 pages; PDF).

Highlights From the Report

  • 893 frontlist titles made available for the remote e-lending pilots
  • 4 library authorities – 2 urban, 2 rural – took part
  • Pilot stimulated lending, attracted some new users (up to 4% of active borrowers), and was popular
  • However, e-book downloads accounted for less than 5% of fiction borrowing within the pilot authorities
  • 95% of users said that a greater range of e-book titles would encourage them to borrow more
  • E-book borrowers bought more e-books than did other library users
  • However, when asked about future intentions 39% of ebook borrowers indicated they were somewhat / much less likely to visit bookshops and 37% were somewhat / much less likely to purchase new physical books
  • Very few users clicked the “buy” buttons next to pilot titles
  • E-borrowers were w ealthier and less likely to visit libraries than were other library users
  • Librarians see remote e-book lending as a way to give greater choice to existing library members
  • Librarians would expect to spend up to 25% of their book budgets on e-books – which would probably enable them to buy fewer new e-titles each year than were in the pilot collection

Direct to Full Text Report


UPDATE May 8 2015 From a Statement by OverDrive

This pilot study was conducted by The Publishers Association, Society of Chief Librarians, Booksellers Association, Society of Authors and the Association of Authors Agents, with the goal to help stakeholders better understand the impact of remote eBook lending in UK public libraries.  While it was a small sample size (four library authorities, eBook checkouts accounted for 5% of fiction borrowing), there was no evidence that the pilot damaged eBook sales.  The pilot found that very few users clicked the “buy” button next to the pilot titles, but that eBook borrowers actually bought more eBooks than did other library users.


We know in the U.S. and other markets that publishers have become more confident in making their titles available for e-lending.  Through the broad exposure libraries can provide, publishers gain valuable awareness and engagement with their titles.

From a Statement by The Publishers Association

E-lending accounts for only 5% of loans, yet librarians believed that in the event of an extension of e-lending, they would spend up to 25% of their book budget on ebooks and would spend the majority of that on the most popular titles. However, the results also show that library footfall could drop, with those who use the remote elending service less likely to visit the library premises.
In terms of users, the results of the pilot indicate that while remote e-lending may drive up usage of the service, it would currently be from a very small, and more affluent, user base.

The results are of particular concern to booksellers. This research indicates a possible reduction in the propensity to buy new physical books and visit bookshops amongst e-book borrowers. The research was inconclusive as to whether e-book lending leads to greater e-book purchasing.

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.