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LIS-PUB-LIBS  November 2010

LIS-PUB-LIBS November 2010

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Subject:

Re: more on ebooks - please don't switch off

From:

Gareth Osler <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Gareth Osler <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Sat, 6 Nov 2010 18:31:22 +0000

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A second and by no means least e-book issue is arrangements for libraries to lend e-books:

"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."
PA sets out restrictions on library e-book lending
http://www.thebookseller.com/news/132038-pa-sets-out-restrictions-on-library-e-book-lending.html

The summary I think here is that publishers are currently walking all over the libraries and no doubt in an attempt to squeeze every last penny from them.  This in turn is walking all over the public who stand to gain considerably from access from their livingroom armchairs to a book collection the likes of which they have never seen before.  The worrying thing is publishers seem to at the moment have free reign to trample wherever they wish.  Can I suggest the needs (these are the values on the right hand side of the equation) of the libraries are:

1) Irrespective of the file format of an e-book purchased by a library, a reader can access that book on whatever device they have purchased.

2) That anyone can download an e-book from anywhere and at any time.

3) There are no materials costs for the manufacture of a copy of an e-book, and so the public now expect not to have to wait for their copy (anicdotally it is my experience the young adult generation are the first to express disbelief that a library in the e-book age could possibly continue with the old system of waiting till a copy of the book has been returned).

4) The libraries ultimately need to be left with a copy of the book.

5) Books priced to reflect a reduction in manufacture and distribution costs of e-books.  (There are savings to be made by the  libraries through switching operations over to e-books, and the public of whom the libraries are the officers of, as well as expecting operational savings, there is the cultural 'turbocharge' that e-books have the potential to deliver -- the public I am sure are aware, and especially the younger generation, that paper books alone are now the slow lane,  and forcing our libraries and UK society into the slow lane I do not think will be taken lightly.  It's a moral issue, and I guess we'll see the true nature of the publishing industry as a result.)

6) The libraries in the future may have a need to print and bind e-books.

Two things then need to be worked out.  The technology, and the business model.  The latter though will to an extent determine the former, and so to the business model.  Publishers have needs as well, and the public recognise this, and so a business model has to be worked out.  I'm sure it could be done.  It may take some hard negotiation and not a modicum of creative thinking, but for example could not publishers be reimbursed an amount for each issue of an e-book calculated on the basis of their current sales to libraries.  So if a bestseller is issued say 40 times before it is placed on the book sale trolley, then from 40 issues the publisher has made one sale to the library.  A sort of pro rata agreement for e-book loans.  As to the technology, publishers will want to know that their e-books are not going to be pirated.  I did suggest a while ago in a comment (and it was picked up by the author of the original article) that libraries could maybe develop a standard for library software, and so at least the public would know if an e-reader that they were considering purchasing can be used to read library e-books.  The standards though should be developed to the point publishers are satisfied that library e-books cannot readily be pirated.

Worries of publishers' that they will not sell a book to the public again if libraries loan e-books--the collection becoming so good and convenient to use--I'm sure could be similarly negotiated (e.g., if the publishers were to receive payment for each loan a library authority may then choose to limit serial renewals - or maybe levy a small charge - after a point that perhaps reflects current reservation charges and how long a borrower could currently expect to be able to borrow a book for given how popular the book was; the libraries do though want to keep the very positive values of a comprehensive collection available to the public and ease of access).  The libraries do though, for example in terms of interlibrary loan costs, stand to gain a great deal of efficiency savings, and those savings could be used to pay publishers for the increase in library loans that making e-books freely available would it is assumed lead to.

The foundations for the current publishers' agreement were laid in the DCMS Modernisation Review earlier this year[1] (ref. page 42).  So perhaps it is the DCMS who should again take up the batton. There needs at a minimum at this point to be ongoing and open discussions.  (By way of a footnote, for an insight into the murky goings on and the wheelings and dealings of the DCMS and publishers see the comments on the Voices for the Library news release on the subject[2].)
[1] http://webarchive.nationalarchives.gov.uk/+/http://www.culture.gov.uk/reference_library/consultations/6752.aspx
[2] http://www.voicesforthelibrary.org.uk/wordpress/?p=624


Gareth Osler
Library Web
http://libraryweb.info

PS On the hyphen issue, can I suggest we talk about 'e-books and the codex and paper books', whilst talking about 'ebooks and pbooks' (which is good time management technique :)

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