SCL Position on E-Book Lending in Libraries
The Society of Chief Librarians is committed to working together with the wider book trade to responsibly grow the e-book market in a way that protects the legitimate commercial interests of publishers.
The Society of Chief Librarians is committed to working together with the wider book trade to responsibly grow the e-book market in a way that protects the legitimate commercial interests of publishers. We believe that:
Public libraries have a key role in widening access to e-books, reaching out to all sections of local communities including those that cannot access printed material easily or can only access services remotely.
Our role in promoting IT literacy, providing access to the internet for those with and without IT experience/ hardware and providing a wide range of e-resources is important to society as a whole.
Public libraries encourage wider, risk free reading and valuably support reader development whether it be signposting good reads, supporting reading groups or encouraging interaction between readers, authors and publishers.
Our aim now is to seek common agreement on what library e-book lending models will be and how we will operate, thereby encouraging more publishers to make UK content available for libraries to purchase or licence. Since there have been concerns about the library role in providing e-books for remote downloading, we are putting forward the following proposals and ways of operating to deal with the issues raised:
1) Licensing models
It is essential that public libraries respect the licensing models that e-book suppliers (by this term we mean the aggregators who act as intermediaries between publishers and library authorities) sign up to with publishers and it is important that the way these work are transparently clear to all. A clear statement of what libraries responsibilities are should be set out by all e-book suppliers and all libraries that contract with them will agree to abide by those responsibilities. In turn we would not wish to do business with e-book suppliers if they cannot demonstrate that they are respecting the rights of content owners and are making e-books available to purchase as authorised.
2) Library Membership and Access to E-Books
It is essential that libraries respect the geographical boundaries to access to e-books that are stipulated by library suppliers and publishers. As with any other service, library membership is open to all those who live, work or study within the confines of the authority concerned and SCL believe that this will meet the standards expected of us. Particular care will be taken when dealing with online applications for membership.
3) Digital Rights Management
Libraries expect that e-book suppliers will be able to demonstrate the robustness of their digital rights management systems to ensure that illegal file sharing does not take place and for publishers’ legitimate commercial interests to be respected. Public libraries would not wish to be associated with a service that is not delivered responsibly or to contribute to any development that would distort the e-book marketplace or harm the rights of publishers and content owners. Libraries would expect e-book suppliers to be able to demonstrate periodic monitoring of file sharing in order to monitor potential abuse. Should there be any concerns about DRM, meetings between suppliers and publishers will be set up so that negotiation of appropriate solutions can take place.
4) Purchase or Licensing Model
SCL wants to ensure that purchasing or licensing models operate in a way that facilitates access. Some publishers may be concerned about allowing their e-books to be sold to libraries for use in perpetuity, although others may not. Libraries are open to different solutions that publishers may wish to explore in order to make their content available. The options range from selling backlist titles at a normal paperback price to charging a ‘hardback price plus’ for latest releases to releasing titles to libraries after a ‘holdback period’ to licensing e-books to libraries either for a specified time period eg 2-3 years or for a specified number of issues. If the latter course is pursued, libraries would hope that the limits would be set in a way that reflects the use that a hard copy version of the same title would enable eg the average loans for a popular hardback novel are approximately 100 and for a paperback one 50. Of course, not all solutions are as easily implemented as others by e-book suppliers so a dialogue should be established to explore the most suitable options.
5) Level of Customer Access
SCL would like to encourage the widest possible range of access models to digital material that respect publishers and content owners’ rights. It should be noted that the single copy single user model while perfectly acceptable for use in a library e-book model does however have some inbuilt disadvantages in inhibiting wider access. Where publishers are willing to explore multi user access for certain titles and maybe for a specified period for a suitable price, then libraries and e-book suppliers would be pleased to explore how a wider model might work. In principle, libraries are inherently wedded to facilitating the widest possible access that is compatible with respecting publishers commercial imperatives. We would also wish to seek support for the aim to enable access for all including those with visual and other disabilities.
6) Fee or Free
Some publishers will feel inherently concerned about libraries who make e-books available free of charge. However, many library services will feel equally concerned if they had to make a charge for reading a book in an e-format that is free of charge if loaned in hard copy. The principle of free access to books in all formats is one that SCL would like to see upheld in all library services. We also recognise that decisions about the delivery of library services is a local matter to be determined by locally elected representatives. Where charges are introduced under local decisions our approach would be recommend that a concessionary approach is taken to ensure that charges do not become a barrier to those customers most in need. Digital inclusion is a priority for library services. Increased access to the digital world whether for information or reading for pleasure is at the heart of what libraries do which is why we are major partners in Race Online 2012 and are working closely with The Reading Agency and publishers on a strategy to share digital marketing approaches to widening audiences for reading. Where the book is only available in e format we would recommend a no charging approach.
However, all e-book suppliers will be expected to develop a customer charging system that could be implemented as needed. In addition all libraries would wish to work with suppliers and publishers to develop commercial add-ons to their basic services eg links to commercial sale sites on library websites. These could publicise complementary services – purchase an e-book if a library copy were on loan. It should be remembered that many borrowers are book buyers too. Libraries expect suppliers to develop service options that can be readily implemented and would wish to facilitate dialogue between library suppliers, providers of e-books and publishers.
7) Models of Access and Remote Downloading
The downloading model is only one potential model that can be considered for the future. Already with Public Library Online, we have a different access model – annual licensing of multi use read online titles. Libraries would wish to maintain a dialogue with suppliers and publishers about the technical implications of how customers are/might wish to access e-books since this is a rapidly changing market. Hardware, software, mobile technology, web solutions may well change the nature of the debate. Libraries are open to discussion with both suppliers and publishers about alternative models of delivery that respect all the rights mentioned above.
8 The Public Library Offer in the E-Book Marketplace
Our customer offer of wider, risk free reading, of access to books by new writers, of signposting good reads, of facilitating feedback and discussion about reading, of providing guidance, support and books to reading groups, of providing continuing access to publishers back lists and of widening the range of potential customers for e-books beyond those that can afford the purchase of new IT kit – all this comprises common interest with the book industry as a whole. As such, it identifies a number of areas ripe for joint working – building on the work of bodies such as the Reading Agency and those involved in the Reading Partners initiatives. SCL believes that the role of libraries in encouraging new entrants into the digital world will widen the marketplace for mutual benefit.
SCL hopes that the above proposals and ways of working, which we will seek to refine in discussion with publishers, suppliers and other interested parties, will identify a common way forward, acknowledging the library role in providing access to a wide range of e-books whether by remote downloading or via other service models. It is vital that libraries maintain a position and play a positive role in the developing e-book marketplace for the good of all.