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CILIP submission to DCMS on ebooks

Thu, 13 Dec 2012

On 17 November, CILIP published its submission to the DCMS Independent Panel on e-lending in libraries. It makes a strong defence of the traditional role of libraries in society but emphasizes the need to adapt to 21st century technology to ensure that libraries do not become irrelevant museums of books. The submission makes four recommendations to the panel:


  • E-lending should be provided free of charge with access to knowledge not dependent on the ability to pay
  • All e-lending models should allow for remote downloading of e-books in addition to on-site access
  • DCMS and Arts Council funding should be made available to research the impact of e-lending pilots
  • A national training programme focusing on accessing e-content should be developed and offered to public library employees across the UK

In answer to the panel’s question about the benefits of e-lending the submission lists remote access; free access; benefits for print disabled people; increased flexibility; reader development and e-learning activities; increased exposure and partnership working. With regard to benefits for print disabled people, it states “E-books offer the greatest potential to increase access to books by blind and partially sighted people.” It cites the recent LISU research commissioned by RNIB which found that only 17% of the most popular books in 2011 were fully accessible but that increases to 76% if e-books are included.

The situation on e-lending in the US is a year or more in advance than that in the UK and the American Library Association has been engaged in long running negotiations with the major publishers regarding the restrictions or limitations they have imposed on public libraries lending e-books. In the latest development the ALA has produced a media kit to help libraries take their case for to the public to generate more attention for the need for public libraries to be able to lend e-books.

Hopefully relations between publishers and librarians will not become so strained in the UK and it was encouraging to read a broadly supportive article in the Bookseller by Stephanie Duncan who is the Digital Media Director at Bloomsbury. She addresses the issues being investigated by the Independent Panel and sets out her reasons why public libraries should be involved in e-lending. She also advocates that e-loans should be free of charge otherwise commercial arrangements would have to be introduced. However, with regard to the concerns of authors that e-loans should be included within the PLR scheme she mistakenly believes that legislation would be needed when that is already provided for within the Digital Economy Act 2010 but has not been implemented.

For an overview of the current position of e-lending in the UK, a recent article in Publishing Perspectives provides various data and the views of the CILIP President, Phil Bradley; the CEO of the Publishers Association, Richard Mollett; the CEO of Overdrive, David Burleigh and the author.

Colleagues in academic libraries should note that JISC Techdis is organising a one day conference in partnership with Editeur and University College London on 13 February 2013. “E-books and accessibility: ugly duckling or adolescent swan?” will explore how the expansion of e-book collections in education provides new challenges and opportunities for both librarians and publishers.

Author: David Owen for Share the Vision

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