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1. Introduction 

The market for digital books remains embryonic. While the transition from paper to digital reading is gradually taking hold, distribution channels and business models are taking their time to form. E‐books are a mass phenomenon in very few countries. The book industry has long recognized the vital role which libraries play in developing a reading culture yet until recently, booksellers and publishers have been wary of the concept of libraries lending e‐books, concerned about security and above all, the effect on sales. Experiences in countries like Sweden have shown that library e‐lending, introduced hastily, can effectively cannibalize e‐book sales. Some trade publishers have therefore been reluctant to give libraries access to bestsellers and new releases. There is huge potential demand for e‐books, driven by the exponential growth in tablets, smartphones and reading devices. In order for e‐lending to be sustainable, however, business models will have to reconcile publishers’ and librarians’ interests. In some countries, governments have asked publishers and librarians to work together to run pilot e‐lending projects. Elsewhere, collaborative schemes are developing naturally, driven by market demand. Many of the most innovative projects are taking place in the United States, where digital books have been around for longest and where every major trade publisher is now participating in some form of e‐lending to libraries. This special report assesses recent developments in e‐lending, both in the trade and the academic sector, studying innovative approaches from the US, France, Sweden and Brazil. What these different projects have in common is that they are based on licenses which provide libraries with the conditions to acquire and lending e‐books while putting publishers in control of lending terms. This allows publishers not just to protect their revenue streams, but to expand them. These new approaches to e‐book lending promise to be of major benefit in building market demand for e‐books, which will lead to increased revenue for publishers, booksellers and authors alike.

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