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In France, bookshops play a central role in the e‐lending process. The philosophy is to maintain a diversity of commercial e‐lending models (ie to protect bookshops) while simplifying and standardizing e‐lending models to encourage wide adoption by libraries.

Currently, approximately 100,000 titles are available for library loans, the two largest projects being Numilog’s BiblioAccess and Dilicom’s PNB (Prêt Numérique en Bibliothèque).

BiblioAccess is France’s largest e‐book lending scheme, offering 70,000 titles and currently used by 135 libraries. The online platform contains a Vendor section where bookshops can create an account, consult the catalogue and make their purchases. It also contains a User section where libraries can purchase from bookstores and presenttheir available titles to the public, letting users access them directly. A bookshop bills the library for its purchase, and Numilog then bills the bookshop for its commission.

The amount of simultaneous users and total number of loans is fixed by the publisher, while the duration of loans to patrons is chosen by the library. BiblioAccess works via streaming: the user clicks on the title and can enjoy consecutive 24‐hour consultation periods. Numilog intends to introduce the possibility for readers to download titles and to expand its catalogue to cover all available e‐books in French by striking interoperability agreements with other e‐book distributors.

Prêt Numérique en Bibliothèque works through a distributor sending details of a publisher’s offer to Dilicom. The publisher defines access conditions, with a number of flexible criteria: how long a title will be available, number of loans authorized, number of simultaneous borrowers, loan duration, whether access is on‐site or off‐site etc. Bookshops access Dilicom’s database and download title details to their own websites.  

Libraries buy via the bookshops’ websites, with orders transmitted to the distributors. Currently, three library/bookstore partnerships are in operation, in Montpellier, Grenoble and Aulnay‐sous‐Bois. They are offering a catalogue of over 6,000 titles, a mixture of new releases and backlist.  


Interlibrary lending is an established method for libraries to supplement their own holdings by borrowing titles from other libraries in response to requests from their users. But while it is a longstanding practice in print, it has been controversial for e‐books. The Occam’s Reader project promises to change that by creating a way for libraries to share books in a digital world.  

In 2013, the academic publisher Springer was approached by the Greater Western Library Alliance (GWLA), a consortium of 33 research libraries in the United States, to collaborate on a one‐year pilot scheme to test the viability of interlibrary e‐lending by creating a process for requesting, processing and delivering e‐books.   The Occam’s Reader application takes a Springer eBook PDF and dices it into page image files.  The set of page images is then made available on a server of the loaning library. Publisher metadata is removed in the process, to preserve the unique attractiveness of the full e‐book version. The borrowing library or individual receives an e‐mail with a username, password and URL that gives them access to the content for an agreed loan period. Readers can flip one page at a time or jump to a specific page number, but they cannot search within the book and there are technical measures to prevent making any download, copy or print.  At the end of the designated loan period, the file disappears from the server.  

Springer believes “the GWLA pilot is breaking new ground not just in the loan of whole e‐books, but also in the sharing of loan data. We do not normally have access to interlibrary loan statistics from our library clients, but with this pilot we will be allowed to see which libraries are doing the borrowing, what types of books are being borrowed, and of course the magnitude of how much is borrowed.”

“We can then tailor targeted e‐book package offers at volume discount based on this information.  Also, while the pilot is currently limited to the 33 members of the GWLA consortium, we think it will attract attention to Springer’s liberal use policies and its willingness to partner with libraries in new ventures. This helps us to build relationships with important current and potential customers.”

“What we hope to see is that there is enough borrowing by libraries that had licensed limited numbers, or no e‐ books through us in the past, that they see the value of licensing the full Springer e‐books in those fields of most interest to their readers.  Borrowing that leads to evidence‐based purchasing would be a great outcome.”Ryan Litsey, a librarian at Texas Tech University and Director of the Occam’s Reader Project has commented that “interlibrary loans of eBooks have long been a challenge posed to academic libraries, and we believe this new software could be the answer.” 


The tide has turned in e‐book lending. In a book industry that is only just easing into digital consumer markets, there is a growing sense that library lending, done correctly, can contribute to publisher revenues.

While publishers have always appreciated libraries’ potential as shop windows for the public to discover titles and authors, e‐book lending projects have faced a number of challenges. A new approach needs to be found that addresses the concerns of authors, publishers, libraries, bookshops, teachers and readers. As this report reveals, collaborative models and market‐driven solutions are now emerging which give publishers enough control to maintain a sustainable business model overall while guaranteeing excellent access to libraries and readers.

In the digital age, libraries are reinventing themselves, creating new value propositions, providing new resources and finding new ways to serve their communities.  

Rather than requiring top‐down policy intervention, this report reveals that around the world, the book ecosystem itself is developing and experimenting with e‐lending models which align the interests of publishers and libraries, offering a diverse range of opportunities for libraries to acquire and lend e‐books, based on fair, transparent and reasonable licensing terms.


The IPA is grateful to all those who contributed to this report, including Denis Zwirn (Numilog), Steve Potash and David Burleigh (OverDrive), Bob Boissy and Alexander Brown (Springer), Jeff Jankowski (hoopla), Sabine Le Stum and Catherine Blache (SNE), Martijn David (GAU/NUV), Marcus Tirkel (Atingo). The Brazil market data was provided by Octavio Kulesz, drawing on a previous article at www.alliance‐

For any questions regarding this report, please contact the author at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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