Civic Agenda EU has published a comprehensive study of library e-lending schemes in Europe and North America, produced on behalf of various library associations. Despite the study leaning heavily towards the library perspective, it does provide important insight into which strategy is most likely to produce sustainable e-lending models.
Firstly, the study notes “… an overarching trend across all e-lending models in Europe, that greater dialogue and communication between libraries and publishers, alongside a mutual willingness to trial or pilot a range of different licensing models and approaches is the most likely path to success. And the more data collected on usage patterns, patron discovery of backlist titles and the relationship between e-lending and e-book purchasing, the sooner future licensing and pricing model scan be constructed on the basis of mutually understood evidence.”
This fully reflects the position of publishers and their associations, which recognise that collaboration between all stakeholders through experimentation, piloting and data gathering are most likely to lead to sustainable e-lending models.
Secondly the study sees two roads ahead: “One is to establish the right to lend e-books supported by new (international) legislation. The other route forward is to work in partnership with publishers to refine and develop existing e-lending models.”
From an IPA perspective, (international) legislation to establish a right to lend e-books for libraries is a dead-end. Firstly, efficient digital delivery services will always rely on collaboration with publishers, i.e. licences. Licensed service providers are the only clear, fast, authentic source of digital files of published works. Secondly libraries are no longer the only, or necessarily the fastest, most customer friendly, stable, easy-to use or even least expensive way to borrow e-books.
It is completely unclear what an e-lending exception could look like, and whether patrons would even benefit from it. But determining appropriate terms of digital e-lending service providers will need to take into account not just the rather blinkered interest of libraries. Libraries, and indeed publishers, are no longer necessary for authors nor for readers. We must both earn our roles through the services we respectively provide. And nobody can expect the law to carve out a special niche that the reader does not need.
The study appears to reach similar conclusions when it states that “even with the arrival of a recognised legal basis to underpin e-lending - cooperation with publishers will still be crucial in determining acceptable and viable licensing terms and conditions.”
Read the report here.