Author: Sarah LEstrange
The new demands of the digital domain is a game changer for the publishing industry with all parties grappling to expand into this area.
Not many library users know that some public libraries offer ebooks for loan but as the number of ebook titles grows so too will the numbers on the virtual bookshelves in libraries. But the future for lending ebooks isn’t being taken for granted by libraries.
What’s becoming clear is that the rights of libraries to lend ebooks is different from their rights to lend hardcopies. Sue Hutley is the Executive Director of the Australian Library and Information Association and on the Book Show she said libraries recognise that the ebook model for publishers is not the same as their hardcopy siblings but she wants publishers to embrace public libraries as supporters of publishers rather than being in competition with them.
What’s happened is that the parent branch of Harper Collins in the USA has changed the terms of ebooks library loans through Overdrive, a provider of ebooks to public libraries. This was reported in the New York Times and also in The Guardian. Harper Collins has changed the arrangement by restricting the availability of their ebook titles to libraries for one year or 26 loans. This means the library can buy a hardcopy book and circulate it as often as it’s requested, replacing it when needed but with ebooks, Harper Collins is determining when libraries need to purchase a new copy, now after 26 loans.
Roberta Stevens, President of the American Libraries Association says this restriction has implications for library budgets and also for their ability to provide access to all.
A flyer on the Australian Publishers’ Association (APA) website said a ripple ran through the book world when Harper Collins US made this announcement.
The new Harper Collins US arrangement doesn’t affect Australia yet. Christine Mackenzie from Yarra Plenty Regional Library says the Harper Collins branch here doesn’t even make their ebook titles available to libraries for loan.
What are the implications? On 6 April 2011, the APA is holding a forum on the topic of ebooks in libraries. The title for the session is Ebooks for libraries: is it worth the risk for publishers? It’s part of their ‘International Digital Chat Series’ and the guest will be London based Stephanie Duncan, Digital Media Director, Bloomsbury Publishing. The topics for discussion are:
-Risks and opportunities for publishers in making ebooks available to libraries
-Business models for ebook library supply to public, school and academic libraries
-Local and international ebook library vendors
-Implications of lending features offered by ebook retailers such as Kindle
All of this shows that there’s no certainty at the moment for publishers or libraries. The Book Show will follow these developments.