Did you know that 85% of e-books aren’t available to public libraries?

Shelf Free is an independent group set up and led by librarians (but open to all) to raise awareness of the opportunities and issues around e-books in public libraries.
Library members often complain that their library is not offering the ebooks that are available on the market.  This is because publishers, especially the big ones, have a variety of concerns about the impact of public lending on the market place and are therefore reluctant to license their books for libraries.

Here’s a graphic illustration of our problem.  Below is a list of the top 50, most borrowed adult fiction books of 2012.  Out of the top 50, only SEVEN were available for us to buy as e-books – and even then it depended on which supplier the library service was signed up to.  With one supplier, only two titles were available.

This demonstrates the extent of the restrictions library services are working under, and library users just don’t understand why this should be so, so we end up spending a lot of time trying to explain.

We’re keen to develop our relationships with publishers and other stakeholders.  E-lending is clearly crucial for public libraries, and there is a great deal we can bring to the book trade table.  Through our network of libraries, we can offer a shop window to a bigger number of customers than any other organisation.

At the moment, the government is carrying out a review of e-lending which is expected to report soon.  We are looking forward to its recommendations.

Top Library Loans as listed on Neilsen Bookdata   January 2013

Position Title/Hardback (H/B)  Paperback   (P/B) Author Publisher Available to UK public libraries?

1

Affair,The:Jack Reacher (H/B) Child, Lee Transworld Grp

Yes

2

Litigators,The (H/B) Grisham, John Hodder & Stoughton Grp

No

3

Drop,The (H/B) Connelly, Michael Orion Grp

No

4

Impossible Dead,The (H/B) Rankin, Ian Orion Grp

No

5

Kill Me If You Can (H/B) Patterson, James Random House Grp

No

6

Help,The (H/B) Stockett, Kathryn Penguin Grp

Yes

7

Private Games (H/B) Patterson, James Random House Grp

No

8

Soldier’s Wife,The (H/B) Trollope, Joanna Transworld Grp

No

9

11th Hour (H/B) Patterson, James Random House Grp

No

10

Red Mist:Scarpetta Novels (H/B) Cornwell, Patricia Little, Brown Book Grp

No

11

Thread,The (H/B) Hislop, Victoria Headline Grp

No

12

Death Comes to Pemberley (H/B) James, P. D. Faber Grp

No

13

Silent Girl,The (H/B) Gerritsen, Tess Transworld Grp

No

14

Worth Dying For:Jack Reacher (H/B) Child, Lee Transworld Grp

Yes

15

Now You See Her (H/B) Patterson, James Random House Grp

No

16

Kill Alex Cross (H/B) Patterson, James Random House Grp

No

17

Don’t Blink (P/B) Patterson, James Random House Grp

Yes

18

Zero Day (H/B) Baldacci, David Pan Macmillan Grp

No

19

Fifty Shades of Grey (P/B) James, E. L. Random House Grp

No

20

Flash and Bones (H/B) Reichs, Kathy Random House Grp

No

21

Sixth Man,The (P/B) Baldacci, David Pan Macmillan Grp

No

22

61 Hours:Jack Reacher (H/B) Child, Lee Transworld Grp

Yes

23

Faithless,The (H/B) Cole, Martina Headline Grp

No

24

Three Letters (H/B) Cox, Josephine HarperCollins Grp

No

25

Worth Dying For:Jack Reacher (P/B) Child, Lee Transworld Grp

Yes

26

Private London (H/B) Patterson, James Random House Grp

No

27

Tick Tock (P/B) Patterson, James Random House Grp

No

28

Fifth Witness,The (P/B) Connelly, Michael Orion Grp

No

29

Girl with the Dragon Tattoo,The:Millennium Trilogy (P/B) Larsson, Stieg Quercus Grp

No

30

Good as Dead:Tom Thorne Novels (H/B) Billingham, Mark Little, Brown Book Grp

No

31

Sins of the Father,The (H/B) Archer, Jeffrey Pan Macmillan Grp

No

32

One Day (P/B) Nicholls, David Hodder & Stoughton Grp

No

33

10th Anniversary (H/B) Patterson, James Random House Grp

No

34

Daughters-in-Law H/B) Trollope, Joanna Transworld Grp

No

35

Promise,The (H/B) Pearse, Lesley Penguin Grp

No

36

Before the Poison (H/B) Robinson, Peter Hodder & Stoughton Grp

No

37

Sister (P/B) Lupton, Rosamund Little, Brown Book Grp

No

38

Me Before You (P/B) Moyes, Jojo Penguin Grp

No

39

Stay Close H/B) Coben, Harlan Orion Grp

No

40

Midnight (P/B) Cox, Josephine HarperCollins Grp

No

41

Fifth Witness,The (H/B) Connelly, Michael Orion Grp

No

42

Private: No. 1 Suspect (H/B) Patterson, James Random House Grp

No

43

Before I Go to Sleep (P/B) Watson, S. J. Transworld Grp

No

44

Vault,The (H/B) Rendell, Ruth Random House Grp

No

45

Live Wire (P/B) Coben, Harlan Orion Grp

No

46

Haunting,The (H/B) Titchmarsh, Alan Hodder & Stoughton Grp

No

47

Fear Index,The (H/B) Harris, Robert Random House Grp

No

48

Accident,The (H/B) Barclay, Linwood Orion Grp

No

49

Believing the Lie (H/B) George, Elizabeth Hodder & Stoughton Grp

No

50

Postcard Killers (P/B) Patterson, James Random House Grp

Yes

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10 thoughts on “Did you know that 85% of e-books aren’t available to public libraries?

  1. I see this issue in the books available (or not) though the e-books for loan in my local library service. What I don’t understand is why librarians have rush to tie themselves in with overdrive when most of the books are not available anyway and those that are aren’t available on kindle the most popular e-reader? I’m not sure what the government could do to rein in the might of amazon and google, I doubt they would want to anyway. They are not going to want libraries giving away what they are trying to sell. The only co-existing model I can see working is if you get the books later, with some sort of time limit on how long you can keep them and can only lend it once from the library and this makes the service different from the premium service you would get if you opted to pay for Amazon prime. It still doesn’t sit right though. If they don’t want to play ball I’m not sure what if anything we can do. Perhaps if Shelf Free could suggest things library users could do to try and put pressure on those involved to get library users a good deal.

  2. Surely a free flow of books is the aim of a library and this situation means no free flow and not even a trickle! How e-books get disseminated so needs to be reviewed but I am not sure if the Governments review of e-lending will look at it in enough detail to make suggestions for changes that will work. None of the current e-lending models ‘does what it says on the tin’ yet. I await the report but not with bated breath.

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  5. Not to mention the fact that most of the books I want to read aren’t available to buy, let alone borrow, as e-books anyway!

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