The key Sieghart recommendations that library users should have a free ebook lending service available ‘remotely’ (e.g. at home) is a big and welcome step forward. A major step was urgently needed to bring us out of a situation that was clearly one of stagnation. It was becoming very hard indeed to refresh our ebook collections with new titles. As librarians we have been as frustrated as our users that public libraries haven’t been able to meet the growing demand for ebooks for loan. It’s been a major constraint on the service and we’ve been forced to watch customers move away from us. In the context of a rapidly expanding ebook market it just doesn’t make sense to say to a user that they can have the printed book but not the electronic version. It makes for a less inclusive service. It contributes to the worsening of the ‘digital divide’. We want library services to be open and available to all.
So the findings of the review are very welcome – IF they persuade more publishers, particularly the Big Six, to unlock their ebooks for public library loans. We are confident that Shelffree speaks on behalf of a very large number of the library authorities in the UK when we say that we are very eager to work with publishers and other stakeholders in the book trade, to establish a model that works for all parties: that allows libraries to continue their role as gateways to reading and developers of the reading market, while protecting publishers’, authors’ and agents’ legitimate rights. We also welcome the recommendation that Public Lending Right should be extended to e-books. We believe PLR strengthens the relationship between authors and libraries.
We hope that the new relationships between publishers, the book trade and libraries will develop swiftly. We all share a common interest in a thriving reading ecosystem. We take this opportunity to volunteer our group and our services to help make this happen.
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