The Future of Public Library E-Book Services and the Range of Titles Provided – A Position Statement


Our Shelf Free E-Books group has long thought that libraries should be explaining to their customers and to their elected members why the range of e-book lending titles we have to offer is not as good as it could be. We have hesitated for various reasons including not wanting to drive potential users away but wishing to keep the dialogue with book trade partners as civilized and open as possible. Now that the Sieghart e-lending review has reported, we feel that it is time to set out a positive position statement and look forward to the envisaged pilots with publishers to test e-lending models. Libraries, library customers and elected members should now expect that practical progress will now be made this year. For any authorities who wish to use it, we put forward for consideration the following statement:

The Future of Public Library E-Book Services and the Range of Titles Provided


  • Public Libraries are very keen to meet the opportunities and challenges of providing e-books for loan. Already we provide a wide range of e-resources and reference information online but our ability to provide a range of e-books has been severely limited.
  • For, example, did you know that of the top 50 bestselling e-books last year 85% of them were not made available by publishers for libraries to provide?
  • We do acknowledge that there are good reasons why publishers have been cautious – their business models have been radically changed by the shift in the market from hard copy to digital. Their worry has been that a loan of an e-book from a library is a lost sale and lost income.
  • While this concern, particularly after the difficult experience of the music industry, is understandable, it is for libraries and for our customers clearly untenable. A recent e-lending review set up by the Government agrees and has called for libraries to provide free e-book services remotely, for Public Lending Right to be extended to e-books and, crucially, for the interests of publishers and booksellers to be protected. This would be by a number of ‘frictions’ or limitations such as a one copy/one loan model and by licensing of e-books for a set number of loans.
  • Public Libraries are committed to work with publishers on the basis of these recommendations to set up pilots in 2013 to test the detail of business models.
  • We firmly believe that libraries can work together with publishers and booksellers to build the e-book marketplace and that we have unique contributions to make. We fully acknowledge the immense support publishers have given libraries in the past and their present good will and desire to find practical solutions.
  • We call on all publishers to work with us to ensure that a full range of published e-books is made available to library customers in future.
  • If you feel strongly about these matters and wish to support libraries in their development of e-book services, please do make your views known.


Shelf Free E-Book Group – June 2013

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