In our submission to the government review of ebook lending in public libraries, Voices for the Library emphasised that the lending of ebooks has significant benefits for those excluded from existing services and will have minimal impact on the publishing industry if they work with library authorities.
Voices for the Library believes that e-lending provides a fantastic opportunity for libraries to reduce exclusion for the housebound and the partially sighted. By allowing remote access to published materials, the public library service can play a significant role in breaking down existing barriers. However, this can only truly be achieved if professional support is available for those who wish to take advantage of the service. Consequently, Voices for the Library argued strongly that an e-lending service should ensure professionally trained staff are available to support users and guide them in the use of the technology.
We also believe very strongly that there is no reason for publishers to fear the availability of ebooks in public libraries. There is evidence to suggest that ebook sales and free ebook lending can co-exist and that free ebook lending would be of benefit to all concerned – authors, publishers, library users and libraries.
We echo the calls of others who have submitted evidence to the review that publishers, booksellers, authors and libraries should work together in finding a solution that protects the rights of both library users and the publishing industry.
Voices for the Library made a number of key recommendations:
- A national ebook lending service to ensure consistency in provision across the country.
- Users should have the option to purchase the ebook from a bookseller through a link on the library website.
- Ebook loans should be incorporated into the Public Lending Right.
An independent panel was formed in September 2012 to look at the issue of elending through public libraries in England. It issued a call for evidence to inform their discussions in October 2012. Appointed by Ed Vaizey MP, Minister for Culture, Communications and Creative Industries, the panel is led by William Sieghart, founder of Forward Publishing and the Forward Prize for Poetry. The panel are due to report its findings in the New Year of 2013.
Ian Clark, Voices for the Library