The Publishers Association has set out an agreed position on e-book lending in libraries that will see library users blocked from downloading e-books outside of the library premises but librarians have warned that publishers have "declared war on libraries" with the new position on library lending, which was announced by Faber c.e.o. Stephen Page at the CILIP Public Library Authorities conference in Leeds.
Page said that all the major trade houses had agreed a baseline position through the Publishers Association placing restrictions on library e-lending, including a ban on remote downloading. He said guidelines had been developed because of concerns over free e-book lending offered by some libraries to lenders "wherever you are" which are in breach of publisher contracts.
The Overdrive library e-book lending system widely used by UK libraries currently allows members to download e-books onto their home devices remotely by using a passcode supplied by the library.
Under the new scheme, library users would have to come onto the library's physical premises to download an e-book at a computer terminal onto a mobile device, rather than downloading the book remotely. The scheme would also see the fee paid by a library to buy a book covering the right to loan one copy to one individual at any given time, and would require "robust and secure geographical-based membership" in place at the library service doing the lending.
Page told the conference that the PA's new position on e-book lending had been forged after some library authorities mismanaged their lending.
"Recent activities by some authorities" had necessitated the move, said Page. "Some services were lending for remote downloads, without geographical restrictions. This was in breach of contracts between the library and aggregator, and between the aggregator and publisher, and was advertised to the general public as 'free e-books, wherever you are, whenever you want'. Under this model, who would ever buy an e-book ever again?," he asked.
Luton's head of libraries Fiona Marriott, writing on The Bookseller's website, commented: "I've had to read this statement five times, as I can't actually believe it! In Luton we work with Overdrive - we offer one e-book per customer at a time, and I have always been in favour of this model. The rights to the book have been agreed, and we limit the service to customers in our area - they have to come into a library to join. I have turned down people who live in Scotland, Blackpool, China and even London. If other authorities aren't playing by the rules, then deal with them, not us."
She added: "I can't believe the PA has declared war on libraries in this way, with absolutely no consultation - we have blind and visually impaired customers who consider this service as a lifeline, they say it has given them back the independence of reading choice, and they would be livid at this statement!"
Other librarians are up in arms about the statement with one commenting,"So all the people libraries were targeting that don't and can't get into their local library to access stock, will now not bother coming to the library to download their e-books either."
Library staff also questioned how to reconcile the technical issues involved with the PA plan with Overdrive's widely used library e-lending system.