Bloomsbury is to make selected titles available to library users via the digital platform Exact Editions. Bloomsbury said the "unique, affordable and user-friendly online initiative" would appeal to libraries "under pressure to reach larger audiences with tighter budgets".
The Bloomsbury Libary Online will launch on 4th May with 10 to 12 titles making up a "Book Group" category, including Galaxy Book of the Year, The Suspicions of Mr Whicher, by Kate Summerscale, Orange Prize longlisted Burnt Shadows, by Kamila Shamsie, word-of-mouth hit The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, by Mary Ann Shaffer, and international bestseller The Death of Vishnu by Manil Suri.
Libraries will be able to subscribe to individual bookshelves, including the Book Group, a children's shelf, a sports shelf, one devoted to Shakespeare and a reference books shelf. Libraries will be charged £100 per 100,000 library users for accessing each shelf, with a minimum fee of £250. The books are readable from the Exact Editions website.
Bloomsbury executive director Richard Charkin said: "Libraries are hugely important to readers, communities and authors and are under severe financial constraints. While never forgetting the importance of books themselves, they’re also being pressured to adapt to the demands of the 21st century: bridging the digital divide, serving multicultural communities, attracting new users and reaching into homes. The Bloomsbury Library Online serves to fill that hole and will hopefully blaze a trail for similar developments in the library system." It plans to compile its other shelves "as quickly as possible" with a minimum of 10 titles per shelf. Additional titles will be added to the shelves on a continuous basis.
Library users will also be able to read the books using their iPhones or Blackberry devices, via a library portal link. Subscription payments will be made via the Exact Editions system, which has an e-commerce facility that already works with libraries. Daryl Rayner, managing director, said it was already working with a number of publishers, before Bloomsbury approached it with this idea. She said the system was not a direct competitor to companies such as OverDrive which is currently marketing its e-book solution to UK libraries. "We take a pure-web approach, because that is where we think the future lies," Rayner said.