Librarians worried by publisher e-book restrictions

Librarians have warned that publishers have "declared war on libraries" with the new position on library lending, announced by Faber c.e.o. Stephen Page this morning 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.

"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!"

Online responses from other librarians writing on the public library discussion forum LIS-PUB-LIBS today ranged from "Words fail me" to "Totally defeats the whole point of e-books from libraries" and "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.