The Government-commissioned report into library e-lending has set out the principle that e-lending should be free at the point of use and recommended that public libraries should offer e-lending remotely to their readers as well as on site.
The Sieghart Review said publishers should be protected through “frictions” that limit the supply of e-books in the same way that physical book loans are controlled, including the lending of each digital copy to one reader at a time, securely removing e-books after lending and having digital books “deteriorate after a number of loans".
The extension of Public Lending Right to audiobooks and loans of on-site e-books should be brought into force and PLR legislation should be extended to take account of remote e-lending too, the Review also said, with a growth in the PLR money pot.
The review also recommended that a series of pilots be run this year to test business models and user behaviours, with all major publishers and aggregators participating.
In its response the government said it would "consider commencing the appropriate provisions" of the Digital Economy Act 2010 to extend PLR to audio, e-audio and e-books, but stopped short of agreeing with Sieghart that the "PLR pot should be increased to recognise the increase in rights holders".
It said that extending the PLR to incorporate remote lending would require primary legislation, but that this was "an amendment we will seek to pursue in future parliamentary sessions, subject to considering whether that would be compatible with the Copyright Directive". It added that: "Any increase to PLR funding would need to be considered against evidence of increased loans within the increased remote scope."
William Sieghart, who chaired a panel of industry figures including Faber publisher Stephen Page and author Joanna Trollope investigating the role of e-book use in libraries, said that he hoped the report offered “practical and realistic suggestions”.
He said: “The UK publishing industry is undergoing a digital revolution, the full impact of which will transform the structure of publishing, bookselling and book borrowing, whether we like it or not. What this means for each participant, whether they are a writer, agent, publisher, wholesaler, retailer, librarian or reader, is as yet unclear.”
He added: “What is certain is that the industry is changing very quickly and each one of these stakeholders has a right to feel anxious. It is easy to focus on the challenges posed by digital developments, rather than of the opportunities offered. This review, published today, does not try to predict the future for the industry as a whole. It is more narrowly focussed on the issue of the lending of digital versions of books by public libraries, offering practical and realistic suggestions for how to manage this ‘revolution’ in a way that makes sense for all.”
Libraries minister Ed Vaizey said: “The public library service is changing. And e-lending represents one of many technological developments that can help it meet the increasingly high expectations of their membership. I welcome William Sieghart’s review, and hope that all those engaged in the sector can play their part in moving forward the proposed developments.”