'Assurances' for booksellers in wake of PRH e-lending trial

'Assurances' for booksellers in wake of PRH e-lending trial

The book trade must "work together" to navigate potential disadvantages of e-book lending, the chief executive of the Booksellers Association (BA) has said.

Tim Godfray, the BA's c.e.o, said he had received "assurances" from Penguin Random House that the impact of its e-lending trial would be reviewed in a year's time following the publisher's announcement yesterday (December 8th) that it would be making its full range of e-books available to libraries to loan to visitors.

Godfray said "publishers, bookshops and libraries need to work together to ensure neither [bookshops or libraries] are being disadvantaged by e-book developments".

PRH announced yesterday it would to allow its entire e-book catalogue to be loaned to library visitors in a year-long trial to allow libraries to "stay relevant" and "keep pace with digital change". However, booksellers have been previously concerned about the impact it could have on their businesses.

Godfray, who has been lobbying for a fair e-lending system with "proper oversight and controls in place", remarked in June that remote e-lending was a "major concern". Pilots revealed 39% of e-book borrowers were "much less likely to visit a bookshop"; 37% were "much less likely to purchase printed books"; and 31% were "much less likely to purchase e-books".

PRH's introduction of "licencing 'frictions'", however, including purchase restrictions on newly published titles up to three months and "one customer at a time" loans, has been "good to see", Godfray said.

He told The Bookseller: “Both bookshops and libraries are important to community life and they have a lot in common. That is why publishers, bookshops and libraries need to work together to ensure neither are being disadvantaged by e-book developments.

"Earlier this year independent consumer research, conducted during four e-book lending pilots, revealed that 39% of e-book borrowers from public libraries were much less likely to purchase print books in bookshops (and also make fewer visits to physical libraries). 

“So we are pleased that PRH have introduced licensing ‘frictions’ with the aim of providing a fair balance between the interests of the library and the bookseller.  Especially important to us under the proposed PRH licensing terms is that libraries will not be able to obtain an e-book for free lending until three months have elapsed from the date of publication, and that, moreover, only EPUB formats can be downloaded by the borrower.  It is good to see also that the loan of an e-book can only be made to one customer at a time, and that after two years a new licence has to be taken out.

“We have received assurances from the publisher that these proposals will be reviewed in a year’s time,” he said.