BA tackles Hodge over free library e-book lending

<p>The Booksellers Association has said the commercial book business risks being &quot;undermined&quot; by the free loaning of e-books by libraries in a letter sent to culture minister Margaret Hodge. <a href="../news/114971-ba-uneasy-over-library-e-book-proposals.html" target="_blank" title=" Bookseller</em> reported last week that the issue was to be discussed at a BA Council Meeting held last Friday (26th March)</a>. </p><p>The BA letter was sent in response to the Library Modernisation Review published by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport last week, which said the government would make an &quot;affirmative order preventing libraries from charging for e-books lending of any sort, including remotely&quot;. The BA&#39;s letter, dated 30th March, has now been widely circulated online.</p><p>Tim Godfray, chief executive of the BA, said in the letter: &quot;We believe that your e-book proposals [Recommendation 34] will undermine (i) public libraries (ii) booksellers (iii) communities (iv) and the rights holders &ndash; publishers and authors.&quot;<br /><br />He added: &quot;If borrowers no longer need to come into a library, they certainly don&rsquo;t need to come into a bookshop to buy a copy&quot;. The letter continued that if booksellers lost sales then bookshops would close.<br /><br />Godfray added: &quot;The free loan of e-books is very different from the free loan of printed books. It is not appropriate simply to extend the existing library lending of print books so that e-books are included, as the consequences are likely to be very different.&quot;</p><p>Godfray added that there was also &quot;the worry that e-books loaned by libraries will lead to more illegal file sharing and copying&quot;. He wrote: &quot;Libraries, we believe, do not have the controls or the infrastructure in place to protect loans of digital book files, or enforce temporary access to books in digital formats which are downloaded for a short time but not retained.&quot;<br /><br />Godfray suggested that possible a solution would be for libraries to charge customers for loaning e-books. &quot;We urge the DCMS to think again about its proposal 34,&quot; said Godfray. &quot;The free loan of e-books by libraries should not be possible.&quot;</p><p>The BA has said that &quot;full consultation [should] be held with all those affected (publishers, authors and booksellers, as well as the libraries and consumers), and the implications assessed before any fixed line is taken&quot;. </p><p>Last week the Publishers Association said it backed the proposal saying that &quot;people should be able to access books whether it&#39;s e-books or physical books&quot;.</p><p>Overall, BA said there was &quot;much to be welcomed in [the DCMS] document&quot;, but urged the government to ease up funding for books within libraries, with only &pound;90m of the &pound;1bn spent on libraries devoted to books: &quot;surely one of the key drivers has got to be that more money has to be spent on the book fund&quot;, but, &quot;in the current economic climate, most library authorities will find it pretty difficult to increase their expenditure in this area&quot;, the letter stated.&nbsp;</p><p><em>Godfray letter: key passages</em></p><p><em><strong>e-books and libraries &ndash; effect upon booksellers</strong><br />If borrowers no longer need to come into a library, they certainly don&rsquo;t need to come into a bookshop to buy a copy. Faced with a choice of (i) a free book to read through the library service (which can be renewed) or (ii) pay if you go into a bookshop &ndash; the vast majority of consumers will support the former. The whole commercial sector runs the risk of being undermined by the free loaning of e-books.</em> </p><p><em><strong>e-books and libraries &ndash; effect upon communities</strong><br />If booksellers lose sales, bookshops will close. And many bookshops are central to their communities, and to the essential job of promoting literacy and reading. If more bookshops disappear, communities will also suffer.<br /><br /><strong>e-books and libraries &ndash; effect upon the rightsholders </strong><br />Fewer bookshops = reduced availability and shop windows promoting books = fewer sales from the bookselling sector = reduced income for authors and publishers.<br /><br /><strong>e-books &ndash; the solution</strong><br />We accept that for us to argue that libraries should not lend e-books in the future is unrealistic. But we do think there is a way forward.<br />The solution, we feel, is for libraries to be required to charge consumers for loaning an e-book, as is often the case when DVDs and/or audio books are borrowed. Loaning books without a charge devalues &lsquo;the book&rsquo;. Such a fee should not be a nominal amount.<br /></em><br /> </p>