Labour shadow culture minister Dan Jarvis has called for the government to create a cross-industry task force to explore the issue of e-book lending in libraries.
Jarvis said the taskforce should be chaired by an independent expert, to oversee discussions which he says are crucial to a 21st-century libraries model.
His calls come on the back of a meeting held between publishers, culture minister Ed Vaizey and Jarvis on Tuesday (3rd July) to discuss e-book lending and the extension of the Public Lending Right (PLR) scheme to e-books.
Last month, Jarvis challenged Vaizey in the House of Commons about why he had not extended PLR to e-books, as mandated in section 43 of the Digital Economy Act put forward by the Labour government in 2010, to which Vaizey responded: “Part of the problem with e-books is that most publishers do not want e-books lent in libraries.”
Today Jarvis said: "I am calling for the Government to convene an effective and credible taskforce to explore e-book lending—which should consist of librarians, authors and publishers and be chaired by an independent expert. If the Government wants libraries to move into the 21st century, and wants to protect the value of books, Ed Vaizey needs to act on this now.”
Separately, the chairman of the All-party Parliamentary Committee on Libraries Justin Tomlinson has set out his thoughts for how e-lending in libraries should work, suggesting borrowers should be charged to borrow e-books.
In an email to library campaigners, Tomlinson has suggested “in principle” that e-books should be borrowed through a physical visit to a library, “thus protecting footfall” and “a small charge” should be levied “with the money shared between the publishers and the physical community library".
Tomlinson also suggested publishers should be encouraged to release some stock for free access and that there should be one uniform e-book service, maintaining that traditional books should remain free.
However the proposal was criticised by CILIP president Phil Bradley as “an amazingly short-sighted view of the future of the library and the provision of books". In comments made in an open email, Bradley said: “Possession of an e-reader should not be indicative of the ability to pay for books loans . . . Once the concept of charging for books is in place, it will be impossible to change it, and the idea of the free library will have gone
for good . . .
"Paying to borrow books must be fought at every step of the way.”