Library bodies warn publishers off 'retrenchment' over e-book lending

Library bodies warn publishers off 'retrenchment' over e-book lending

The Society of Chief Librarians and the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council have signed a joint position on e-book lending in libraries, saying the Publisher Association's baseline position has "limited practical use" for customers and warning publishers off putting new restrictions on remote downloading of e-books.

In a joint statement, posted on the SCL website, the SCL and MLA said: "While we are pleased to see that the Publishers Association has been able to develop a consensus to supply public libraries with e-books, we feel that the baseline has been set at a level that may have very limited practical use for library customers."

The statement added: "It also creates significant technical issues for libraries around on-site downloading of e-books. We hope that those publishers who currently supply remote e-book lending services will not retrench to this baseline position".

In October, the PA announced a baseline position which placed restrictions on library e-lending, particularly remote downloading, following concerns that copyright restrictions were not being observed in some services. Publishers can choose to use the baseline agreement, or deviate with different terms. At the time, Overdrive c.e.o. Steve Potash responded to the position by saying that fears over remote downloading were "not a real issue".

The SCL and MLA statement identified libraries as a "low-risk" way to introduce readers to new formats, with the two bodies saying they would "welcome the opportunity to explore different [commercial] models with publishers, software manufacturers and retailers". It called the support libraries can offer in helping people get online and educating them about copyright an "under-exploited area of potential for libraries".

The statement concluded that libraries were confident the DRM on their IT platforms was strong enough to avoid file sharing issues. It said: "We believe that libraries responsible involvement in both a remote and an in house e-books service—working in partnership with publishers—will help to grow the e-book market to everyone's satisfaction", adding that they would welcome the chance to work with the PA to "agree a way forward for digitallending in public libraries".