The Department for Culture, Media and Sport is poised to announce an independent cross-trade review into e-book lending, which could potentially "break the deadlock" on the issue, The Bookseller has been told.
Last week Labour's shadow culture minister Dan Jarvis called for "an effective and credible taskforce" to be created to explore e-book lending in libraries, to "consist of librarians, authors and publishers and be chaired by an independent expert". His calls followed a meeting on library e-lending which took place on 3rd July between Little, Brown c.e.o. Ursula Mackenzie, Penguin c.e.o. Tom Weldon, Random House UK's deputy chairman Ian Hudson and Publishers Association c.e.o. Richard Mollet, along with culture minister Ed Vaizey, Justin Tomlinson, the chairman of the All-party Parliamentary Committee on Libraries, and Jarvis himself.
This week a DCMS spokesman said Vaizey expected to make "a detailed announcement shortly" on the question of an independent review. The Bookseller understands Vaizey will announce such a review, to commence shortly.
Mollet, Mackenzie and library campaigner Desmond Clarke have backed the idea of a cross-industry independent review into e-lending, saying that all parties involved in a potential model should be aware of each party's needs and concerns around the issue.
Clarke said: "I hope very much it will break the deadlock on the issue of e-book lending. It has been on the table now for a very long time and the booksellers, publishers and authors have very serious concerns for their business models. At the same time, librarians are very anxious that e-lending should be allowed, otherwise it could be extremely damaging to the future of the library service."
Mackenzie said she would support a Finch-style review into the issue of e-lending as opposed to a one-man report in the style of the Hargreaves Review of Intellectual Property and Growth, adding: "We have to be careful we do not damage the library service, but we also do not wish to damage authors' interests or our business models."
She also said the investigation into alleged e-book price-fixing by publishers currently being undertaken by the Department of Justice in America and the European Commission meant publishers have "felt they couldn't" get together to discuss e-lending as a collective.
Mollet said the PA supported a review, but warned: "We won't come out with a 'one size fits all solution' and decisions about the extent to which publishers should e-lend should take place at a company level."
Tomlinson has already outlined his own ideas for how a library e-model would take shape, suggesting in principle that e-books should be borrowed through a physical visit to a library, "thus protecting footfall" and that "a small charge" should be levied "with the money shared between the publishers and the physical community library".