back to article Aga-saga doyenne ponders how to put ebooks in public libraries

The UK's Department for Culture, Media and Sport has launched a panel to figure out how to get ebooks into public libraries in the country. Publisher William Sieghart will lead the panel of experts, which will also include Society of Chief Librarians president Janene Cox and popular UK author Joanna Trollope, who doesn't …


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  1. Jonathan Walsh

    Too Late

    Aren't some libraries already doing this? Orkney Library for example.

    1. John Arthur
      Thumb Up

      Re: Too Late

      Indeed. Even our local library in darkest Wales offers ebooks.

      Horse? Stable door?

  2. Crisp


    What's the issue? The content is all digital so it should be very easy to provide a copy of a given book to anyone that wants to borrow one.

    1. smudge

      Re: E-Lending?

      "The content is all digital so it should be very easy to provide a copy of a given book to anyone that wants to borrow one."

      I would reckon that, from the publishers' and authors' points of view, that is PRECISELY the issue!

      1. I. Aproveofitspendingonspecificprojects

        ReEL ending?

        Is your issue an issue issue?

        You sure?

  3. Jim 48
    Thumb Up

    My local library already lends ebooks and it works quite well, there's a limited number of books you can borrow/reserve at one time but you can define how long you would like the book for. The range is quite extensive and new books are being added all the time, although the categories can be a bit esoteric sometimes. The idea that an ebook can only be borrowed by one person at a time seems a bit strange at first, but it kind of makes sense in the library scenario. The eBooks are protected using Adobe DRM and I download & read them using Aldiko on my Android phone/tablet.

    1. This Side Up

      One person at a time

      Do you actually have to "return" the ebook or does it just expire, at which point it can be lent out again? Presumably the library would keep its master copy, unlike the dead tree version.

      1. Jim 48

        Re: One person at a time

        The DRM on the ebook expires

    2. AJames

      Same here. All the municipal libraries in the Canadian province of British Columbia got together to offer this on a province-wide basis several years ago, and our local city library has recently started offering their own independent collection. They both use the Overdrive system, based on Adobe DRM and the ePub format supported by all e-readers except the Amazon Kindle (which uses its own proprietary format).

      An issue has come up from ebook publishers though. It may sound a little far-fetched to most people, but the publishers say that they will lose money on ebooks because they don't wear out like ordinary library books. They actually want the libraries to automatically discard and re-purchase ebooks after they have been loaned out 20 times, which they claim is the average lifespan of a paper library book!

  4. Velv

    There's already a service out there (OverDrive) that is used by Edinburgh City Libraries (and others).

    Biggest issue is getting the publishers to buy into the concept of lending books which most public libraries do for free.

    OverDrive handles the number of copies the library has for lending to residents.

  5. James 51

    LibrariesNI uses overdrive. They lend out books mostly in epub and some pdfs. Why not pay authors the same as what they get for lending out dead tree versions? A DRM technology that works on linux would be welcome as well.

    1. Lee Dowling Silver badge

      A DRM technology that works... would be welcome as well.

      There is yet to be found an "uncrackable" DRM technology, even if that's via "analogue holes" like screenshotting the pages of the PDF and reassembling them (but for most things, you don't even need to go that far).

      The rule of digital content: If you can perceive it, you can reproduce that perception.

  6. tkioz

    I'm unsure about what the best way to do it is... but it must be done. Publishers and authors might complain, but they need to realise that libraries have been around for a very long time, and it would be terrible for the world in general if they went away.

    There are a half dozen authors I support by buying everything they release, that I wouldn't even know about if it wasn't for my local library stocking their earlier works.

    Maybe only stock books older then 2 years, I mean you've got the lion share of sales already haven't you?

  7. GreyWolf

    Dinosaurs in Publishing

    Giving away free copies of books functions as advertising and increases the sales of paper books, according to Cory Doctorow, who has been doing exactly that for years. His publisher, Tor Books, agrees. So DRM as usual screws the person most likely to cough up some actual dough for your main product, and is seriously counter-productive.

    Any publisher who stll does not understand after all these years and all the experience, is a f***ing dinosaur and needs to be shot.

    1. Peladon

      Re: Dinosaurs in Publishing

      "Giving away free copies of books functions as advertising and increases the sales of paper books,"

      Which is absolutely fine, and probably even true - _if_ you have paper bokks for which you wish to increase sales.

      On the other hand you may be a purely electronic publisher or author. In which case there are no paper books for which sales can be increased. Then? Well, then that element of the argument fails. Which does not, to my mind at least, invalidate the position that e-books in libraries, free or otherwise is a Good Thing(tm). Because from my personal perspective, e-books being read in any manner is a Good Thing(tm) (declaration of interest: I do indeed have books published, and they are in fact only published in electronic form).

      tI might be tempting to suggest that any commenter who assumes those who publish or write e-books also publish or write paper books 'is a f***ing dinosaur and needs to be shot'. I have no evidence that any commenter here has made that assumption, and in any case, my respect for those who both read and write here would forbid me to write any such words :-)

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Dinosaurs in Publishing


        Excuse me, don't start having respect for other commenters, you'll scare the horses.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Dinosaurs in Publishing

      A great plan, except for the increasingly huge number of non-dinosaur people who only read books electronically these days. Obvious flaw is obvious.

  8. Roger Jenkins

    If a library were to pay the same fee for an ebook as they do for a paper book. Given that the ebook is effectively distributed and published for near zero cost, then surely, if the publishers have one slip through their digital fingers once in a while, it wouldn't represent a terrible loss, as they would make a fortune on the original sale.

    There are some borrowers who will remove the DRM and distribute the book but I can't see that being rampant. I'm sure that each copy could have a digital signature attached that would allow the publisher to identify where a given book was loaned (the library location). If it happens once, no further action taken, if it's obvious that a serial copier is borrowing many books from a given library, it shouldn't be difficult for the library to take some action against the member, even if it is only to withdraw their membership, as they would if they have someone who consistantly fails to return paper books.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    If there were a Spotify for books ...

    Libraries don't have to figure out the problems of how to provision books etc. They just need to figure out which existing service to white label or provide subsidised access to.

    Commercially, such a service would operate on a reasonable monthly subscription. You could 'shelve' (save as favourites) any number of books. You could have a number (1? 5?) of books checked out and available for reading. Reading a book equates to checking out a DRM-ed copy to you. Putting it back on the shelf expires the DRM and lets you check out another book. You'd be able to save your own bookmarks to allow resuming where you left off if you decide to check a book out again. You'd also be able to annotate your library entries, link to reviews, and for those that want them, use social features to join virtual reading groups

  10. butigy

    Yes, already widely available in UK, to users of Kobo for example, but not users of Kindle. In US Kindle can do this also.

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