Ebooks have become increasingly common in collection development strategies in many libraries. The delivery of monographs in digital formats has gained significant popularity in many libraries, particularly in the academic sector. Licensing is the common method of acquiring ebooks, whether as a subscription or a purchase. Libraries have had to transform selection and workflow processes in order to acquire ebooks in an efficient manner. Not enough attention, however, has been paid to the interplay between licensing as a contractual arrangement and the statutory rights available under Canadian copyright law. Fair dealing is a concept of critical importance in Canadian copyright, as it provides the foundation for user rights in support of culture, learning, and innovation. There are other provisions of specific value to libraries, such as interlibrary loans and access by persons with perceptual disabilities. This article will examine these issues and proposes a few strategies that libraries can adopt to ensure that their interests are not eroded in licensing agreements.
Ebooks; copyright; licensing; Canada; strategies
The last two or three years have seen a renaissance of library interest in acquiring ebooks. Libraries have witnessed the success of journal literature delivered online, and are examining the challenges in implementing an ebook collection development strategy. Many commercial publishers are making e-versions of their books available, and are increasing the depth and breadth of their title list in order to become more appealing to buyers. Publishers have recognized the importance of offering a comprehensive collection including frontlist and backlist titles. There are pervasive marketing efforts aimed at establishing a sustainable ebook marketplace for ebooks in academia and other library sectors. The rapid expansion of the Google Book Project is creating much visibility for ebooks, and the recent settlement with the Association of American Publishers and the Authors. Guild has intensified the impact of digital books on libraries. A critical mass of content that can serve many purposes and dominate the book market is being assessed by the court. Scholarly publishers, such as university presses and societies, are also trying to shift their business models to take advantage of the major shift in user preference from print to electronic, and to compensate for the decline in print monograph sales to libraries. Third-party aggregators are also trying to muscle into the market with the allure of a single interface and content from multiple sources. Like Baskin & Robbins, there are at least thirty two flavours of ebook business models out there! Choosing among them is not easy.
In this climate it is important to step back and consider the terms under which we are acquiring ebooks. We rely heavily upon license agreements to determine the rights that govern how we can make ebooks accessible to our patrons. A comprehensive report from the Copyright Committee Task Group on E-Books of the Canadian Association of Research Libraries observes that, "Academic libraries are in a new, electronic environment where the delineation of access to scholarly materials is not universally shared and must be carved out afresh. Access achieved in print books must now be re-negotiated in licensing agreements for e-books. Libraries, therefore, must ensure that all negotiated contracts reflect the principles of access and reinforce their significance to the academic enterprise." (CARL 2) We invest significant energy in negotiating agreements that provide us with specific permissions regarding printing, downloading, perpetual access rights, unlimited simultaneous users, and the availability of quality MARC records. Much has been written on the challenges of licensing ebooks, and how different they are from ejournals. The state of ebook licensing is very fluid and immature compared to the ejournal marketplace. …