Magazine article Computers in Libraries

Considering the Ebook Journey: Look at How Far We’ve Come

Magazine article Computers in Libraries

Considering the Ebook Journey: Look at How Far We’ve Come

Article excerpt

We've been tackling the challenges of trade ebooks in our libraries for more than 7 years, but we all still have moments of frustration. Compared to centuries of practice that we built on in print, it shouldn't really be a surprise that we haven't figured out digital yet. It's also easy to forget that there's a lot we've gained by working together to solve our ebook challenges. Back in 2012, a group of librarians and vendors from around the world met at the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions' (IFLA) headquarters to talk about ebook issues in libraries, and from that, IFLA established six principles for e-lending that we can measure ourselves against. So how are we doing, and what should we work on next?

Six IFLA E-Lending Principles

Access to Content

In North America, in 2012, there's was no question that having the right to make any ebook available to lend to our public was the most important issue for us. We had access to HarperCollins Publishers, Random House, and Penguin from early on (each with issues of its own), but Hachette Book Group, Macmillan Publishers, and Simon & Schuster were much slower. It hasn't been 3 years since all the multinationals started licensing to us. Throughout, we've been working to increase understanding with independent and regional publishers that, with less of the market, haven't had the attention that they deserve.

In the U.S. and Canada, we thought that what we achieved here would expand options for libraries in other countries. In reality, our colleagues in the U.K., Australia, and around the world haven't seen parallel improvements. Hachette still doesn't license ebooks to libraries in most countries, nonEnglish publishers often don't license best-sellers to libraries, and our efforts to demonstrate a beneficial impact on sales haven't been convincing. It might get better. In November 2016, the Court ofJustice of the European Union decided that libraries have the right to lend ebooks within their existing legislation. Hopefully, this will open the doors to better access to ebooks in European Union-based libraries. The consumer market keeps growing in the meantime.

Reasonable Terms and Conditions

How long will it take to sort this one out? After more than 20 years of digital licensing by academic libraries, there's little hope for optimism on reasonable terms when we look at scholarly pricing battles. In public libraries, we're getting good value on a per-circulation basis compared to print for many titles, but if we only buy books that we think will have good per-circulation value, we'll stop being a place for readers to discover their next favorite author-and our collections will be no more diverse than those of a big-box store.

There's a long way to go in every country to convince publishers that they benefit from models that facilitate the diversity we value in our collections. Our tolerance for higher prices on the next blockbuster is substantially different from what we're comfortable spending to take a risk on an author's debut. If we can pay more for one copy of a title we want in our collection in years to come-and balance this with low costper-use models to address short-term demand and unknown authors-we'll reach a milestone.

To keep things in perspective, for print, we've been trying to achieve on-demand availability of best-sellers for years without giving up diversity-and we still don't have a solution.

Copyright That Supports Access

Libraries and our users should have access to the copyright exceptions and limitations for digital that are available for print. For physical materials, we have fair use in the U.S. and fair dealing in Canada. We have copyright exceptions that allow libraries to copy and preserve works on behalf of our users. In the digital realm, it's another story.

The digital licenses we sign can override copyright exceptions that are well-established, and we're making little progress toward replicating the rights that the first sale doctrine gives us for physical books. …

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