bad news: ebooks and lending restrictions

October 22, 2010

Twitter was full of librarian outrage yesterday regarding the announcements by Stephen Page about ebook lending in UK libraries reported in  an article in The Bookseller.

“Page told conference delegates that “all the major trade publishers have agreed to work with aggregators to make it possible for libraries to offer e-book lending” with the addition of certain “controls”. He said the guidelines had been developed because of concerns over free e-book lending offered by some libraries to lenders “wherever you are” in breach of publisher contracts.

The Overdrive library e-book lending system widely used by UK libraries currently allows members to download e-books onto their home devices remotely by employing a passcode supplied by the library.

Under the new scheme, library users would have to come onto the library’s physical premises to download an e-book at a computer terminal onto a mobile device, rather than downloading the book remotely. The scheme would also see the fee paid by a library to buy a book covering the right to loan one copy to one individual at any given time, and would require “robust and secure geographical-based membership” in place at the library service doing the lending.”

The idea that customers must visit the library to download material, rather than be able to do so remotely is patently ridiculous. Users of digital material don’t want to be limited by the restrictions of the physical world, such as which hours the library is open, or whether or not they have either the time or the means to visit the library.

Last Thursday, the library checked out 401 digital titles to our customers.  A whopping 137 of these checkouts were split between the hours of midnight and two AM and then later in the evening 10 PM to 12 PM.  We already know that some potential customers don’t use the library because either our locations or hours of operation don’t fit their schedules.  It hardly seems likely that these customers would be happy about the restrictions announced by the P.A.

Jason Griffey, in an article for American Libraries described the decision as ‘absolutely crazy‘ and said that the idea of treating digital materials in the same manner that we treat the physical was a category mistake of the highest order.  Others joined Griffey in urging librarians to protest loudly and strongly against these limitations so that they are removed in the UK, before they spread to the U.S.   In addition to Griffey, others more intelligent than yours truly, have summarized the repercussions for these restrictions more ably than I can and are linked below.

Anthony Woodworth: How Not to Get Libraries to Lend Ebooks (A Publisher’s Tale)

Steven Harris: I got your ebook manifesto right here!

posting by jim

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