E-lending – threats and possibilities

The Australian Library and Information Association hosted a well attended “E-book and E-lending think tank” that provided a forum to discuss the challenges facing libraries in providing E-book lending services.

Presenters highlighted a range of difficulties facing libraries given current publisher delivery models:

* Publishers are  increasing the costs of ebooks, even just backlist material well above the cost of the print edition or the cost of the e-edition available to the individual.  Some are setting minimum copies requirements and limiting collection development.  However increased costs are not accommanied with more flexible lendng to take advantage of the new technology platform.

* Publishers arbitrarily withdraw from aggregation services, leaving the library without the title they subuscribed to.

* Forced re licensing after time or number of loans or limitations that prevent outright purchase of eBooks.

The Book Industry Collaborative Council (BICC)  in Australia is providing a forum for publishers, authors and libraries to engage in discussion on these issues.  However, options for the library for purchase still remain limited in the trade industry (not so much in the academic environment), and current suppliers providing e-books in Australia have poor representation of Australian titles.

Many attendees indicated that  E-books represent one of the most major challenges that libraries have faced.  The results of a recent Brisbane City council survey the importance of e-lending:

1/3 library readers had downloaded an e-book
– 34% from Itunes
– 32% from  Amazon
– 15% from the library
– 25% from various other sources.

While technology presents the challenge for libraries here, it also presents opportunities.    With new technology comes a great mutability of roles that the library itself takes on.  For instance, many government libraries are now partnered with their research areas to themselves become publishers of digital collections, enhancing the organisational ownership of its own resources.    Libraries are also engaged in open access initiatives.

Public libraries in the US are also looking at alternative ways to improve the collection development of e-books and possibilities for ownership.  Projects such as the Douglas County Libraries in Colorado and the  Californian libraries Califa Group are examples of alternative approaches taken to the ebook acquisition and distribution model in libraries.

The ALIA “E-book and E-lending think tank” and the associated discussion paper were a valuable opportunity to bring to the table a range of the challenges facing libraries in this area.  An ALIA discusison paper is available at http://www.alia.org.au/advocacy/Ebooks.and.Elending.Issues.Paper.v4.130107.pdf.








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