The Berkman Center for Internet & Society has released “E-Books in Libraries: A Briefing Document Developed in Preparation for a Workshop on E-Lending in Libraries,” authored by David O’Brien, Urs Gasser, and John Palfrey. The paper was created to prepare for the Berkman Center’s “E-Books in Libraries” workshop, which was held on February 24, 2012. Thanks to a collaborative effort from industry stakeholders and practitioners the briefing examines the shifting paradigm in the digital publishing industry and the consequent issues of access and copyright.
The document contextualizes these issues by first providing an overview of the current state of the e-book market, which has expanded exponentially over the past decade. In response to such growth libraries have sought to increase access to e-book titles for patrons, though have encountered formidable challenges from publishers and e-book distributors along the way. Licensing and lending practices have proven to be a particular point of contention among e-book stakeholders: disagreements over loan periods, hosting services, and licensing rights are central issues that have yet to be solved by any single e-lending business model.
Publishers have implemented three primary e-lending business models–perpetual access, subscription, and pay-per-view–that each have affected the way libraries procure e-books and distribute them to their patrons. The paper analyzes each model, discussing lending methods and access provisions as well as providing illustrative use cases for the model in practice. Despite variances with respect to profit generation and licensing terms, all three models pose similar challenges to libraries and publishers, as they wade through the uncertainties of today’s digital transition.
Limited access to high-demand e-books, convoluted licensing terms set by e-book distributors, disjointed e-reader platforms that hinder user access to e-book titles, and rising costs to acquire and maintain an e-book collection are frustrations that rest at the crux of e-book access and lending. Though the authors of the briefing do not explicitly propose a remedy to these challenges, they encourage further discussion about the state of e-books in libraries. The authors welcome suggestions and feedback as issues change and developments emerge.
Photo via The Daring Librarian on Flickr