UK Publishers Association sets out restrictions on ebook lending – stupid!

images.jpegThe import of this statement escaped me the first time I glanced at it

The Publishers Association has set out an agreed position on e-book lending in libraries that will see library users blocked from downloading e-books outside of the library premises. Faber c.e.o. Stephen Page announced the new guidelines this morning (21 October) at the CILIP Public Library Authorities conference in Leeds.

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.

via PA sets out restrictions on library e-book lending | theBookseller.com.

Now, I can’t decide if this is the stupidest thing I’ve read all day, all week, all month or all year. Heck it could even be the stupidest thing I’ve read all decade.

Publishers should be embracing ebooks. Embracing ebooks in libraries even more and certainly not trying to lock library services into stupid and unworkable restrictions.

If they are worried about lending beyond territories that publishers have contracts for, then some other method could easily have been found rather than to take away one of the most impressive features of ebooks from libraries.

I’m appalled!

Via Eoin Purcell’s blog

18 Comments on UK Publishers Association sets out restrictions on ebook lending – stupid!

  1. The whole Library and eBook thing has come up before and to be honest I find it hard to get my head around it.
    How can Libraries ‘lend’ an electronic file .. ?
    If the file had a way of blocking copying and if it had a self destruct function built in … that would would work fine :)

    But in the absence of that .. how can I be enabled to download an eBook in my home as a borrowed eBook and be forced a) not to copy it and b) return it after 2 weeks ?
    My answer is … I really don’t know. I don’t think it is possible. Hence i have always previously said that I don’t see how the Library Model can possibly survive the transition to lending eBooks.

    For myself the only solution is to lend eReaders for two weeks. With preloaded eBooks. The eReader would have to be disabled from uploading or downloading outside the Library Staff. That would enable the whole ‘lending’ process to proceed. (The financial and practical issues set aside)

    What this Association appears to be saying is exactly that. They are saying eBooks cannot be downloaded at home, for the same reasons I set out above. They are allowing the downloading to happen at the hands of the Library staff and only one at a time or whatever.

    My question is what model would work in practice ? I am a regular proponent of freedom of access to eBooks. I oppose DRM and any other restrictions on eBooks that are sold. But this is not sold eBooks. It is lent eBooks.

  2. One wonderful thing about e-book library lending is the fact that you do not have to go to the library to do it! The ease! The convenience! The extra income for libraries who offer an out of area e-book subscription membership!

    My sister, who lives in the boonies where the closest library is nearly an hour away and tiny at that, loves the fact that she can get digital books on her computer…especially during the Winter months when the trek to the library is impossible. (I believe she gets some books on her Soney e-reader too…not sure which library system.)

    She pays to belong to libraries in other cities, (Philadelphia is one, I think), so she can use their e-book lending system. The file disappears in 21 days.

    Publishers should be embracing library e-book lending. What a wonderful way to reach those who cannot get to a library, from people like my sister to elderly shut-ins to the handicapped–even just average people like me.

    Putting limitations on e-book lending shows just how clueless publishers continue to be. Innovation moves the world forward; digging your heels in just leaves you in a hole.

  3. Howard, you must not be familiar with library ebooks through OverDrive, which are protected with DRM restrictions which cause them to “expire” after their lending period. They require a library card number to check out, which limits access. This model is possible and works fine.

    With Overdrive, a Sony reader requires an Adobe ID that matches the Adobe ID of the computer it syncs with. It’s currently not possible for my library patrons to download an ebook at a library computer and get it loaded onto their readers.

    I hope that this idea is restricted only to the UK, which has a number of other odd ideas about how authors and publishers should be compensated for library use of their books.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Public_Lending_Right

  4. Have these folks not heard of ebook pirates? I’d be more worried about them than libraries lending titles out to trackable accounts (aka free publicity).

  5. It’s my understanding that publishers receive royalties from libraries based on how many times their books are lent (unlike in the US where the library just pays once and lends until the book wears out). If this is the case, I’d be less concerned about library abuse.

    Still, we want to sell books. The easier it is for people to read books without buying them, the harder it is for us to sell them. The person too lazy or time-bound to actually make a trip to the library is exactly the person we’d love to have buy our book rather than check it out. So, I’m not sure this is a perfect solution but it certainly makes sense to me.

    By the way, I think there are a lot of people who would check a book out from the library and who’d never consider piracy. So saying piracy exists so we might as well have unlimited library access is a bit of a stretch.

    Rob Preece
    Publisher

  6. I believe they are too late since the Overdrive model is already well entrenched and is a hit with libraries and end users. Tweaking? Perhaps — like not allowing e-book lending to patrons registered outside of the library home country (managing geographic rights in any other way — on a per title basis — would get too hairy).

    Insisting patrons schelp to the library with their desktop computer to borrow a book is silly. It would kill lending, however. But perhaps extending literacy to the masses is not part of the Publisher’s Association best interest. Oh, wait …

  7. @Rob Peerce who wrote: “Still, we want to sell books. The easier it is for people to read books without buying them, the harder it is for us to sell them. The person too lazy or time-bound to actually make a trip to the library is exactly the person we’d love to have buy our book rather than check it out. So, I’m not sure this is a perfect solution but it certainly makes sense to me.”

    Libraries are an extension of marketing. You get a few for the library e-book; possibly trailing usage royalties; limited usage — 1 e-book loaned to one patron at a time for 14 or 21 days.

    I can’t believe sales would suffer and it helps promote the author and his/her backlist — much of which would have to be purchased as its not at the library.

    So — celebrate the (free) marketing ups and don’t worry about potential sales losses as they will be far outnumbered by increased visibility and sales.

  8. Thank you Starbucks ! You are right I did not know about this service. Very interesting. My guess is that the Association know that in a short time there will be software workarounds to break the self destruct function.

  9. Alexander, the publishers giveth and the publishers taketh away. Just because something is entrenched doesn’t mean that contracts can’t be changed. Even as a librarian, I am amused that people think that publishers want to extend literacy or care about free publicity. They care about their own pockets, just like everyone else.

  10. @Howard:

    They already do exist, but I’m curious, why would any sensible person bother taking the effort to break DRM and steal a copy of a library book? All you would have is a file copy of a book you already read. Do you photocopy paper library books you check out?

    If you like the book and want the author (and publisher) to do well, and plan to read it often, buy the book. Just stealing it and hoarding it makes no sense.

    Regards,
    Jack Tingle

  11. @Alexander Inglis who wrote “I can’t believe sales would suffer and it helps promote the author and his/her backlist — much of which would have to be purchased as its not at the library.

    So — celebrate the (free) marketing ups and don’t worry about potential sales losses as they will be far outnumbered by increased visibility and sales.”

    You seem to be quite confident of this. I would love to see your research proving this to be the case. Thanks.

  12. I find this laugh-out-loud funny.
    The publishers are terrified of Amazon and the *only* feature of any great consequence that Kindle lacks, access to library books, is the *one* feature they want to kill?
    Why not save time and effort and just abolish epub and turn the last 20% of the market over to Amazon?

    Jeeze-louise are these people stupid!

  13. Jack – I agree completely with you. It really is unjustified paranoia on behalf of the Publishers Association.

  14. Dan – Can you back up your fear of losses in sales with research ?

  15. I don’t have any research that speaks to lost sales, but I’m also not trying to make the point that sales will necessarily be lost. One has to admit that it’s at least a possibility that some sales will be lost, and this is deserving of some research. I have an issue when people use their “common sense” to thrust “new business models” on industries they are not a part of and don’t understand. I really like this site and most of the commenters, but there’s a lot of assumptions and ignorance going on as well. But that’s to be expected as this is the internet.

  16. Hmmm… I’m not so sure you are on solid ground there Dan. To be fair. No offence ok ? :)
    You challenged Alexander to back up his views with research but have none to offer in return …
    Let’s face it there is always a ‘possibility’ of crime. It doesn’t always justify extreme action, however, such as that being taken by the Publishers in this article.
    As far as common sense is concerned, I would agree with you to a point. However this is a new and embryonic market. Other industries have gone through it before and lessons have been learned. Common sense mixed with rational argument is a pretty good way of assessing likely changes imho. especially if we all know it is speculation.

  17. Again: the publisher gets something for the purchase of the e-book, and maybe a trailing royalty for lending as well … one (1) patron can borrow the e-book for 14 or 21 days at a time … back to back (or is that e-book to e-book?), it’s something like 20 borrowings a year. I can assure you that is not 20 lost sales: the folks borrowing e-books, like physical books, are a different buyer demographic.

    Piracy doesn’t enter into it: why pirate a library book if you can just borrow it again for free? Those who feel it necessary to give away other people’s property will do it with or without libraries, including schlepping to the front door of the library to steal the content if that’s what it takes.

    Reminder: libraries have Sue Grafton’s Q, R, S murders but you, as publishers have all A to Z murder mysteries ready to sell (and, not out of print, right?). The e-book public library is your (free) marketing partner telling the world how awesome Kinsey Milhone’s detective work is … it is up to you to price the other titles to sell and make them available for impulse purchase.

  18. No response so far has addressed the obvious question: do we still need lending libraries at all? If the goal is to give people access to a book for a short time, the obvious person to do that is the eBook distributor. At a time when one intermediary — the publisher — is coming under pressure to economise or disappear, why do we automatically assume another intermediary — the library — is either necessary or efficient? As a store of reference books and databases, certainly: but I fail to see why the local library should receive funding to provide me with access to Dan Brown’s latest novel when Amazon could do it faster, better and more efficiently across the whole planet.

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