The culture minister’s announcement that e-lending should be encouraged by making e-books available for free at public libraries has raised fears amongst publishers that they will lose out on sales, whilst suggestions from Justin Tomlinson, a Conservative backbench MP, to charge for e-books look to be rejected by ministers.
Local councils that have tried to make e-books available to visitors are struggling due to limited stock – the big six publishers, including Random House and HarperCollins, do not want to release their publications as e-books because it will not earn them anything.
Traditionally, the public lending rights (PLR) arrangement gives publishers and authors 6p every time a book is lent out but no such arrangement is in place for e-books.
No decision is likely to be made until a panel of experts assesses the benefits of such a move and publishes its findings next year.
According to Tomlinson, not only should there be a small fee for e-books, “with the money generated ring-fenced and shared between the publishers, authors and libraries” but “e-books should be lent only through a physical visit to the library, to protect library usage”.
However, there is a good chance that the review by the panel results in e-books being accessible remotely.
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