Does e-lending in public libraries have a future?

Publishers fear e-books will mean drop in sales

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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