Digital e-book lending in United Kingdom libraries is still in its infancy. Major publishers still have not committed front-list titles in a meaningful way and there is no clear path to standardizing digital in the modern library.
UK libraries have not invested in digital the way they have in the United States. 95% of all US libraries have a collection of e-book titles and this drops off a cliff in the UK. E-Book loans are roughly 5% of the average UK library, chiefly because they aren’t investing enough capital into collections and public awareness.
In 2013 and 2014 English taxpayers paid £985 million pounds for public libraries. £550 million of that was spent on staff and management. £55 million was spent on print books ( of which about £15 million was processing and £40 million went to publishers) and £10 million was spent on e-Books.
The tremendous amount of apathy booksellers and publishers have for digital library lending is palpable. Tim Godfray, CEO of the Booksellers Association said there are “serious ramifications that we believe e-book lending will have on our bookshops, not to mention the potential reduction of people visiting libraries. 39% of e-book borrowers said that they were much less likely to visit a bookshop; 37% said they were much less likely to purchase printed books; and 31% said they were much less likely to purchase e-books. If public libraries are able to loan as many e-books as they want without fair and balanced controls, many commercial aspects of the book trade would be harmed.”
It really looks like the booksellers association and publishers don’t want e-books in UK libraries. They are basically standing on their own little soapboxes proclaiming that library lending would be the death mark on mainstream bookstores such as Waterstone’s and mom and pop stores across the country.