Libraries in the United States have faced monumental challenges to get publishers to buy into the idea of allowing their digital books to be distributed. The American Library Association has been a tireless vanguard in convincing the big five publishers to opt into pilot projects and then unilateral adoption. Things are very different in Europe, but a new initiative called “Right to E-Read” seeks to build awareness.
The The European Bureau of Library, Information and Documentation Associations has launched the “Right to E-Read” campaign all over Europe. The premise the new program is a hardcore marketing campaign with posters, videos, postcards and promotional materials to build awareness to the public on the fact they can borrow eBooks from the library and the limitations facing them.
The situation facing Europe is the same one that transpired in the US a few years ago. There are no consistent licensing terms for libraries to purchase eBooks and many publishers have yet to opt into the idea that distributing their digital content does not devalue the product. Barbara Stripling, president of the American Library Association weighed in on Right to E-Read “The “ebook” problem is all too familiar to ALA and U.S. libraries, so we empathize with our European colleagues. Our approach to getting more ebooks in U.S. libraries involved engaging in direct discussions with publishers, in addition to demonstrating that library eBook lending enhances overall eBook sales. Through many means of connecting authors and readers, libraries help the public discover and enjoy books from the broad range of authors.
EBLIDA President, Klaus-Peter Böttger, declared that “Libraries (and public libraries in particular) have a major public interest mission in developing a strong and vibrant reading culture that forms nations of readers and a Europe of readers”. He added that “this library mission is entirely in the interest of the public and the market. It is time for other stakeholders in the e-book market to clearly acknowledge the important role of libraries in developing a reading culture which actively fosters the sale of books and eBooks”.
I remain apprehensive that this program will have any immediate effects in the European library scene. Europe has many more publishers then the US does and there are cultural and language barriers preventing extensive dialog. EBLIDA also does not have the clout that ALA has in the US in dealing with publishers and fostering relationships. The big players in eBook distribution to libraries in the US, is non-extinct in Europe. Overdrive, 3M, Axis 360, Ingram, Smashwords and many other companies have no presence in Europe, other than Overdrives meager offerings in Ireland and the UK. You simply don’t have any big for-profit companies investing big bucks in lobbying the publishers and government for changes.
The right to E-Read if anything might build slight awareness to the public. This is a good PR campaign for the library body promoting it and will net them a ton of headlines in the media. Sadly, this will not have any cohesive effect. The UK has been running study after study for years and even the government is trying to mandate eBooks in libraries, but so far nothing of real substance has been done.
Michael Kozlowski has written about audiobooks and e-readers for the past twelve years. Newspapers and websites such as the CBC, CNET, Engadget, Huffington Post and the New York Times have picked up his articles. He Lives in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.