Digital ebook lending for libraries in the United Kingdom has yet to really take off like it has in North America. There are many barriers in place that prevent a wider adoption, such as the current politics of publishers and technology. In September 2012, the UK government commissioned a task force to look into the viability of digital lending for libraries and suggestions on how a unified strategy can be employed. Today, the new report was issued.
The first recommendation made was that libraries lending digital books to their members should be a service that is provided free of charge, and should be an essential function of the library service.
The second recommendation is that library members should be able to borrow digital books from their libraries remotely. In other words, members of libraries should be able to download digital books from the library’s website without having to visit the library in question. Although some constituencies from the writing and publishing communities in their written evidence to the advisory panel expressed concerns about remote downloading; worrying that the technology would lack the necessary “friction” that a library visit provides when borrowing a printed book, it would be counter-intuitive not to recognize the technological ease of remote downloading and the likely consumer demand for it.
The third recommendation is that each copy of a digital book should only be loaned to one reader at a time, just as with a physical book. This would eradicate concerns that many publishers have about the impact on their revenues from successful digital lending. If a digital copy of a book can only be loaned to one reader at a time and for a limited period only, then there are a limited number of loans that that copy can have in a particular period of time.
For similar reasons, the fourth recommendation of this review is that digital copies of books should “deteriorate,” ensuring libraries repurchase after a certain number of loans. The reason for that is because printed counterparts naturally deteriorate, forcing popular books to be repurchased. This principal therefore should be applied to digital books, otherwise publishers may lose revenue.
It seems that the UK Government is taking digital ebooks in the library very seriously. The essence of this report really says that customers shouldn’t have to pay anything extra to download ebooks and that they should be able to do it remotely. The rest of the report dives into the semantics of audio and video delivery and how that plays a part in the traditional library experience. You can read the full report HERE.