I will start with a short historical review.
The eBook came into being (as a usable object) in the 1960s (NLS, HES and FRESS projects). The Gutenberg project, consisting in building an online library of public domain digitized books, began in 1971.
The advent of the Web in the early 1990s greatly contributed to the spread of eBooks, which became quite common by the turn of the century. At the first major conference dedicated to digital libraries, JCDL (Joint conference on digital libaries) which took place in 2001 in Roanoke, I remember hearing that a digital version of Alice in Wonderland in English already had usage rights (or rather, limitations) attached to it: it was explicitely forbidden to read it aloud.
The loan of digital documents started with compact discs (in the early 1980s) and DVDs – i.e., for music and video rather than for text: this is quite understandable, as audiovisual works require a “reading device” in order to access their fixation, be it analog or digital, which is obviously not the case for textual works.
Unless I am mistaken, it is also music which preceded text in the e-lending: in 2003, the Danish National Library launched the netmusik.dk project (which changed its name in 2010 to bibzoom.dk), with the goal to allow Danish public libraries to lend music – and later, books – via online access – to their registered patrons.
Where do we stand today?
Currently, the eBook represents 23 % of the overall U.S. market, and between 1.1% and 4.5% of the French market, far behind the United Kingdom and Germany. The combined effects of Amazon and the English language are probably important factors in this discrepancy, as well as the European legislation which doesn’t allow for the reduced VAT rate for eBooks similar to that applicable to printed books and in which e-lending does not benefit from the same exception than lending (but perhaps also structural differences – networked vs pyramidal – are at play between societies with Protestant vs. Catholic roots). But we shouldn’t also ignore the reluctance of major publishers to provide e-books to public libraries: a recent study in the UK showed that 85% of the supply of eBooks was not available for public libraries.
As for the demand – not the libraries’ but its patrons’ –, varies from country to country. In the United States, 9 out of 10 libraries are lending eBooks, but while 7% of their acquisition budget is devoted to this medium and 59% for paper, the corresponding circulation rates are 4% and 63 % respectively. Is this due to the fact that the budget for eBooks goes to renewable licences while a printed book acquisition is final? Quebec, which launched in 2011 its Pretnumérique.ca platform, reports a 250% increase in number of e-loans. At any rate, libraries are proactive in the field of electronic lending and have to fight uphill against Amazon and some technical complexities of the lending process for the patron.
We’ll try to address in this panel – however briefly – some the many practical intellectual, technical, financial and legal aspects of e-lending: the supply, selection and collection development, cataloguing, putting forward new acquistions, intermediation, on-site uses (e.g., browsing) and e-loan…
We will also attempt to cast a glance at the future: the evolution of the concept of collection and preservation, for example, when dealing with chronodegradable works. If what happens in the U.S. is any indication for what might happen later on this side of the Atlantic, we can only wonder about the shifting identity and thus role of the library: if e-lending seems to be slowly on the rise, there are diverging trends afoot too.
We shall now see how three European libraries have addressed these issues:
– in Germany, at the State Library of Karlsruhe, represented by its director, Mrs. Andrea Krieg;
– in the United Kingdom, where Ms. Fiona Marriott is responsible for strategy and development at Luton Culture;
– and at the municipal library of Grenoble here in France, represented by Mrs Annie Brigant, executive assistant and copilot of the Digital Reference Library project.
The panelist will first describe the experience of their institutions in the field of e-lending. They will then debate about some of its specific aspects and finally they will be available to answer your questions.
• Barbara Hoffert, “Material Shifts | Material Survey 2014”, Library Journal, March 4, 2014.
• “Strict limits on library ebook lending must end”, press release of The Chartered Institute of Library & Information Professionals, March 6, 2014.
• ebooks in libraries advocacy, Policy & Research team at the State Library of Western Australia.
• IFLA E-Lending Background Paper, May 2012.
• An independent review of e-lending in English public libraries (a.k.a “Sieghart review”), March 2013.
• Médiamétrie, « Baromètre de l’économie numérique », cinquième édition, 4e trimestre 2012. Chaire Économie numérique de Paris-Dauphine.
• Florent Taillandier, « Étude GFK : la lente progression du livre numérique », CNET France, 21 mars 2013.
• Florent Taillandier, « TVA et numérique : France et Allemagne font front contre l’Europe », CNET France, 5 février 2014.
• « Un livre numérique sur deux est piraté », ITR News, 21 mars 2014.
• Dominique Nora, « Jusqu’où ira le livre numérique ? », Le Nouvel Observateur, 22 mars 2014.
• Jacques Drillon, « L’EBM, la machine qui peut sauver le livre », Le Nouvel Observateur, 1er janvier 2013.
• Frank Huysmans, “E-Books in European Public Libraries: lending rights and business models.”, May 22, 2013.
• Catherine Muller, « Le prêt numérique en bibliothèques au Québec : interview de Jean-François Cusson, responsable du service pretnumerique.ca », Les billets d’enssilab, 18 mars 2014.
• Nicolas Gary, « Les réseaux sociaux du livre en France : enquête de sociabilité », ActuaLitté, juin 2013.
• Mélanie Le Torrec, Livre numérique : l’usage peut-il être le moteur de la politique documentaire ? Comparaison France États-Unis, mémoire de fin d’étude du diplôme de conservateur, enssib, janvier 2014.
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