Home » Ebook Borrowing/Lending, Libraries, Non-US » E-books can be lent by libraries just like normal books, rules EU’s top court

E-books can be lent by libraries just like normal books, rules EU’s top court

11 November 2016

From Ars Technica UK:

Public libraries can lend out electronic books, the European Union’s highest court has ruled.

The judgment confirms the opinion of Maciej Szpunar, advocate general to the the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU), who said back in June that lending out e-books should be permitted in the 28-member-state bloc provided authors are fairly compensated in the same way as for physical books.

. . . .

Specifically, VOB wanted to use a “one copy, one user” model. A copy of an e-book is placed on the server of a public library, allowing a member of the public to download it. Only one copy at a time can be lent out in this way. After the lending period for the e-book expires, the downloaded copy can no longer be used by that user, but another copy can be downloaded by someone else.

Link to the rest at Ars Technica UK and thanks to Nate for the tip.

Ebook Borrowing/Lending, Libraries, Non-US

5 Comments to “E-books can be lent by libraries just like normal books, rules EU’s top court”

  1. They be behind the times, me mum’s been doin’ that with the local library for a while now.

    Now if trad-pub would quit overcharging for the ebooks — or that I could ‘give’ my good-used ebooks to the library …

    • Actually, a part of the ruling states that any ebook gotten legally should be available that way, so no more overcharging for library ebooks.

      Still, the “one copy, one user” model can only be enforced via DRM. As it happens, and while I’ve been an opponent to DRMs WRT general users, I think library is one of the places where they are justified with the current royalties model.

  2. From the library point of view, the one copy, one user rule prevents ebooks from solving a problem that they could easily solve.

    A library goal is to minimize the wait between a customer requesting a book and being able to read it. When a best-seller surfaces, we get a surfeit of requests for it. We might have to purchase 50 copies to ensure that our customers will get access within 6 weeks of putting in a request. Two months later, 5 copies might be plenty, so we have 45 lightly used copies sitting on the shelf. There is almost no recovery on surplusing those 45. The solution is to order only 20 copies and suck up the complaints. Not pleasant.

    If we could purchase 100 ebook lends and lend them out all at once if the demand was there, our customers would not have to wait. If demand exceeded the initial spend, we could reorder when the supply got low. We would not have to surplus unread copies. Ebooks could solve the request queue management problem so nicely.

    Except they don’t. If we want to lend to two users simultaneously, we have to purchase two licenses, each for a fixed number of lends. If we purchase enough licenses to keep the queues where we want them, we end up with unused lends, which have zero recovery value. Of course, there is, in theory, absolutely nothing preventing five thousand users from downloading one ebook at the same time. I imagine Amazon does it all the time. It’s purely a licensing issue.

    The publishers may think they get more revenue this way. Except they don’t. Our budget is a zero-sum game. We set the collection budget for the year based on tax projections. Property tax projections, at least in our area, are pretty accurate. We have little leeway for adjustment. An increase in one area has to be offset by a decrease in another. The publishers will get the same total amount, no matter how it is distributed among titles and digital or physical publications.

    • Democritus Jr, but without the “one copy, one user” (and the DRM to enforce it), the publishers fear that a single licence sold to a library could decrease direct sales by allowing legal library access when the book is still novel.

      • I have to check with the collection support people, but I don’t think there is much gap between a book appearing in bookstores and availability from the library if the library has made a pre-publication order, which we do for a lot of books. So our customers do have access while the book is fresh on the best-seller lists, but they have to queue up. You have a good point– some of those folks back in the queue may go to Amazon and buy the book, but I wonder how many would have bought a different book anyway?

        Personally, that’s the way I operate. I buy about 4 books a month. I also borrow from the library. Reading from the library doesn’t decrease that number I buy. If I decide to borrow from the library, it just means I’ll buy a different book.

        Incidentally, I don’t have anything against DRM in principle. The implementations are a little silly because a script kiddy can circumvent most of them. A library being allowed to concurrently lend off the same license doesn’t have to affect DRM because the end-user could still get a DRM copy that they could not copy or transfer.

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