Richard Mollet, Chief Executive of The Publishers Association, has released a statement regarding The PA's position on e-lending in public libraries.Stephen Page’s speech at the CILIP PLA conference outlined the close and supportive partnership between publishers and libraries, and the particular importance of this during tougher economic times. He also set out The Publishers Association position on ebook lending, which has attracted some negative comment from Bookseller readers. It is disappointing that this proposal of a constructive settlement can be interpreted as a “declaration of war”, so it may be useful to restate the case being made and hopefully clarify the underlying position.
First of all, some commentary appears to view the position as a “line in the sand” beyond which publishers will not go. This is not the case - and indeed the opposite is true. Rather, the position is a stepping-off point; a baseline from which publishers could, and no doubt would, develop their own arrangements with aggregators and libraries. As was said yesterday, it is of course possible that some publishers will take a more relaxed view of certain criteria – such as on remote access. That would be entirely a matter for them.
Other comments have pointed out that denying remote access will make it difficult for certain disability groups to access library services, thus denying one of the key advantages of ebooks. Of course publishers take this issue very seriously, but we are confident that a solution can be found within the proposals set out: for example, it may be possible to register certain readers for remote access, or current arrangements for helping people obtain physical books could be replicated in the e-reader world. The door to any further workable solutions is fully open.
Ultimately, the activities of selling and lending have to be able to co-exist with neither unduly harming the other. If ebook lending were untrammelled (as some comments seem to propose) it would pose an extremely potent threat to the retail market which in the long-term would undermine the ability of authors, and the companies which invest in them, to see a reward for their creativity. This would be hugely a negative outcome for everyone, including libraries and their communities.
All arms of the publishing sector are working their way through the opportunities and challenges of the digital age. From the PA point of view we are looking to do so in an open, constructive and balanced way. We look forward to continuing to talk with librarians and other groups to achieve this.
Richard Mollet, Chief Executive, The Publishers Association