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Public Library e-Lending Pilot Six Month Update

Public Library e-Lending Pilot Six Month Update

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24 November 2014

The year-long pilot project, being run in partnership by the Society of Chief Librarians and The Publishers Association, into remote lending of ebooks by public libraries has reached its half way mark and some trends have begun to emerge.

The pilot was set up following the Sieghart Review into E-Lending in Public Libraries (April 2013) to analyse the impact of ebook lending on publishers, authors and public libraries.  In particular, the pilot is seeking to establish the impact of different models for e-lending on sales.  Publishers and librarians agreed four key principles that would guide the project: 

  • Lending should be free of charge;
  • Library  members should be able to borrow digital books remotely;
  • Only one  user should be able to access one copy at any time;
  • To address issues of deterioration, each digital copy would have a lifespan similar to that which exists for physical books.

Four library authorities were selected to take part in the pilot: Newcastle City Council, Royal Borough of Windsor & Maidenhead, Peterborough City Council and Derbyshire County Council.   893 ebook titles were submitted to be used in the pilot scheme. An interim analysis of the first six months appears to indicate:

  •  An overall growth in e-lending.  All four authorities have seen a significant increase in e-lending, with the pilot titles constituting a significant proportion of the overall e-book downloads.
  •  A longer loan period leads to more titles being borrowed. Longer lending periods (i.e. 21 days) appears to have led to a higher number of different titles being borrowed and more patrons joining the waiting lists.
  • No evidence of e-book lending leading to buying. There has been extremely low take up of the opportunity to buy the borrowed e-book through use of the “click to purchase” facility.
  • The increase in e-lending is not leading to a decrease in physical lending.  The participating libraries do not appear to have seen a decline in footfall or in the lending of physical books.

Richard Mollet, Chief Executive of The Publishers Association, said:

“More and more people wish to read using electronic devices and publishers are delighted to be working with librarians and local authority library services to find a workable, sustainable solution so people can borrow ebooks from their local library.   These interim findings identify some interesting trends. However, we have to be cautious of jumping to any conclusions.  These are interim findings, there is still six months of the pilot to run, and there will be more detailed user research conducted towards the end of the trial which will give us a clearer picture of the impact on behaviour.  The insights gained so far are very interesting and we await the final report with interest.” 

Janene Cox of the Society of Chief Librarians, said:

“We are very pleased that these mid-pilot findings demonstrate a positive reception to e-lending within the pilot library authorities- and it is particularly welcome to see that at this point the extension of titles for e-lending is not resulting in a decrease in visits or traditional lending. Libraries strive to provide communities with the latest and best resources in the formats which they find most accessible and SCL is committed to ensuring that libraries can confidently and effectively offer an e-book service to customers who want to borrow in that format. We look forward to more news from these libraries as the pilot continues.”

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