13 April 2013
I have just caught up with the Sieghart Report, a review of e-lending in public libraries in England. Its basic recommendations refer to Public Lending Rights (PLR):
- The provisions in the Digital Economy Act 2010 that extend PLR to audio books and loans of on-site e-books should be enacted.
- Further legislative changes should be made to allow PLR to take account of remote e-loans.
- The overall PLR pot should be increased to recognise the increase in rights holders.
- A number of pilots in 2013 using established literary events should be set up to test business models and user behaviours, and provide a transparent evidence base: all major publishers and aggregators should participate in these pilots.
- Public libraries should offer both on-site and remote E-Lending service to their users, free at point of use.
- The interests of publishers and booksellers must be protected by building in frictions that set 21st-century versions of the limits to supply which are inherent in the physical loans market (and where possible, opportunities for purchase should be encouraged). These frictions include the lending of each digital copy to one reader at a time, that digital books could be securely removed after lending and that digital books would deteriorate after a number of loans. The exact nature of these frictions should evolve over time to accommodate changes in technology and the market.
It is good to see recommendations 1 through 5, but the sixth is really peculiar. The report seeks to propagate the known limitations of a physical book, one copy in one person’s hands, and more hands means the book deteriorates over time. The whole point of an ebook is we escape this physical tyranny. The Luddites have won again.