Sometimes we get spoiled in North America with the sheer of amount of options available to borrow eBooks from the library. Statistically over 90% of all libraries in North America have a digital collection and patrons can access all of the content remotely. Things are different in the United Kingdom where only a few major libraries have bothered with a modern eBook collection.
In May 2013 the UK government funded a review looking into the viability of allowing customers to borrow eBook, without all of the drama. The Sieghart Review said publishers should not limit the supply of e-books in the same way that physical book loans are controlled, including the lending of each digital copy to one reader at a time, securely removing eBooks after lending and having digital books “deteriorate after a number of loans”.
A pilot project was initiated in four UK libraries in March 2014 that augmented the digital loaning period for up to 21 days and included a number of front-list titles, including bestsellers that just came out. The essence of the pilot is to carry out real-time, real-world research into the impact of eBook lending in public libraries on authors, publishers and on the library service so that a suitable and sustainable model.
Its been around six months since the pilot was first initiated and there has been some interesting findings. All four participating authorities have seen a significant increase in e-lending, with longer loan periods leading to more titles being borrowed. The project has also found the increase in e-lending is not decreasing physical lending or footfall to libraries.
One of the most important elements to the six month report is the fact that the increase in digital loans is not driving people to buy more eBooks. “There has been extremely low take up of the opportunity to buy the borrowed eBook through use of the ‘click to purchase’ facility,” the Publishers Association said.
Click to Purchase is a relatively new e-commerce strategy Simon & Schuster and other publishers have been employing in order to allow libraries to generate additional revenue by selling the books on their website. The actual eBook sales are facilitated by companies such as Overdrive.