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L’offre de livres numériques à destination des bibliothèques de lecture publique : un regard international

Hans Dillaerts
Benoît Epron

6. United Kingdom, England – Arts Council e-lending pilot projects1

Dan Mount

Texte intégral

History and overview of e-lending model

1In 2012 the UK Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) commissioned William Sieghart to undertake an Independent Review of E-lending in Public Libraries in England with support from a panel of experts including representatives from the Society of Chief Librarians, the publishing industry, booksellers and authors. In his final report, published in March 2013, recognised that: “the atmosphere between the publishing and library communities has become strained and, combined with other, bigger uncertainties that the digital revolution poses, makes it hard for both parties to establish agreed norms for digital lending” [p. 6].

2The final report recommended that the Government should encourage the development of elending pilots to “test business models and user behaviours, and provide a transparent evidence base” whilst suggesting that “all major publishers and aggregators should participate in these pilots” [p. 13].

3The report also stipulated [p. 13]. that these e-lending pilots should seek to protect the interests of publishers and booksellers by creating 21st century versions of the frictions which inherently affect the physical lending market for books – whilst simultaneously developing e-lending models which encourage opportunities to purchase e-books (e.g. click to buy buttons). The recommended friction mechanisms included a one-copy-one user license, as well as measures to limit the number of total loans per e-book license in imitation of the deterioration which affects physical books. Despite these specific prescriptions, Sieghart also emphasised that the precise nature of these frictional elements should be expected to evolve over time to accommodate technological changes and further development in the market.

4In March 2014 the Society of Chief Librarians and the Publishers Association announced the launch of a 12 month e-lending pilot project involving four participating English library authorities – Peterborough City Council, Newcastle City Council, Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead, and Derbyshire County Council.

Commercial context

5The UK e-book market was valued at approximately €4.2 billion (£3.25 billion) in 2013, with e-booksales accounting for 25% of the trade book market [p. 28]. In the UK an estimated 1.75 million e-book titles are available for purchase [p. 28]. Specific e-book market figures for England are not available at the time of preparing this report.

6In preparing the ground for the e-lending pilots, the Society of Chief Librarians worked alongside the Publishers Association to prepare an invitation to tender which included specifications for the four pilot library authorities who would eventually be selected to participate. Those specifications were for:

  • One local authority representing a largely rural population lending e-books for a period of 7 days.
  • A local authority representing a largely rural population lending e-books for a period of 21 days.
  • A local authority representing a largely urban population lending e-books for a period of 7 days.
  • A local authority representing a largely urban population lending e-books for a period of 21 days.

7Each of the pilot library authorities would be asked to license a pre-agreed list of 1,000 titles, which would include a combination of front and backlist titles from the major publishing houses participating in the pilot. Participating library authorities would also be expected to comply with additional criteria which included:

  • Meeting the standard business terms of each publisher (e.g. licensing terms).
  • Comply with industry standard DRM.
  • Provide a “click to buy button” for all titles included in the pilot.

8Following the receipt of bids for participation four library authority systems were selected: Newcastle City Council (21 day loan urban pilot), Peterborough (7 day loan urban pilot), Derbyshire County Council (21 day rural pilot) and Windsor and Maidenhead (7 day rural pilot).

9The pilot library authorities were then offered access to 1,000 e-book titles (previously not available for e-lending), selected from the front, mid and backlist of 8 major UK publishers – Canongate, Faber, Harlequin, HarperCollins, Hachette, Macmillan, Simon & Schuster and Penguin Random House. Libraries were offered the freedom to select their own aggregator for the pilot. Derbyshire chose Askews & Holts and the other three pilots selected Overdrive. In practice all four pilots have confirmed that to date the number of titles made available to each pilot has been 893. As per the Sieghart Review’s recommendations, all titles were offered on a one-copy-one user license. According to one respondent the approximate cost of purchasing one copy of each of the 893 titles was in the region of $22,000 (€17,400).

Policy context

10The terms of the pilot include a requirement for participating library authorities to collect a range of metrics and data to monitor specific e-lending related behaviours. Given that the primary purpose of the pilots (set by the DCMS/Sieghart Review) was to test the impact of onsite and remote e-lending through libraries in England, the following metrics were selected for inclusion in a report which each library authority would prepare after the first six months of the pilot:

  • Change in number of members of the library service (and each individual library in the service).
  • Change in footfall to those libraries.
  • Change in socio-economic profile of members.
  • Change in lending and profile of the lending E-lending habits.
  • Number of registrations.
  • Number of logins per user, average and range.
  • Number of books borrowed per user, average and range.
  • Web analytics e.g. consumer journey/entry and exit pages.

11These measures were selected to enable the six month pilot report to help establish the impact of elending on authors and publishers sales, as well as corresponding impacts in relation to the usage and uptake of public library e-lending services. As recommended by the Sieghart review, all elending services provided under the scope of the four pilots should enable users to borrow e-books remotely without physically visiting the library – and that e-lending should be free of charge.

Cultural context

12Individual public library services are delivered by 151 library authorities in England who have a legal duty under the 1964 Public Libraries & Museums Act to deliver a comprehensive and efficient library service in the context of local need within available resources [p. 29]. Public libraries are run by local authorities who receive their funding from three main sources: grants from central government, local taxes (e.g. Council Tax), and other locally generated fees and charges for services. Each local authority has the freedom to decide how much funding to allocate to public libraries depending on available resources and local priorities. In 2012-13 local authorities in England invested £783 million across 151 library services [p. 29]. According to DCMS figures, 38.4% of adults in England visited a library or library website between June 2013 and June 2014 [p. 34].

Scope and audience of e-lending model

13The four e-lending pilots will run for 12 months from March 2014. Newcastle serves around 290,000 residents and has a total of 4,369 adults registered to use its e-book services. Peterborough has 22,581 active library users (1,196 unique e-book users via Overdrive since 2011). Derbyshire has 108,170 registered library users (and 2,265 e-book users). Windsor & Maidenhead serve around 145,000 residents.

Collection characteristics

14In practice all four library pilots reported that the number of titles made available, to date, by the participating publishers for each e-lending project is 893 titles. These titles were not previously made available for e-lending, but were in this instance selected by the publishers themselves and designed to represent a balance of front, mid and backlist titles. Varying degrees of detail were collected on each of the pilot library collections which are displayed in separate sections below (based on email correspondence or phone interviews with those running the pilots).

Newcastle pilot

15893 titles via Overdrive, available for 21 day loan, on a single user license. All pilot titles can also be purchased using the buy button function implemented by Overdrive. Pilot titles make up about 24% of Newcastle’s e-book collection (3,744).

Peterborough pilot

16893 titles available via aggregator Overdrive for a maximum loan of 7 days. 560 of these titles were published before the 28th of February 2013, and 333 titles were published on or after the 1st of March 2013. Titles are licenced under a single user license which offers either 26 loans per title, or 52 loans per title (with maximum license duration of 24 months).

17The table below shows the exact breakdown of the pilot titles across the participating publishers.

Publisher Titles Contributed
Canongate Books 62
ePenguin 59
Hachette Livre UK 176
Harlequin (UK) Limited 100
HarperCollins Publishers Ltd. 97
Pan Macmillan 95
Perseus Books Group 64
Random House Group Limited 132
Simon & Schuster, Inc. 108

18All titles can also be purchased via a buy button implemented by Overdrive – as shown in the picture below:

Derbyshire pilot

19893 titles via aggregator Askews & Holts, available on a 21 day loan on a single user license with either a limit of 26 loans per title or unlimited loans 12 months (the pilot duration).

20Aside from the pilot titles, Derbyshire has an additional collection of 9,346 e-books. Askews & Holt have also implemented a buy button option for all pilot titles.

Windsor & Maidenhead pilot

21893 titles via aggregator Overdrive, available for 7 day loan, on a single user license with a maximum of 26 loans per title. All of these titles were also supposed to be purchasable via a buy button, but in practice Kobo (the supplier of the buy button) could not support this functionality for all of the 893 titles.

Financial characteristics

22The British Library Trust provided a grant of £40,000 which was used to engage research and consultancy firm MTM London to develop the pilots and complete a robust and balanced evaluation of the metrics and data which emerged from the pilots. They will produce a six monthly report which will then feed into a final evaluation and recommendations following the completion of the 12 month pilots.

Friction strategies

23The pilot project was specifically created as a research trial to circumvent traditional friction mechanisms applied to e-book titles by the 8 participating publishers. Different pilots were deliberately allocated different maximum loan periods in order to investigate the impact of this variable on patron demand/usage.

Technical specifications

24All four pilots rely upon the user interfaces provided by the aggregators selected to provide the pilot e-lending service (Overdrive and Askews & Holts). All pilot titles are only available for download in DRM protected PDF format

User experience

25Anecdotal experience from some of the pilots suggests that they have experienced increase usage/loans during the first 5 months of the project. Additional specific detail was collected through interviews with the pilot libraries – but this information has been purposely suppressed from this study to ensure that no early data is leaked prior to the official publication of the 12 month statistical report on the performance of the pilots in April/May 2015. This information is understandably sensitive in a context where the figures may potentially chart a new way forward for e-lending arrangements between libraries and publishers – or alternatively, risk confirming the fears and concerns exhibited by publishers about the potential for e-lending to cannibalise sales.


1 From “A review of public library e-lending models”, 2014, pp. 61-66.

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© Presses de l’enssib, 2016

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