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

Hans Dillaerts
Benoît Epron

7. United Kingdom, Wales – e-books for Wales

Dan Mount

Texte intégral

History and overview of e-lending model

1In August 2011 the Libraries Development Team of CyMAL: Museums, Archives and Libraries Wales (a division of the Welsh Government) launched a pilot e-lending project (e-books for Wales) with 6 participating local authority library systems1. Since 2010 several local authority library systems in Wales had expressed interest in developing their e-lending services. Accordingly CyMAL undertook preliminary research to map out the key opportunities and challenges in the e-book arena, including a review of different purchasing and licensing models (as well as existing e-resource procurement models used by academic libraries).

2Subsequently, CyMAL worked with Neath Port Talbot County Borough Council who agreed to take alead in applying for funding, running a procurement process for the proposed e-book platform and negotiating with suppliers. A grant was awarded from the Welsh Government to support the project’s development based on an agreement that other participating local authorities would commit match funding. Following the tendering process, Askews & Holts Library Services Ltd was contracted to deliver the e-lending platform and user interface.

3By March 2012 a further 9 local authority library systems had joined the project. Since 2013, 21 out of all 22 Welsh local authority library systems have signed up to the e-books for Wales platform. The remaining local authority, Newport, elected to pursue its own arrangement with U.S. based aggregator Overdrive. As a result all citizens in Wales now have access to a public library e-book lending service.

Commercial context

4The UK e-book market was valued at approximately €4.2 billion (£3.25 billion) in 2013, with e-book sales 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 Wales are not available.

5Under the terms of the contract with e-books for Wales platform supplier/administrator, Askews & Holt, e-book titles are made available on a single user license, with the specific number of loans per license set by individual publishers. It is also worth noting that Askews & Holt are responsible for negotiating the licensing terms and number of titles available from participating publishers.

Policy context

6Support from the Welsh Government for the e-books for Wales project stems from CyMAL’s 2008-2011 Libraries for Life Strategy, and its follow up 2012-2016 strategy: Libraries Inspire.

7Both plans offered a strategic development framework for the Welsh Government to work alongside local authorities and all types of libraries to deliver a 21st century library network, including the expansion of e-book collections and the development of e-lending services.

Cultural context

8Wales has a population of just over 3 million inhabitants, with about 250 public libraries managed by 22 Welsh local authorities. Library services and library membership in Wales are free for all citizens, and there are no plans for the introduction of supplementary charges for patrons to support future e-lending services.

Scope and audience of e-lending model

9The e-books for Wales e-lending platform currently operates across 21 out of all 22 local authority library systems in Wales. The platform currently has over 7,500 active users, although this is expected to grow significantly over the next few years given the pool of potential future users extends to all 550,000 library members in Wales. In addition, as familiarity and awareness of the e-books for Wales e-lending service rises, there is further scope to increase the percentage of Wales’ 3 million inhabitants who engage with online library services. From April 2013 to March 2014 the platform facilitated 87,993 downloads. Since then the monthly figure has been steadily ncreasing, with over 10,000 e-book downloads in August 2014.

Collection characteristics

10E-Books for Wales offers all 21 participating local authority library systems access to a catalogue of around 12,000 e-book titles. Titles offered for e-lending are selected by a working group of librarians from Askews & Holt’s catalogue of over 450,000 UK e-book titles. The collection also includes 100-150 Welsh language titles.

Financial characteristics

  • 2 More specific details on the financial amounts involved were collected by the study – but they hav (...)

11The e-book service is currently jointly funded by the Welsh Government and the 21 participating local authorities. Participating local authority library systems are charged an annual connection/hosting fee and a download fee per loan2.

Friction strategies

12The scope of the e-books for Wales collection is limited by the range and number of titles that publishers are willing to make available via Askews & Holts. CyMAL notes that many publishers are still exhibiting concerns about the commercial viability of e-lending, with a recent example of one publisher taking the step of removing titles from the e-books for Wales system claiming that libraries were not licensed to buy them – even though they had previously been made available for library purchase.

Technical specifications

13Askews & Holt have developed the e-books for Wales white label platform/user interface which allows users from participating library services to login using their library card number and PIN code. E-book titles are available for download in ePub or PDF format, protected by Adobe DRM. Titles can be accessed remotely from iOS devices using Bluefire Reader and Android devices using Aldiko/Bluefire (all authenticated using Adobe InDesign). Library users can select up to a maximum of 10 e-book titles for a maximum loan period of 21 days (with no early returns permitted, although users can select a shorter loan period if they wish).

User experience

14According to CyMAL the response from library users and library staff to the e-books for Wales project has been overwhelmingly positive. Whilst there remain areas for improvement, in terms of the range and number of titles available and the design and integration of the Askews & Holt platform with individual library ILS’s – the newfound capacity for library users across 21 Welsh library systems to access 12,000 e-book titles has clearly been recognised as a substantial achievement.

15Platform usage tends to vary across different geographical areas, with Cardiff and Swansea registering high borrowing numbers in keeping with the size of the urban populations they serve. However, interestingly libraries in Powys have also registered a relatively high number of loans despite serving a comparatively small and rural population. Nevertheless, other rural library systems with large aggregate populations continue to exhibit relatively low e-lending numbers. This is potentially due to deficiencies in the necessary ICT skills required to manage an e-lending transaction (setting up an online library account, installing Adobe Digital Editions and appropriate ereader software, etc.) as well as the absence of broadband coverage in many parts of rural Wales.

16Further evidence of the success of the e-books for Wales e-lending project is illustrated by the use of online advertising to drive user awareness and take up of the e-lending service. During the summer of 2014, online banner adverts were placed with the Western Mail (Wales Online) and the Daily Post to promote the all Wales e-lending platform. These adverts achieved click through rates (the number of visitors clicking on the link in the banner advert) of 0.52% for Wales Online and 0.77% for the Daily Post – ranging from 7,000%-1,100% of the average click through rate on online adverts during that period (0.07%).


1 From “A review of public library e-lending models”, 2014, pp. 66-69.

2 More specific details on the financial amounts involved were collected by the study – but they have been suppressed by request of the Welsh Government.

© Presses de l’enssib, 2016

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