Culture Minister Ed Vaizey has commissioned a review of electronic book lending in public libraries, the Department for Culture, Media and Sport announced this morning.
The investigation will look into the systems already existing in public libraries across England, the benefits of e-lending, and its possible consequences for libraries, publishers, and readers unable to keep up with new (and costly) technologies.
E-book lending is not new. Several libraries offer the service, but there's no national strategy regulating the way electronic copies of books are to be lent. At the moment, libraries may choose to work only with specific formats, and an efficient system for remunerating authors and publishers is still to be found.
"E-lending is currently in its infancy but growing fast," commented Vaizey. "Just as e-readers are transforming the way people access books, e-lending could help transform the way people use libraries. By acting now we can help influence the growth of e-lending to ensure that libraries, authors, publishers and the public all benefit from this potentially valuable new service."
Adapting to e-book might prove crucial for public libraries, which are now more threatened then ever. According to the website Public Libraries News, which monitors closures across the country, 284 libraries are currently under threat or have been left to council control since April 1st, 2012 — and this doesn't include cuts in staffing, hours and book funds.
DCMS's e-book lending review is led by entrepreneur and philanthropist William Sieghart, the founder of Forward Publishing, a London publishing agency whose clients currently include B&Q, Ford, Standard Life, and Tesco.
Sieghart will be working with a panel of experts including: president of the Society of Chief Librarians Janene Cox, British Library chief executive Roly Keating, CEO of Peters Fraser & Dunlop Caroline Michel, chief executive of Faber & Faber Stephen Page and author Joanna Trollope OBE. The panel is expected to report back to DCMS in the New Year.