eLending & eBook update - May 2016

You may be interested in a series of recent stories on eBooks and eLending, if you haven’t yet come across them already. There's a couple of Dutch controversies going on, a discussion on governance of standards, insights on libraries in the eBook triangle, and lastly a short market update.

Dutch eBook controversies

Firstly, a case is underway in the Netherlands looking at the application of the principle of exhaustion/first-sale doctrine to eBooks. A Dutch second-hand e-Book shop, Tom Kabinet, is being sued by the Dutch Publishers’ Association, which claims that this could be the end of the industry. Tom Kabinet is claiming that legal precedent – notably in an Oracle case where the ECJ ruled that it was possible to sell on software as long as you made the original unusable. ArsTechnica suggests that the case is likely to go up to the ECJ, as there are contradictions between Dutch and German law here. 

Meanwhile, the Dutch Public Library Association (VOB) vs. PLR Foundation case continues, with the date of the Advocate General’s opinion (which offers guidance to the judges that they usually follow) put back to mid-June. While waiting for this response, the Dutch minister seems, in a letter to VOB, to reject the idea of a specific exception to copyright for e-Lending from public libraries.

eBook Standards Governance

Globally, there are ongoing discussions about the standards for eBooks, with a plan for the World Wide Web Consortium to incorporate the International Digital Publishing Forum, the announced objective (in Medium) being to ensure that books, magazines and pamphlets should be compatible with the Open Web Platform. This should take place in early 2017, following the publication of a final version of EPUB in late 2016.

As Sir Tim Berners Lee argued in a speech at BEA, the move would allow people to move away from separate eBook tools, and towards a system where books and magazines could be used in much the same way as websites, across devices, and with standards simple enough for them to remain usable in the future. Of course, it would also be possible to use DOIs to follow and analyse usage… Interestingly, the article in Medium suggests that publishers themselves have been very slow on the uptake.

eBook Triangle: Publishers - Libraries - Users

Also at IDPF, one session saw arguments that publishers should be readier to see libraries as partners in promoting eBooks and their authors, and so be more constructive in making eBooks available to libraries earlier. Libraries were pretty essential to most publishers, outside of the big five, both through allowing for discovery, and through providing data about book usage.

A Cory Doctorow blog, from Locus Magazine, may offer food for thought, looking at the triangle of publishers, libraries and users of e-books. It proposes: a free version of OverDrive, created and maintained by the library community, with anonymous data about patron usage the libraries’ bargaining tool in order to extract reasonable prices; and a sort of Fair-Trade Amazon – an online eBook store run by writers, who then keep the retailers’ share while not disadvantaging publishers.

The Market

Finally, a report from Canada, amongst the apparent general slowdown, shows that eBooks are growing in importance as a revenue source for publishers.

Advocacy, Ebooks, elending

Last update: 18 April 2017