eLending & eBook update - July 2016

A short eLending and eBooks update from the last few weeks, ahead of WLIC. This includes a couple of stories about preparations in the Netherlands for the upcoming CJEU judgement on eLending, as well as the launch of New York Public Library’s new eLending platform.

More broadly in the world of eBooks, there are stories about illegal uploads, calls for interoperability, eBook royalty payments to authors, and together with latest eBook sales figures (showing continued positive correlation between eBook sales and loans), two differing viewpoints about why the market for eBooks continues to disappoint, one blaming readers, and the other publishers:

eLending is Lending – planning for the final CJEU judgement

Following the opinion of the Advocate General on eLending last month, the Dutch Royal Library has formally announced that it is beginning to look at what might need changing should the final judgement be along the same lines. Recognising both the desirability of giving people access to eBooks, and ensuring adequate remuneration of authors, it will develop scenarios over the coming months. Meanwhile, the Dutch publishers body has criticised the opinion, warning that it could destroy the market for eBooks.

Library eBook platforms

There has been the news of NYPL’s own eLending app, SimplyE. This will work across different vendors, giving people a single portal for discovering and reading books. The software is open source, with the intention being to allow other libraries to use it. The app should also work across borders, and meet the highest standards of accessibility.

A broader discussion of latest developments in the field is available in this video from the DPLAFest in April.

Illegal eBook Uploads

In the Netherlands, the a rights protection organisation (BREIN) is successfully petitioned a court (see short report of the result here) to force Usenet to reveal the identities of two people who had uploaded about 2000 eBooks to the internet. Usenet had, following initial complaints, closed the accounts, but had then claimed that under data protection laws, the users’ identities should no longer be identifiable. More recently, the arrest and (temporary) take-down of Kick Ass Torrent (KAT) has also been presented as a victory against eBook piracy.

At the same time, the Institute for Biblio-Immunology, also in the Netherlands, has announced that it has successfully cracked a particular watermarking technology on eBooks, arguing that this infringed user privacy. Symbolically, the book concerned was about Aaron Swartz, whose executors had asked for the DRM to be removed.


France (which also hosts the team working on the updated EPUB format) has come out calling for interoperability between eBooks. A domestic team has been set up to look at the feasibility of this, and the Minister for Culture looks set to call on the Commission to do the same. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the target appears to be big firms operating proprietary formats.

eBook Royalties

Following the Simon and Schuster case last time around, it appears that there has been a similar case for Harlequin in France, where authors complained about the publisher paying only the ‘sales’ rate for eBooks, rather than the (much higher) licencing rate. This was resolved by an out-of-court settlement which claimed to exculpate the publisher, although as the story notes, the fact of a settlement suggests otherwise.

What’s Holding Back eReading?

An article in Fortune Magazine suggested that a key reason for eBook sales falling was publishers’ own unwillingness to support the sector, and make eBooks into an attractive proposition for readers compared to hard-covers. Interestingly, this tallies with a comment from a consumer organisation contact who suggested that publishers would be less worried about ‘competition’ from libraries if what they were selling had real value added over eLending.

Publishers Weekly offered an alternative reading, suggesting that digital fatigue was at cause, with increasing use of devices in general leading to a desire to turn them off when readers had any free time. Perhaps linked to this, stagnating sales of dedicated eReaders (still responsible for over half of all eBooks sold) limited growth, even as tablet sales continued to do well.

The Markets…

Latest US figures suggested continued falls in eBook sales, to some extent compensated for by big annual increases in audiobook sales, and smaller ones for paperbacks and hardbacks. Despite lower overall sales, revenues increased by 4.2% on the year. 

In Europe, the latest data from the Netherlands show that both eBook sales and lending rose in the first quarter of 2016. Overall, this suggests that there is positive correlation between the two since eLending began.

elending, Ebooks

Last update: 18 April 2017